Photo of Ilana Feldman

A Message from New Interim Dean Ilana Feldman

Dear Elliott School Community,

When I agreed to serve the Elliott School as Vice Dean, I could not have anticipated that a year later I would be taking on the role of Interim Dean—as the School, the University, and the world grapple with the effects of a global pandemic. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve our Elliott School community at this challenging time. 

I am consistently impressed with the skill of all the faculty and staff committed to support the educational, research, and public policy mission of the Elliott School. Your dedication to excellence gives me the confidence to know that together, we can navigate this difficult time. I will do everything I can to support you and all the members of our community.

Dean Brigety’s leadership over the past five years has left a strong legacy.  As a result of his focus on inclusive excellence, we have an increasingly diverse faculty and deepened support for students. We have a strengthened commitment to putting ethics at the center of international affairs education. Our faculty are engaging in research that tackles the most pressing issues of our time. 

As the coronavirus pandemic hit us in March, everyone pivoted with remarkable speed—adjusting to learning and teaching in new online modes, hosting and participating in virtual academic events, and doing the work to keep the school operating optimally in sub-optimal times. That people managed this transition so well should not cause us to minimize how difficult it has been. 

In addition to coping with the burdens of our new environment, we miss each other. We miss conversations in the hallway, the intensity of the seminar room, the energy we get from engaging with each other. Our greatest strength is in our community. Together we are more resilient. And together we are meeting the challenge.

My goals for the Elliott School during the period I am interim dean are first, to carry forward the good work that has been put into motion over the past few years. Second, to ensure that we emerge from the financial challenges that lie ahead, a stronger and more vibrant school of international affairs, and third, maintaining our commitment to build a more diverse, welcoming and inclusive learning community.

I look forward to working with you all for the benefit of our school and its mission to develop the next generation of global leaders.

Stay safe and well. I look forward to seeing you in the fall!

 

Ilana Feldman,
Interim Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs

Olivia headshot

Student Profile: Q&A with Olivia Upham, B.A. ’21

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Olivia Upham, anticipated graduation, B.A. ’21, International Affairs double-concentration in International Development and Conflict Resolution.

Has the disruption in your life and school caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had an effect on your career goals? 

If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that my circumstances and the world around me are capable of drastically changing without warning. Thus, I must spend my time intentionally and treat the present moment as one that could shape my future — this doesn’t have to wait until graduation to start happening. I would love to work as a public diplomacy officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, so the disruption has allowed me to become anchored in studying for the Foreign Service Officer Test. The feeling of not doing anything productive right now has also reinforced the idea that as long as I am involved in things I care deeply about —  human rights, public diplomacy, international education, gender based violence prevention, and writing —  I am going to be more than happy.

Assuming the GW campus is open in the fall for students to return, what things do you imagine will be different?

I imagine that a collective sense of gratitude for DC will be present like never before. I also foresee professor-student relations becoming a lot closer; I’ve been very lucky to have the professors I do during the online continuity period, and there is such a sense of “missing each other.” I think that will carry on into the fall.

Can you name one negative and one positive from your experience ?

I am glad GW is keeping us safe, and as an incoming RA for the 2020-21 school year, I know that the residential administrative team has a very challenging job right now! However, I could only bring home one suitcase! I am working this summer and have no access to my professional clothing, which has been something that actively stresses me out.  On the positive end, I have many things to be grateful for! I would like to especially thank Elliott’s own Profesor Qazi; she has been a tremendous source of comfort, encouragement, and light in this stressful time. Professor Qazi has struck the right balance between giving students flexibility and compassion while also challenging us in all the right ways. I would not feel as prepared or excited for my future had I not been in Professor Qazi’s class during the online period!  Another positive is that the Writing Center has pretty much seamlessly transitioned to an online platform! I work as a consultant there, where I hold individual appointments, virtual cafes, and a virtual writing support group. I love how passionate and driven GW students remain even though the world feels as though it is falling apart. The Writing Center has been a home to so many, and getting to see my clients and my peers has been one of the happiest parts of lockdown for me. 

