Higher Education Webinar: Transforming International Affairs Education to Address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of the South

Senior Advisor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, Georgetown University

Jamille Bigio

Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations

Academic and Higher Education Webinars and Renewing America

Reuben E. Brigety II, vice-chancellor and president of the University of the South, Carla Koppell, senior advisor for diversity, equity, and inclusion and distinguished fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, and Jamille Bigio, senior fellow for women and foreign policy at CFR, discuss how insufficient leadership, outdated curricula, and alienating school climates leave future foreign policy experts ill-prepared to address the social forces contributing to fragility and unrest globally, and provide their recommendations for a comprehensive educational strategy that improves national security and strengthens U.S. diplomatic capacity. 

Read the CFR discussion paper on the topic, authored by all three speakers, here.

FASKIANOS: Welcome to CFR's Higher Education Webinar. I'm Irina Faskianos, vice president of the National Program and Outreach at the Council on Foreign Relations. Today's meeting is on the record. The video and transcript will be available on our website, CFR.org. And as always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Today's discussion is focusing on transforming international affairs education to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. I commend to you the discussion paper that we circulated in advance on this. It was made possible by the generous support of the Compton Foundation.

Jamille Bigio will moderate today's discussion with her coauthors. I will introduce Jamille first and then turn it over to her to introduce the rest of our distinguished speakers. Jamille Bigio served as director for human rights and gender on the White House National Security Council staff in the Obama administration. She also advised the White House Council on Women and Girls on international priorities and First Lady Michelle Obama on adolescent girls' education and the Let Girls Learn initiative. From 2009 to 2013, she served as senior advisor to the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global women's issues, Melanne Verveer. And she also was detailed to the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy and to the U.S. mission to the African Union. And she is a senior fellow in the Women and Foreign Policy program at CFR. Women in foreign policy is a priority for us, and we are doing an immense amount of work on these issues. So Jamille, over to you to take the conversation away.

BIGIO: Thank you so much for that introduction, Irina. I am so thrilled to be able to join Ambassador Reuben Brigety and Carla Koppell in our conversation today. It was my honor to coauthor the paper that we've shared with you all, and I'm so inspired by the incredible work that both Reuben and Carla are doing on these issues. And I'm thrilled that we will have the opportunity to hear more about that today. So just very briefly, Ambassador Reuben Brigety is an American diplomat who has served in various leadership roles across the State Department as well as in academia. He currently serves as the vice chancellor and president of the University of the South. He is also my colleague at CFR where he serves as a senior fellow as well. Carla, likewise, has incredible leadership experience across the U.S. government, at USAID, at the U.S. Institute for Peace, across civil society, and in academia, which is her current role, where she is at Georgetown University as a senior advisor on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and a distinguished fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security.

So you both are joining us with an incredibly rich experience as practitioners, as academics of thinking about why diversity, equity, and inclusion matter to national security and foreign policy. And you are looking directly on the frontlines at what it means to bring attention to these issues into academia in a way in which it has historically not been addressed. So, I'm thrilled to have this conversation with you both now.

I would love to start with the first question. So, in our paper together, the opening thesis is that it matters to address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. It matters to our foreign policy and national security. And what we're seeing, especially over the last year and more, is that it not only matters to our foreign policy interests but what's happening domestically has impacts on our global standing. So I would love, Reuben, if you could talk to us a little bit more about why we should be thinking and caring about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues.

BRIGETY: Sure. Good afternoon or good morning, wherever in the world everyone finds themselves. It's an honor for me to be here on this panel with my good colleagues, Jamille and Carla, and always great to be supporting CFR. So if I may, let me start by addressing the counter thesis, which is that it doesn't matter. Not only does it not matter, talking about things like diversity, equity, and inclusion in the context of questions of security is simply yet another left-wing progressive, liberal intervention into things that where it should not be. And that is a nontrivial assertion. That is a legitimate point of discourse. In fact, it's the starting point, I would argue, which is part of the reason why we wrote this paper and why it's important for us to actually interrogate that question. And so there are, at a bare minimum, two ways to think about why questions of DEI are indeed legitimate and important security issues. And you can divide them along essentially questions of hard power and soft power.

