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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 20, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 8
Reunion of the Minds at SAIS

Innovative program is designed to re-engage graduates

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Dozens of SAIS alumni will return to their alma mater this week to take part in what the school proudly hails as a thinking man's (and woman's) reunion.

For the second consecutive year, SAIS will host its Alumni College, an innovative two-day series of lectures, panel discussions, interactive presentations and social events featuring some of the school's most distinguished faculty members and several high-profile keynote speakers.

Occurring just weeks before the general election, the 2008 Alumni College will revolve around the theme of "America's Next President: Assessing Global Priorities." SAIS faculty and leading U.S. policy-makers will address a range of political, national security and economic issues facing the country in what organizers call a vital transition year in foreign policy.

The Alumni College will kick off on Thursday evening, Oct. 23, with an opening reception and address by Nancy Birdsall, a 1969 graduate of SAIS and founding president of the Center for Global Development.

The school founded the program last year as a means to "substantially re-engage" its alumni population in a nontraditional way, said Roger Leeds, faculty coordinator for the Alumni College and director of the Center for International Business, Finance and Public Policy.

"We wanted to create something intellectual, interactive and participatory that would challenge our alumni and attract their interest," Leeds said. "The program is somewhat intense. We didn't want them to passively sit in on lectures but actually engage with the faculty on serious contemporary issues."

Leeds believes that the school has created something unique.

"To our knowledge, no other school does an event quite like this. When we were looking for comparable programs, we just couldn't find an equivalent out there," he said.

The inaugural Alumni College attracted more than 50 SAIS alums of all ages from across the globe. In attendance were venture capitalists, foreign correspondents, ambassadors, business executives, government officials, NGO administrators and more.

"We were very pleased with the turnout. It was a very diverse group," Leeds said. "We had people come from Germany, Greece — one woman came all the way from China to take part. They all wanted to learn and reconnect with SAIS. They initially came to SAIS for well-defined reasons — some, decades ago — and they wanted to recapture that."

Leeds said that the response from participants was overwhelmingly positive, and the school decided to make this an annual event.

The 2008 program will allow participants to explore and debate some of the most critically important foreign policy challenges awaiting the nation's next president, Leeds said. The class discussions will focus on such topics as China policy, U.S. intelligence strategies, trade negotiations, democracy promotion and global climate change.

In addition to Birdsall, keynote speakers, both of whom are SAIS alumni, are Arturo Sarukhan, a career diplomat and currently an ambassador in the Mexican foreign service, and Michael Van Dusen, deputy director of the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars. Prior to his current role, Van Dusen served for nearly 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives as a staff consultant and staff director of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East.

The list of faculty presenters includes Francis Fukuyama, the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and director of the International Development Program; Mary Habeck, an associate professor in the Strategic Studies Program; Pravin Krishna, an economics expert who holds joint academic appointments at SAIS and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; David Lampton, SAIS dean of faculty and director of the China Studies Program; Michael Mandelbaum, director of the American Foreign Policy Program; John McLaughlin, a senior research fellow in the Strategic Studies Program; and Riordan Roett, director of the Western Hemisphere Studies and the Latin American Studies programs.

All speeches, class sessions and events for Alumni College 2008 will be held in the Rome, Nitze and Bernstein-Offit buildings on the school's Washington, D.C., campus, or in the surrounding Dupont Circle area. The cost is $1,200 per alum or friend of SAIS, a fee that covers all keynote addresses, class sessions, reading materials, receptions and meals.

To register or for more information, go to:


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