Your college years are some of the most socially active years of your life. How has self-isolation been for you and your friends? 

While on some days, I do feel as though I am “missing out” on the college experience I had envisioned for myself, I remind myself that the entire world is missing out on things right now. Every person I’ve kept in contact with is missing out on things they had planned for themselves, and in a way this collective grief has made it a bit easier. I am back in my hometown of Oxford, Michigan, a rural community an hour north of Detroit (former gravel capital of the world!). My friends and I “get together” by reliving college memories through videos and memory journals. When The Strokes released their new album, I hosted a virtual listening party. In Professor Rollberg’s Russian Literature course (one of the best classes I have ever had the privilege of taking!) each week we get to discuss some amazing works, and I’ve really appreciated this time of “togetherness” with such an amazing class. 

Have you worked or begun a project outside of school that you might not have otherwise?

I have been doing a lot of writing! Thanks to GW’s Professor Annie Liontas, I’ve been able to look at this pandemic narratively. She’s encouraged me to keep writing through this experience and it’s definitely helped me cope with everything this pandemic has caused. Her kindness and talent has definitely made a WORLD of difference to me during this time!  Another passion-project of mine is my second-grade pen pals. My mother is a second-grade teacher, and so for the last few years I have been pen pals with her students. I think I have upwards of 90 at this point! Her current class got their school year cut short due to the virus, and keeping correspondence with them has brought me infinite joy throughout this time, truly. They are living through something so paramount at such a young age, and we are able to be there for each other in a lot of different ways.  One of my favorite museums is DC’s National Postal Museum, naturally! On the outside of the building there is an engraving: “Messenger of sympathy and love / servant of parted friends / consoler of the lonely / bond of the scattered family / enlarger of the common life.”  I’ve been thinking a lot about this message during GW’s online period 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I just want to give a big thank you to my professors right now, who have tremendously succeeded in making the online continuity period as meaningful as it could be and more. GW students are all so resilient and unique, and while I do feel uncertain, I certainly don’t feel alone. 

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Student Internships Matter to Faith Caldwell, BA ’71

Photo Faith CaldwellFaith Caldwell, ESIA BA ’71, was a college sophomore in Pennsylvania studying to be a foreign service officer, but had always wanted to come to Washington. When two friends told her they were attending the George Washington University in the fall, one as a transfer and the other as a graduate student, they asked, “Why don’t you come with us?”

So she did.

“I went down with them on a visit trip and turned right around and applied,” says the former Elliott School Board of Advisors member. GW accepted all of her credits, so Caldwell came in as a junior.

“The School of International Affairs was very small at that time,” she recalls. “It was strictly a two-year program for juniors and seniors, and I just dropped right in. The classes were engaging, the students were all very single-minded, and I made friends in the dorm. It was just a great, great transfer experience.”

After graduation, Caldwell married and spent a year with her husband in West Berlin. They then moved to upstate New York, and Caldwell earned a master’s degree in public administration with a specialization in judicial administration from NYU. While in the program, she landed an internship with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. “I look back on that now, and it turned my career around.”

Caldwell’s experience had such a profound effect on her life that she established the Caldwell Endowment for Study Abroad at her alma mater. Funded by a bequest intention in her will, the gift will provide funding for students to defray costs of internships and study abroad experiences.

In addition to establishing this endowment, Caldwell offers generous and ongoing support to GW’s Knowledge in Action Career Internship Fund (KACIF). She designates these annual gifts to Elliott School students. 

“I want to be able to support the students,” she says, “so when I found the Knowledge in Action Fund to support internships, I was really pleased because that’s right where I want to be. It’s not hard for me to make those gifts because I know they’re supporting a great cause.” 

The study abroad focus is especially important for Elliott School students, as Caldwell explains.