And obviously, since we're talking to a group of academics, just for the sake of refreshing what we mean by those terminologies, hard power and soft power is not simply military versus nonmilitary. It's a question of the ability to actually coerce as a means of getting an adversary or another actor to do what you want them to do as opposed to the ability to attract through modeling, through example, to get an adversary or an interlocutor to do something that they would not otherwise do. Hard power being the former, soft power being the latter. And in the context of hard power, the principal reason it's important for us to be thinking about matters of diversity and inclusion is because they're incredibly relevant on both the strategic and tactical levels. Strategically, one of the things that we know is often a challenge in terms of our ability to assess yet engage other actors, particularly adversaries, is this question of mirror imaging. That is presuming that actors will see a problem set similar to the way we see them or see them from our own perspectives. And it is therefore incredibly important and vital to be able to get into the mindset, the worldview of the people with whom you're trying to influence, whether that be in terms of big-picture strategic questions on democracy versus not, on questions of peace negotiations or not, or whether, frankly, very tactical-level questions about how do you engage with an interlocutor if you are a Provincial Reconstruction Team or you are a rifle platoon commander who has to make their way through a village. And it stands to reason—that's what we stand to reason, but also example—that the more people you have who can intuitively understand those alternative mindsets and worldviews, not only because they studied them but because they've lived them, whether it be from a particular religious perspective or gender perspective or ethnic perspective, the more likely you are to make correct analytical decisions both in terms of big-picture geopolitics and also in terms of very immediate tactical considerations. That's one of the reasons, for example, that we know, as an example, that special operations units have been much more successful when they have women deployed with them, whether they be as intelligence officers in the field or in operations that require direct action, in part because it gives them access to half a population they otherwise would not have access to in many parts of the world.

So beyond the hard power question, there are also some very important soft power questions. Now one of the most brilliant observations of Joseph Nye when he was developing the view of soft power wasn't simply that attractive power is a way of influencing, it is that the vast majority of what we do, both as individuals and as nations in terms of advancing our interests, is much more through attractive power as opposed to coercion. You can't coerce everybody all the time because it also creates a whole set of other difficulties. And so, for us as Americans, and I speak as an American, the greatest attractive aspect of our country is that we are not a country by virtue of our ethnicity, we are a country by virtue of all of us adhering to a certain set of ideals. And in fact, that power of example becomes all the more powerful precisely because it is accessible to a wide range of people and increasingly accessible to an increasingly wider range of people throughout the course of American history right to where we are today. And as the president is fond of saying, the strength of America is "not the example of its power, but the power of its example." And he could not be more right in that regard. And so our ability to both live boldly and fully into questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in which we demonstrably recognize lift the human dignity of everybody at home, certainly. And to the extent that we do not do that or have not done that, it has been used against us, whether it be the ways in which the Soviets routinely, you know, brought up Jim Crow segregation in order to undermine American efforts of credibility during the Cold War or whether it be the example of our own Capitol being sacked on January 6 by people who were from a particular viewpoint carrying the Confederate flag through the halls of Congress and wearing t-shirts, like, "Camp Auschwitz" and other sorts of things.

And so, let me kind of conclude by saying this. We are at a major inflection point not only in American history but increasingly in global history where half a century beyond, essentially, the great decolonization movements that started around like the 1950s and 1960s to living now fully into, second generation civil rights activism here in the United States of America, where worldwide these questions of who belongs and how are being reevaluated and reinterpreted for another generation. And so it is incredibly important not only for our policymakers to be able to understand that and navigate it, but for us to be able to raise a new generation of foreign policy makers who have the capacity to navigate these very challenging issues.

BIGIO: Thank you, Reuben. An incredibly helpful layout of why these issues matter to advancing our own foreign policy and national security priorities and just understanding what happens in the world. And then a helpful bridge to Carla to the question for youReuben ended by saying how important it is to ensure we are training the next generation of leaders to have a more comprehensive understanding of the world and the tools that we have to influence it. So Carla, where are international affairs education programs today at addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues? How well are academic institutions doing on this question?

KOPPELL: Well, first of all, good afternoon to everybody. And I want to add my thanks to Reuben for organizing this conversation. It's an issue I am passionate about, and I really appreciate a spotlight being shined on this conversation. The quick answer would be we have a lot to do, but I'll give a little bit more expansive answer than that. I think Reuben teed up beautifully what the challenge is and what the issues are and why they are relevant to the way that we educate the next generation of leaders and why we need to pay attention to these issues in foreign policy today. And the gaps in the current education of our next generation of international affairs professionals is myriad. A survey of public policy international affairs schools found that for the hybrid schools, public policy and IR schools, there was less than 10 percent that were even talking about gender and culture with their students. Less than 7 percent of schools were talking about race and ethnicity. Less than 5 percent were talking about other dimensions of diversity like ability, age, origin, religion, language, etcetera. Those statistics are alarming given the extent to which the challenges related to marginalization and exclusion loom large today. And what they mean essentially is that students are graduating with a complete blind spot with regard to the overwhelming research indicating that if you're working in the fields of conflict resolution and peacebuilding, that inequity and marginalization are helping to create polarization and create state fragility. If you're coming out and working in the field of development, you are unaware that hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development are foregone because of gender inequality, LGBTQ exclusion, and the marginalization of populations. And if you're working in humanitarian affairs you are not prepared to confront the fact that older people and people with disabilities are unable to receive the kinds of services they need in times of crisis.

