from Women and Foreign Policy Program and Women Around the World

Transforming International Affairs Education to Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Protesters hold up placards as they “take a knee” in front of a police line at a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in London on June 7, 2020, during a weekend of global rallies against racism and police brutality. Justin Tallis/AFP

A new report by Carla Koppell, Reuben Brigety II, and Jamille Bigio offers a comprehensive approach for international affairs schools to transform the face and shape of U.S. foreign policy.

March 8, 2021
1:20 pm (EST)

Protesters hold up placards as they “take a knee” in front of a police line at a Black Lives Matter demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy in London on June 7, 2020, during a weekend of global rallies against racism and police brutality. Justin Tallis/AFP
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Carla Koppell is a senior advisor for diversity, equity and inclusion for Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and distinguished fellow at Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security; Reuben Brigety II is a CFR adjunct senior fellow for African peace and security issues and vice chancellor and president of the University of the South; and Jamille Bigio is a CFR senior fellow for women and foreign policy.

With Black History Month in February, Women’s History Month in March, and International Women’s Day today, CFR is pleased to launch a new discussion paper, Transforming International Affairs Education to Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, written by Carla Koppell, Reuben Brigety II, and Jamille Bigio.

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Growing inequality and exclusion around the world is resulting in destabilization, creating security risks, and damaging U.S. interests. Similarly, across the United States, polarizing discourse, deepening inequalities, and disparate treatment of different subpopulations create vulnerabilities, reduce U.S. influence, and limit the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy.

International affairs schools help shape the next generation of national security leaders, but they risk contributing to America’s continued vulnerability by failing to address the security implications of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues at home and abroad. A lack of school leadership, outdated curricula, and alienating school climates leave future foreign policy experts ill prepared to confront how the United States’ inequalities currently undercut its standing in the world, and unable to effectively address the social forces shaping fragility and unrest globally. Fortunately, over the last two years, there has been some progress in international affairs education, including a diversity and inclusion standard in the accreditation process for public policy schools, the launch of certification programs focused on gender issues in foreign policy, and—in response to the anti-racism protests of 2020—the inclusion of courses focused on race and racism in curricula. But more work needs to be done to ensure that schools of international affairs and public policy prepare the next generation of leaders to meet contemporary challenges head on.

“For the U.S. government to successfully navigate the global transformation currently underway, schools of international affairs have to better equip students so that they, in turn, can improve national security and strengthen U.S. diplomatic capacity,” write Koppell, Brigety, and Bigio.  “A multifaceted effort is needed; one that critically examines and addresses the composition of schools, the climate across schools, and the curriculum.”

Among other recommendations, the authors argue that schools must:

  • Demonstrate leadership, including through deans and directors explicitly recognizing the centrality of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to national security and to successful navigation of global affairs;
  • Update curricula, including by retooling class syllabi to feature scholarship by diverse experts, and to consider how diversity, equity, and inclusion influence global affairs and national security; and
  • Create an Inclusive Climate, including by addressing the disparities among students as well as the legacies of racism, inequality, and marginalization and how they affect school communities. The dearth of diverse foreign affairs professionals reveals that schools are not successfully cultivating the strongest possible cadre of experts.

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Only by engaging the educational community can we transform the face and shape of U.S. foreign policy to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Read the report at cfr.org/TransformingEducation>>

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