“If we’re going to be international relations specialists, I think we need to be able to see the world from a different perspective,” Caldwell says. “And the only way we can do that is by going somewhere else. Whether it’s for a short term or a semester or a year abroad, that exposure to a different lifestyle, a different perspective, a different view of the U.S., is so important, because it helps us balance our viewpoint of the world.”

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Elliott Events Go Virtual

On March 16th, when President LeBlanc announced GW would extend the virtual learning period through the end of the spring semester and cancel all on-campus events for the rest of the academic year, it seemed the Elliott School’s vibrant events scene would have to go on hiatus. 

Indeed, 17 live events between March 16 and April 4 were cancelled or postponed. 

Then, as students and faculty transitioned to an exclusively online learning platform, so too did the Elliott School’s signature events.

Like our fellow universities around the world, we leveraged the internet to offer programs on a broad range of topics  — from The End of Authority: Politics in a Post-Truth Age with Ray Suarez to Promoting Ethics and Leadership in International Organizations with Jorge Dajani, the Chief Ethics Officer of the World Bank Group. 

While these programs offered perspective on continuing global themes, we also zeroed in on the many ways the pandemic is affecting people and organizations around the world. Through the Elliott Experts Weigh In series, our faculty and alumni offered insight into such topics as the European response, financial markets in crisis, transatlantic relations, and the global economic system. And the Elliott School Diversity and Inclusion team ran several webinars, including Anti-Asian Racism and Strategies for Inclusion and Microaggressions: Toxic Rain in Educational Institutions, to name just a few. 

We recorded many of these programs, and you can view them via the Elliott School’s YouTube channel. While we hope to soon return to live programming, for now, it’s nice to know you can still experience opportunities to hear expert opinions from the comfort of home.

 

 

Experts Weigh In: COVID-19

The Elliott School launched the first edition of Experts Weigh In early last year in the research section of the school’s website. The first installment drew on faculty expertise to discuss the various socio-political and economic aspects of the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Northern Syria. 

In the latest installment of Experts Weigh In, COVID-19 is the focus. You can read faculty opinions on topics ranging from regional responses to the global crisis to how the coronavirus is exposing the limits of Pan-European solidarity to how trade restrictions may lead to a permanent lack of trust with our trading partners as a result of the virus. Read more here

Amb. William Taylor

Amb. William Taylor Receives Award for Leadership and Ethics

Amb. William TaylorWilliam Taylor, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009 and as the chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev from June 2019 to January 2020, was awarded the Elliott School Leadership and Ethics Award for his commitment to ethical leadership in the field of international affairs at an event held at the Elliott School in February. 

During his remarks, Taylor reminisced about his decision to accept the position of chargé  d’affaires after the abrupt departure of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He recalled discussing the position with his mentor, who advised him that, “if your country calls upon you, and you think you can be effective, then you have a duty to go.” Taylor emphasized that the key words to him were if you think you can be effective. Following a phone call to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who assured him that he had the full backing of the U.S. government behind him, he agreed to accept the position. 

Taylor’s message to the audience in regards to Ukraine policy was that the United States has an obligation to “support Ukraine because it is on the front line of our freedom.” In other words, he went on to explain, support for the independence of Ukraine provides a bulwark against the manipulation of Russia into areas of mutual interest including election interference and energy policy. In these areas, he explained, Ukraine and the US are natural allies and can provide mutual benefit to each other. 

Taylor also recorded an interview for the Elliott School’s student run podcast, Foreign Affairs Inbox, which dropped on March 30. Visit the podcast website to listen to the interview as well as other episodes.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/foreign-affairs-inbox/id1450190773

Photo of Yuxuan Xiong

Q&A with GW International Student on her Experience during the Coronavirus

Photo of Yuxuan Xiong (Willow)
Yuxuan Xiong, Sophomore GW University

First of all, how is your family? 

My family is doing well in China. When COVID-19 broke out there in January and February, my city was locked down because it is near Wuhan, which is the most disastrous place. Like other people, my family had stayed at home for two months, and the only chance to go out was grocery shopping. However, there was a shortage of masks in China at one time, so I ordered some masks and shipped them from the US to China. It took around one month to get there! All in all, fortunately, as the regulation of locking down is removed currently, everything is normal back there, and my family did well throughout the entire outbreak.