The challenges are several fold. So we know that there are blank spots in terms of the curriculum and the coverage of issues in existing classes. We also know that classes that speak to these issues specifically, are very few and far between. And for those who want to go out into the world and specialize in these areas, it's very hard to get that kind of specialized education. But we also know there are other challenges underlying those curricular gaps. We know that the academy does not have the kind of diversity among its professors, students, and staff that are needed. And we know that that creates a vicious cycle because often people of diverse backgrounds are interested in doing research and engaging in those topics in their professional lives as well, and so they bring that richness to the conversation. We know that school cultures lack the kind of vibrancy and inclusiveness and sense of belonging that's necessary to build the kind of cadre that will offer us the diversity of opinion that Reuben referenced in terms of how we build the strongest possible national security infrastructure for the United States. And further, the schools are not drawing on the full range of scholarship because we know that the vast majority of scholarship that people are reading are coming from one dominant segment of the population, certain parts of the world, and one set of perspectives. Finally, I would conclude by saying I think that the challenge for us is really to revisit not just the composition of classes and the instructors and students that teach and take those classes, but to really revisit the way we think about international relations, to look at the kinds of narratives that are born of history, and turn those on their heads to really look at contemporary issues, think about how diversity, equity, and inclusion interweaves with those contemporary issues, and bring forward the debates of this century in a robust, strategic, and courageous way.

BIGIO: Thank you, Carla. Powerful to both diagnose where the challenges are and to start to lay the groundwork of what are some proactive steps that academic institutions can take and professors can take within their own courses to really bring these issues to bear and integrate these issues in a new way to better prepare the next generation of leaders. So there's two pieces that I want to touch on with you both before we open it up for questions. So one, you both kind of talked a little bit already about some of the recommendations that we had laid out in our report where we talked about the need to demonstrate leadership, to update curricula, and to create an inclusive climate. But these are also recommendations that you are both living right now in your roles as academics and that you have worked on challenging these issues in your roles as practitioners. So I would love to hear from you both about your current work and your reflections and what recommendations you have for the academic community based on those experiences. So Reuben, if we can start with you.

BRIGETY: Sure. Let me start with leadership. I tell my students all the time thatwe're America, right, so everybody's a leader. Not exactly. And I tell my students all the time that leadership is the ability to bring people together to solve a problem that they would not otherwise do. And leaders are not born, they're made. You can learn. You can learn skills but also crucially you can practice the virtuous disciplines that are required to be a strong leader and the most significant, which is courage. Winston Churchill said that “courage is the most important virtue because it's the one that enables all the others.” And quite frankly, in the context of many of these questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion, they are conversations that require us to be courageous. Courageous enough to raise issues. Courageous enough to listen. Courageous enough for all of us to challenge our preconceived ideas of who we understand ourselves to be, who we understand our community to be, and what we understand our field to be.

In addition to my work here at the University of the South, I've written extensively on matters of diversity and foreign affairs. I've had the great opportunity to engage the senior-most people in our government, in the uniformed military, and intelligence services on these sorts of questions. And one of the things that I always emphasize is that we have to start from a perspective of courage to be able to have these conversations because everybody's afraid of saying the wrong thing. Everybody's afraid of having a certain perspective that may not coincide to whatever the norm of the group may be. But it's essential. It is absolutely essential that you start from there. And the other thing is that these conversations and the willingness to wade in them simply have to be supported from the very top of any organization. Because otherwise people will get the signal that these things are not terribly important. That is a lesson that I have seen and I have learned time and time again. And the final thing that I will say is that even as you prepare to be courageous in these conversations, when you start talking, you'd be surprised how open many people are to actually engaging productively, particularly if you mandate the importance to listen.

Let me say the final thing and that is what happens in the absence of leadership, in the absence of courage. It's not that these problems go away. They don't. In fact, if anything, absent a constructive means to actually have a reasonable conversation, they actually get worse. That's what  you're seeing in the Department of Defense right now, which is why the secretary of defense has ordered a department-wide stand down to actually have serious conversations about extremism. And one of the things I hear from my friends in the military as these things are happening is how much there is there that was unacknowledged with regard to really pernicious perspectives on who counts as fully human or not in ways that are quite dangerous not only to cohesion but also potentially to spilling out beyond the military as we saw on January 6 and those places. And so all of which is to say that it is vital that leaders of organizations that otherwise may not be thinking about these things take the time to educate themselves, that they support those in their organization to continue to have these conversations, and to lean boldly into understanding what it means for us to think critically about matters of DEI in our speech, in our field, and our organizations.

BIGIO: Thank you, Reuben. Incredible to have that frame of not only how to think about it but also how to talk to students about it, which is so critical with this community. So Carla, the next piece that we thought about was updating curricula and how do you really tackle curricula, which is something you are so focused and leading incredible work on. Please?