When you were in the US, how have you been staying in touch with friends and family?

I often called my family to check if they were doing well, if there was something new, or if they needed anything that I could help with. I could stay in touch with my friends in China by chatting with them online and through social media. I knew staying at home for two months must be a hard thing for them, so I often talked with them to cheer them up. I would tell them what the situation in the US was, how’s my school life, and so on.

How have on-line classes been? 

My on-line classes have been good so far. Except there are some glitches for one of my classes and the professor needs to cancel tomorrow’s class because she hasn’t found a solution to fix it yet. Other than that, on-line classes are great. I feel I can focus on the lecture more in some classes because I used to sit in the back of the classroom and the whiteboard was too small so that I couldn’t read words clearly. Now I can catch up with the professor better. And in one of my other classes, my professor invited a guest speaker. There was echo from my professor’s computer, so the guest just turned off the professor’s microphone, which was so funny because the professor could make facial expressions.

What have you been eating? Has your diet changed? Are you cooking more in the residence hall?

I went grocery shopping once a week. My diet basically stayed the same, because I used to cook in the dorm before. However, sometimes I don’t have any idea what to cook; my mind is completely blank. Sometimes the purpose of cooking is not to make it taste delicious; rather, it is to make me alive.

What is your favorite quarantine activity?

During this time, it gives me more time to watch movies and read books that I missed before. Also, I do some workout and yoga on my yoga mat. Besides my normal workout, I love to do some stretching poses. They really help me relax my body, because I hardly walk in the room.

What do you think will be better or permanently different once this over?

From my personal perspective, life will be normal and stay the same as it was before this happened. But I believe people will pay more attention to their personal health, because this thing really teaches people a lesson about that. So basically I think things will get better!

Can you provide little biographical information about yourself?

I was born in Chongqing, China. I have lived in the US for two years. I went to GW because it is a community where people connect closely and can feel a sense of belonging. Also, it is located in Washington, DC, which I believe is a comfortable place for living. I have a part-time job at the Elliott School of International Affairs in the Public Affairs department on campus. I love my work because it helps me get to know more people, improves my abilities in things like photography and video editing, and I learn more new things that I never knew before. My favorite thing about college in the US is that I can have a flexible schedule every week. In my high school back in China, I had a full study schedule every week and it always stayed the same. I used to go to class at 7:30 a.m. and end classes at 10:00 p.m. It is totally different in college in the US, because I can have spare time in the gym, club, and for other activities. Both ways work for me. What I would like to say is that living in another country and experiencing a different lifestyle is attractive to me, because I want my life to be varied and meaningful!

Editors Note: Willow is now safely back in China and in quarantine before she can rejoin her family. Until then, she continues to work remotely for the Public Affairs Department of the Elliott School of International Affairs.

 

Kakehashi Project student group poses with a Kakehashi Project flag in Japan

Students Reflect on their Experiences in Japan with the Kakehashi Project

For the third year in a row, a small group of Elliott School graduate students participated in the cross-cultural Kakehashi Project, traveling to Kyoto and Tokyo to enhance their understanding of contemporary and ancient Japanese culture.

The Kakehashi Project is a government-funded, grassroots exchange program that brings groups of Americans to Japan for engaging, focused, and customized experiences. In Japanese, the word Kakehashi means bridges — in this case, bridges between cultures constructed with the hope of building bridges to a better tomorrow. 

Several themes stood out to the seven students who participated in the week-long trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, and the countryside in Shiga Prefecture, where students participated in a two-day homestay with local farming families. Notable visits included stops at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and at a reception with GW alumni living and working in Tokyo. 

In Kyoto, students visited the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kinkaku-ji Temple. Here, the blend of modernity and tradition resonated with Michael Choi (MA candidate, Asian Studies), who noted the ancient temples mixed among the skyscrapers: “Kyoto captured the essence of traditional Japanese culture while developing as a modern city.”