KOPPELL: Thanks. So first of all, I wanted to sort of just reemphasize what Reuben said about leadership. There's absolutely no substitute for solid, forward-leaning, and explicit leadership. I also wanted to draw forward an implicit point in what he said which goes back to the first round of questions, which is about sort of force readiness and cohesion as well. You see that unfolding in the U.S. military today. When we talk about how to move curricula and individual classes, I think the first thing to recognize is that this is a moment of opportunity. The discourse that's taking place, the national discourse that's taking place has opened a lot of eyes and a lot of willingness to try to move the agenda forward. And so I think there's a big opportunity for change right now. I think the second needs to be our goal, and our goal has to be to touch all students in every school. So not everyone needs to be an expert, but everybody needs to know that diversity, equity, and inclusion issues matter. We can no longer have students graduating thinking about countries as homogeneous units without any heterogeneity within them and not understanding that people see, hear, and experience things differently. And only by touching everyone to explain that do we create a different kind of mental awareness when people go out into the world.

What does that mean? That means weaving attention to these issues into the core curriculum from intro to IR on forward and making sure people understand that it's a dynamic process that needs to be revisited on a regular basis that is dynamic both for students going out into the world and for instructors as they move through the years. We cannot be teaching the way we were taught. It is a very, very different world. Then we also need to create opportunities to grow experts. I started out working on these issues around gender equality though I work broader gauge today, and there was a terrible shortage of people who could come into the workforce ready to help us achieve the kind of transformation in the practitioner universe that we needed. That holds us back because we need to be able to realize this kind of change. So when we're talking about this we need to revisit our core curriculum. We need to make sure that the scholars that we are having students read are of diverse backgrounds and present diverse perspectives. We need to think about the intersection of every issue we are talking about and diversity, equity, and inclusion issues because for every issue we discuss in the classroom, there are dimensions that are relevant. We need to invite these kinds of conversations. We need to make sure that the guest speakers that we bring in have different types of backgrounds. We need to make affirmative efforts to bring the conversations and the experts in who can really bring these dimensions to life even as we serve those who are already passionate and need to be taught how to operationalize.

BIGIO: Thank you, Carla. And what's powerful to know is that you and others are producing tools of lists and resources and references that's all on hand so that when you talk about integrating DEI issues into intro classes or other classes, there are lists of all of the readings and all of the topics and suggestions.

KOPPELL: Can I just add briefly? So I'll put in the chat the link to the syllabus guides that we produce because what that does is it makes it easy, as Jamille says. You want to diversify those who are talking about realism in your classroom, we're providing you links to people who are talking about realism of diverse backgrounds and the intersections of realism with feminist theory or the status of indigenous populations around the world. But the other thing I would say in addition to the resources, which I will share, is that there are examples across the country and around the world of schools that are working on undertaking this transformation. So we put in place a gender, peace, and security certificate. GW, Tufts, and Texas A&M have similar certificates. Harvard just put in place a two-week intensive on racism in the making of U.S. strength in the world. University of Washington is putting in place similar coursework around this. There are examples from every type of university in every part of the country that are making these sorts of changes, and so for those who are out there saying I don't know how to start or I don't want to be the first, you should recognize that you're already not the first. There's a lot of models and a lot of lessons to be learned from those who are really challenging themselves to move this agenda forward in different ways.

BIGIO: Thank you. So the third area that we highlighted is an inclusive climate and recognizing that what's happening as part of students' experience is not just in the classroom with their coursework but is about the entire climate of the educational institution. So Reuben, I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on what does it mean for international affairs schools and colleges and other broader academic institutions to actually create an inclusive climate?

BRIGETY: Sure. Well, let me talk about universities broadly speaking, and then I'll talk a little bit in particular with regard to international affairs schools. So I wrote a piece that was published in Time magazine last June, which maybe our organizers can put in the chat and I'll do it if they can't find it, June 19, that was titled something like "The Righteous Revulsion Driving the Demands for Racial Change in America." And basically what I tried to do was to put in context what was happening with regard to the George Floyd protests and why it mattered for American higher education going forward. And my basic thesis was that we are seeing a profound generational difference between the students that we are teaching and the administrators who run the schools where they go to school. Now, in some ways, this has always existed, right? This isn't Socrates, right? But in an American context it is particularly poignant now. Because what you have is a generation of young people that are in our classrooms that are two generations removed from Brown v. Board of Education who grew up listening to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in kindergarten and reviewing it every Martin Luther King Day, who do not understand why we are still having to confront these issues. These are things our grandparents have [inaudible]. And not only if you start to, just across the kind of the very basic, obvious issues of differential treatment to people of color, particularly Black men and law enforcement, and you begin to pull the string it raises all kinds of other questions about other kinds of persistent inequalities that continue to exist and make you ask the question why if you're serious about interrogating the facts on their merits.

So on the one hand you have these young people that are networked together, that are digital natives, that have increasingly sort of been raised with these issues of DEI in ways which they couldn't even articulate at the time when they were in preschool or elementary school, up and against, often, university administrators that are my age and older that are not as comfortable talking about these things. If anything, we're raised in the context of being colorblind and then also with regards to gender issues have learned to have women in the workplace but have not really kind of leaned in fundamentally what that means in terms of thinking broadly about gender and inclusivity. And so we are having a situation, quite frankly, where administrators need to be learning from their students about what they're experiencing, why it matters, and open their eyes accordingly. We've had a couple of very painful instances of this at Sewanee just this past year. There's a Washington Post article that was written just about a month ago—I ask the organizers to put that in the chat for those who haven't seen it—and one of the things that clearly we have learned in this case is that on a campus that is named the University of the South where 90 percent of our American undergraduates are white, where our students and our administrators, as a result of some of these particularly challenging instances, have had to finally kind of really hear and really listen what our students of color are experiencing in ways that many of our white students or white administrators are simply just blind. I mean, how does the fish know that it's wet, right, if the entire system is made around a particular worldview in which you simply have to be comfortable.

Now in the context of international affairs environments, I would say a few things. First of all, in the U.S. context, there's obviously historically disproportions of inequities about studying which disciplines and why. There are lots of reasons for that. But what that means for schools of international affairs, in particular, when you're looking at professions and pathways where there are clear dominant demographics of those who are senior, it means that you have to make clear that you're having examples that students can look up to so they can see themselves in success. It means that you have to—nothing drives diversity like diversity. And so you really have to double down to ensure that you're inviting both students and staff and taking untraditional pathways and untraditional pipelines, as it were, toward ensuring you're helping people that this is actually a reasonable path for you and here's how you can succeed it.

And then the final thing that I will say is, again, it goes back to this question of leadership. You couldn't have a more robust, controlled experiment with regard to the significance of creating diverse environments in the foreign affairs space than looking at the Trump administration and Biden administration side by side just from the last hundred days. And that is not, by the way, a Democratic versus Republican assertion. It is specifically the Trump administration versus the Biden administration. A Trump administration, as we know, that prevented, by executive order, government agencies from doing diversity and equity training versus the U.S. State Department now under President Biden has created the first-ever chief diversity officer at the State Department, our good friend and colleague, Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, that is made at a point to ensure that there is broad diversity of highly capable professionals fulfilling senior positions across the national security establishment. And when I say it's not a Democratic-Republican issue, it's also important to—I mean, look, the first secretaries of state and the first national security advisors of color were appointed by Republican presidents. The first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of color was appointed by a Republican president. And the reason I say that it's so important is that this question of DEI cannot be a partisan issue. It is a central aspect of a global landscape that will be set, as we discussed, particularly the American context, and just as you teach natural sciences as part of a core liberal arts curriculum because you can't understand the world if you don't understand basic science or basic mathematics, increasingly, the world in which we are operating with a plethora of not only the diversity that exists, but diversity that is at the table that is insisting on being recognized from everything from professional requirements to political issues, requires us to be able to open the aperture of what it means for us to understand who belongs in this space, what issues are relevant, and why.

BIGIO: There is so much there, Reuben, to unpack and absorb, and I'm sure our participants will have a lot of questions to follow up. Carla, do you want to say anything in response before we open it up to our participants?

KOPPELL: No, I think it'd be great to have a conversation, please.

BIGIO: Wonderful. So I would like to invite you all to join the conversation with your questions. Please limit yourself to one concise question. We will do our best to get to as many as possible. And Veronica will give instructions on how to join the question queue.

STAFF: We will take the first written question from Mojubaolu Olufunke Okome at CUNY Brooklyn College. She asks, "Given that the issue isn't one of lack of data, knowledge, information, and analysis on inclusion, what prevents meaningful significant change? And how have leadership and courage produced quantifiable change? If you could provide some examples with statistics."

BRIGETY: Sure. I think there are three things. First, leadership, as I mentioned. The second is inertia. And the third is opposition. I won't dwell further on leadership as I talked about it, but let me sort of talk about inertia a little bit. You know, the best definition of systemic racism that I've ever heard is a system that continues to produce differentiated outcomes based on race even if everybody inside the system is not racist. Any number of examples that one can cite about that from who gets certain scholarships or what political appointments tend to look like just based on established professional or other networks, to fundamental issues of access to high school or secondary education based on zip codes or how education is funded in this country on the local level. And the reason that matters is, for example, last night, Senator Tim Scott, in his response to the president’s speech to Congress, said that America is not a racist nation. Now, I am prepared to accept their proposition in the context that America is not filled with a bunch of racist people. And yet, we continue to see differentiated outcomes that are highly correlated to race, everything from healthcare outcomes to disparities in familial wealth to access to higher education to differential treatments in the legal system. To also, by the way, representation at the very highest levels of American industry in most Fortune 500 CEOs to also, frankly, the composition of senior appointment to the State Department. And so one has to continue to interrogate.