Judy Ly (MA candidate, International Affairs) pointed to family values as her most indelible memory: “My stay with the host family was one of the best memories of the trip. I experienced the traditional Japanese daily life. I saw the family dynamic and respected how close and loving everyone was to each other….My host family’s hospitality, openness, and generosity humbled me greatly.”

Another student, Niles Rodgers (MA candidate, Asian Studies), has been deeply influenced by Japanese culture he experienced while growing up and wanted to see how his anime-influenced conceptionsstacked up against reality: “My trip to Japan allowed me to finally see, from a first-person perspective and without a digital screen or anime characters running wild, what I had been missing out on….Not only was it a unique experience, but it reinforced my desire to learn more about the country’s history, culture, and customs.”

Food was the gateway to Japanese culture for Kayla Escobar (MA candidate, Global Communication). She says, “most of the food on this trip spoke to me and gave me a beautiful memory… there was a sense of hospitality with every restaurant, vendor, and meal, which made it all the more special. The time and effort that I felt my homestay family put into creating each meal…there was genuine interest and hope that you enjoy your food.” Her own hope is that future Kakehashi participants get to experience similar aspects of what makes Japan a special place —  as well as a chance to expand their palates. 

Patricia Scangas at a table selling her novel

An Interview with Alumna Patricia Scangas on her Debut Novel

When Patricia Scangas graduated from GW’s Elliott School in 1972, she little suspected how – or when – she would have the opportunity to work in global affairs. Her family was traditional, especially her father, and expected her to settle down close by.

Fast forward to 2004, when Scangas and her husband, Matthew, set off on what became a 10-year journey – part travel, part diplomatic mission, part legal drama. Scangas takes the reader along with her in her debut novel, The Case of Emil Diesel, under the pen name, Patricia Menton. We caught up with Scangas last month, and she brought us up to date on her book, which, she says, took her full circle to the study of global affairs.

What is this book about?

It’s about actual events in East Germany – where my husband was born and spent his early childhood. His father had an amazing collection of antique art objects from around the world. In the midst of the Cold War, when the East German government badly needed cash, officials confiscated private art collections, on the pretense of collecting taxes and sold the art to the West. This is what happened to my husband’s father – Emil Diesel in the book. He died in 1975, shortly after the government seized his collection.

Then what happened?

For a long time nothing happened. Then in 2004, a family member sent us a book about victims of art theft, including my husband’s father. We set off to look for and reclaim parts of the stolen collection. We had no idea of the challenges we would encounter along the way. 

Does the story have a happy ending?

Read the book – it is all there.

When you began this journey, did you plan to write a book about it?

Yes and no. Ever since the 1990s, I have felt a strong urge to write. During our many trips to East Germany, in museums and courtrooms, I took notes on everything that happened. Things finally came together when I heard about a class at our local community college called “From First Word to First Draft.” I jumped in and decided I would write the book – as fiction, based on these real-life events and characters.

How long did it take you?

Twelve weeks. I just sat down at the computer and began to write. 

Wow! That’s fast. 

It was all there in my notes. I did do some additional research.

How about publication?

I sent the manuscript to probably 50 agents. When I did get a reply, it was usually “make these changes and send it to us again.” I rewrote the story so many times that I started to feel as if I was losing the thread. Finally, I found Xlibris, and it turned out they were wonderful in the editing process. They’ve helped with publicity and gave me good ad coverage in the book review section of the Sunday New York Times. Still, I spend most of my time promoting my book.  

How do you feel about this?

It’s okay! The important thing is that I had a chance to tell this story. I realize, too, that I ended up using my Elliott School education after all.

What’s next for you?

Pitching the book to Hollywood producers, working on a romance novel I’ve begun, and possibly writing a sequel to Emil Diesel to bring the story up to the present. It was an incredible journey, and it’s not over yet.

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