I'll give you another kind of very basic example. So I wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs online in 2016 based on some data that came out of the National Security Council just before the end of the Obama administration. And the data suggested that in the entire foreign policy establishment of the United States of America, there was no place, other than the civil service of USAID, interestingly, where the level of diversity upon entry matched levels of diversity at mid-ranks and match levels of diversity at senior ranks across the entire foreign policy establishment—the intelligence agencies, the uniformed military, State Department, Commerce, etcetera. And so unless you believe that women and minorities are simply not as good as white men, and therefore trite at a higher level, something else has to be happening because the data don't lie—it's clear. And so, one, you could be forgiven if you don't take a hard look at those things to say, "Well, you know, we're still meeting our mission, right? Maybe we're still sailing. We're still sending diplomats overseas, whatever, so what's the problem?" And that's inertia. When you don't fully try to unpack what's happening and why and then try to figure out, to Carla's point, how you could actually have even better operational successes if you're paying serious attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

And the final bit is opposition. One of the challenges with these kinds of conversations is that you are often preaching to the choir. And it's important to note that there are nontrivial numbers of our fellow citizens who do not accept this proposition. Tucker Carlson, one of the most widely watched and influential pundits on American television, just last week used his platform to give credence to replacement theory, the idea that we are somehow importing a whole bunch of other people who will change the electoral demographic of the United States. And as he said, quote, "Why should we," we meaning not them, "stand for that?" And so this is a serious point of contention for the idea of what it's going to mean to be American going into the next part of the twenty-first century and how are our institutions going to reflect that in ways that are not only consistent with our values but also supportive of our interests. And in terms of examples of how these things have been advanced, again, I would say that I give the Biden administration incredibly high marks for ensuring that we have, throughout our government, agencies that reflect the excellence and equity in America. And again, that need not be a partisan issue. It shouldn't be a partisan issue. One hopes that we can come to consensus around this issue set so that we could have legitimate debates about tax policy or health care or whatever else, right? But this issue that all Americans ought to be valued and we ought to ensure that they are through our policies and programs ought to be noncontroversial.

KOPPELL: Within the educational context I would add a fourth category, which I think is fear and hesitancy. So I think you do see instructors who are interested in pulling this material to a greater or lesser extent into their teaching, but they aren't sure how to identify the right scholarship. They got their PhD in something and didn't do any of the reading around this, and they feel that they're expected to be the highest level of expert to bring in this issue and these are issues they're not that familiar with. They're worried about managing difficult conversations and how to move that agenda forward in ways that still enable them to control and lead the classroom. And so I think what you see is a need to help buy down the risk for those folks and enable them to start to adopt the kinds of teaching practices that are more inclusive, bring in the issue sets that deal with DEI concerns by, you know, for example, showing them the material that is out, the scholarly material—and I put the link to that in the chat—by giving them examples of where this material has been tackled, by showing that there are results and I think, to Reuben's point, by letting students lead us in educational institutions forward because they're ready to do that. Around the country you see, I talk with deans all the time, it is the students who are pushing the institutions, and they are moving the agenda forward. Their leadership is critically important because the times are different and the future is theirs.

With regard to data and information about this, we're doing something interesting at Georgetown, and I don't have the data yet, but we did surveys of all the syllabi to see what the reading and coverage was of these issues and the diversity of people that were being assigned. And we're on our second semester doing that now in one of our flagship programs. I'm really interested to see what progress will have been made because that will start to open a window into how you use the discourse, the public discourse today to make change within the academy. I think we're going to see some real progress around that. Critical will not be just bringing in diverse scholars to read about exactly the same things we've been reading about but with a different author, but to start to look at these intersections and really bring the fullness of the dialogue and the discourse forward.

And I would conclude with an example that speaks to what Reuben was saying about you think you're being successful, so you don't know what you're missing. When I was at AID, I went to visit a project that actually measured how much a project benefited from investments in women's empowerment in addition to investments for child's health to reduce stunting. And the project as a whole was super successful. So people could have gone home saying, "Yes, all was well." And then when they looked at the data, what they realized was that the project was 5 percent more successful when they invested in gender equality in this case. And so what that meant was if they had never done that measurement, they would have thought they were being as successful as they could be when in reality they were leaving enormous gains on the table just by not paying attention to the issues of inequality and marginalization. And that's the kinds of losses that are often invisible but essential.

BIGIO: Thank you both. Veronica, will you bring in the next question?

STAFF: Great. We will take the next spoken question from Beverly Lindsay. Please accept the "unmute" prompt.

Q: Can you hear me?


Q: I'm Beverly Lindsay at the University of California multicampus, meaning Riverside, UCLA, and Orange. My question is specifically for the president. I've been a dean at two universities, a tenured, full professor. And I sit on tenure and promotion committees not only in the United States, but in England and various parts of Africa and Asia. What the data clearly shows is that women and people of color consistently receive lower evaluations by their students and by their peers. They also have more difficulty on challenging issues—publishing—in what are referred to as top-tier universities. And I know that there are new presidents of color such as yourself, Black presidents at Rutgers, Ohio State, Illinois, Davis, etcetera. But what would you say as a president that you would do or you would recommend so that the faculty who are coming up for tenure and promotion end up consistently receiving lower evaluations from students? That's constantly in the data, but there's bias in those evaluations. So how do you try to ensure and take that into account when they're not tenured, full professors, such as myself, a Black woman, sitting on the tenure and promotion committees?

BRIGETY: It's a great question. Let me offer a few things. First of all, look, we're all academics. We are supposed to be able to be persuaded by data in argument. And so the first thing you have to do is demonstrate the data, right, lay it out. And that leads you, again, to kind of some very basic questions. Are we simply saying that all of our women and faculty of color are just not as good as the others? Or is there really something else happening here? And interrogate it fearlessly. You know, one of the things as you probably know that has been done in a number of universities is that they've actually eliminated teaching evaluations from tenure files precisely because of the level of biases that you're speaking of, particularly as it relates to women. It does not mean that teaching is unimportant, it just may mean that there are other ways to evaluate it—peer evaluations to peer coaching and context, teaching in the classroom, and things of that nature.

The other is—let me kind of start from the opposite end of the pipeline as I have a bit of an experience in this regard, and that is how do you ensure you're getting women, people of color, or other minorities into your pipeline to teach in the first place. So when I was dean of the Elliott School, anytime we had a tenure track search we did two things. One, each search committee had to go through implicit bias training. And the second thing is, and I told every search committee, if you return to me a shortlist that is comprised exclusively of one demographic whatever that might be—all white men doing security studies, all women during gender studies—if you return to me all one demographic, I'm going to consider it a failed search and tell you to start over because that is evidence to me that you have actually not done the work necessary to fully understand the diversity of the field out there. And there was some hemming and hawing and whatever, but you know what, it really worked. And we had some unbelievable candidates who are women and people of color in nontraditional fields, for those demographics. There's going to be arms control or macroeconomics or whatever else, whose resumes stood up against anybody else in the world. But again, it comes back to leadership, right? And in the absence of a senior leader who says these things, I would say that those who are in communities like yourselves that have a level of seniority and are therefore bulletproof by virtue of being full professors, ask these questions boldly of your leadership: "So we hear that, you know, this guy Brigety at University of the South or this, you know, Carla at Georgetown, they're doing this stuff, right, why aren't we?" This is increasingly the state of the art. So why are we not there?

BIGIO: It's powerful to hear you, Reuben, talking both about leadership and the ways in which you use your tools to really incentivize a change in behavior. No one wants a failed search, and that is a real incentive that delivers on the message that you are sending to your faculty. Carla, do you want to add to this? And I’d like to also direct everyone's attention to a resource Carla shared in the chat as well.

KOPPELL: Sure, so I put in the chat one of the compilations of all the research. I know that the question was aimed specifically at Reuben, but I did want to just mention super quickly some other things that have been done across the country and around the world. So one is to turn evaluations around by adding questions about diversity, equity, and inclusion issues into course evaluations. So, are course instructors dealing with these issues? Are diverse scholars being assigned? And a number of schools have put those evaluation questions into place. A second is asking for diversity statements in applications. Not are you diverse or how do you add to the diversity of the community, but what is your view on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues? And what would you contribute in trying to advance an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging on campus and selection processes? A third thing, which is happening in a number of campuses, is looking at how to value mentoring and service to the community to a greater extent in tenure and review processes because the research also shows that women and people of color tend to provide more mentorship to the students and yet that's not valued in the promotion process. Additionally, pointing to the research that talks about the bias in citations, in the valuation of authorship, and in the promotion and review process will be an essential part of showing people the data. There is compelling data that you can find on the website that I pointed out to everybody, and so that can be an important component of the discussion as well. And further, there are now experiments underway to refashion the tenure and promotion process to take out the gatekeepers who may be biased. So if you have a single individual who is shunting off candidates early in the process because they don't think they make the grade, how you disassemble that process to enable everybody to have a voice in selection and promotion.

BIGIO: Thank you both. Veronica, can you bring in the next question?

STAFF: Great. I'm going to triple up on some related questions in the chat here to get through as many as possible. First, Caroline Holley at Farmingdale State College writes, "As an instructional designer I'm keenly aware of ways in which our heritage of racism and colonialism pervades elements of course designs such as text, images, and assignment structures. Can you suggest resources or suggestions to help create and evaluate a course through diversity and a decolonization lens?" And in a similar vein, Steven Jones at Georgia Gwinnett College asks, "As we diversify our syllabi and reading lists, how do we avoid potential charges of mere tokenism?" And thirdly, from Gregory Gause at Texas A&M University, he writes, "In terms of recruitment of students into professional schools of international affairs, what can be done to increase the pool of students from historically underrepresented groups who are interested in applying? Ambassador Brigety, if you could share any policies that you found effective when you were dean at the Elliott School, and Ms. Koppell, if you could share any successful policies for increasing the pool that Georgetown has taken, that would be great."

BIGIO: Thank you, Veronica. So Reuben, Carla, we've heard about recruitment. We've heard about tokenism issues. I'm curious and welcome your thoughts.

BRIGETY: I will leave to Carla the first question about decolonizing the curriculum. She's infinitely more versed in that than I. But let me address recruitment and tokenism. With regard to recruitment, you have to start from kind of essentially two places. And the first is, where do these communities from where you want to recruit find themselves as relates to your discipline? What I mean by that is it takes either a certain level of economic comfort or a certain level of familial familiarity or, frankly, a certain level of imagination to see yourself as a foreign affairs professional if you have no other idea what that looks like. Because you were able to do a Model UN thing when you were in high school and your parents took you to Paris when you were sixteen. And by the way, you've got an uncle who was a Foreign Service officer and you just really liked the Tom Clancy series, right? You want to be Jack Ryan, right? Pick your thing, right? Jack Ryan. Who's Jack Ryan? An Irish-American guy invented by an Irish-American guy, Tom Clancy, right? I mean, he's a great author. I read Tom Clancy as a kid. It's one of the reasons why I went to the Naval Academy.

But it takes a certain leap of imagination to see yourself in that space. And also, crucially, I know this is true in the African American community. I know it's also very true for first-generation students. If you can't see yourself making a living in this space and you're the first amongst your family or first in your community to go to college, like, “Well I don't understand why you're doing this international affairs thing, why don’t you go get paid,” right? Go be a doctor or an engineer or go get an MBA or something, right? And so, frankly, we need dramatically more robust outreach efforts at the high school level in communities where you're trying to convince students that this is a viable path and you had to, sort of, stick with it over several years. We did actually a fair amount of that when I was dean at the Elliott School. I would often do video chats or anytime I'd go to visit to do donor engagement, fundraising, I'd often go to a high school or go to, sort of, a community event in other cities to talk a bit about foreign affairs. I know lots of others, my colleagues who did the same. So, that's the first thing. You have to continue to prime the pump and drive the pipeline over time. And that is a retail effort. It just is. Now back to what we were saying before, you could say it's not worth the effort and just deal with whoever's coming across the transom, and by the way, we're still making our numbers in terms of people in seats and whatever else. But that again, that does not do justice to the effort, the intergenerational effort, again, to diversify our foreign affairs establishment.

And to this issue of tokenism. The very idea of tokenism presumes that the best of knowledge belongs to some demographics and not to others. If you brought in another, kind of, five scholars to be read, who were not part of the canon, but who you thought had interesting things to say but they're all white men, no one would accuse you of tokenism. And so I would respectfully submit that what matters are the ideas and that there are a lot of other people that are not traditionally in the space who have really good ideas. They simply have not been given the chance. I'll give you a very basic example of this. One of the things that we did when I was dean at the Elliott School is I said we're not having any [inaudible] anymore. You cannot have a public event where everybody is of one gender. And if you do, I as dean, reserve the right to cancel it. And so we had a couple of cases where someone said, "I just, you know, I was getting the best people in the field." Like, well, go back and try again. And they did and guess what? They found like really amazing people, both women and people of color and others. I said, “Look, if we were in Nome, Alaska, maybe I could understand. But GW, the Elliott School of International Affairs, is the best location of any foreign affairs school on the planet,” with all due respect to my friend, Carla, at Georgetown, “right smack dab in the middle of everything. There's zero excuse for not bringing in diverse voices.” But you simply have to have somebody who's going to put the foot down and say, you know what, this is what we're doing.

BIGIO: Thank you. Carla, please.

KOPPELL: So, from a pedagogical perspective, I think when you're confronted with material that has bias woven into it, the most important thing you can do is confront that bias and discuss it with your students and provide literature that offers the counterpoint. Pedagogically, I do a lot of work on case studies using simulation exercises to really enable people to bring forward themes related to diversity, equity, and inclusion issues and bring forward their perspective with regard to those themes. And I think the students really enjoy that. We also do a lot of engaged activities that enable them to, sort of, operationalize their thinking around these issues. What we know is that at the end of the day students appreciate the effort to discuss these issues more than they care about the perfection with which we confront them. That is they are more upset if we ignore them than if we are a little bit awkward or ham-handed in the way that we raise them on a regular basis. A colleague said to me, and I think it's really important for us all to remember, that academic freedom doesn't give you the right to not teach students things they need to know to be successful in the professional world. That's not what academic freedom is about. And so figuring out how to confront issues of bias and racism in the formation of the international system and how the international liberal order needs to move forward is part of the way we need to deconstruct and find a better platform for advancement over time. And I think that the most important thing is to engage students in the discussion whether the material is flawed or perfect and force them to think about how to build a better mousetrap in the years ahead.

BIGIO: Thank you both. Some very powerful reflections as we look across these three categories—recruitment, tokenism, and decolonizing our syllabi. I see there's other questions about financial aid, which is another piece, tacking on Reuben, as you talk about the retail of trying to increase our pipelines of diverse students into universities and thinking about kind of what the other tools are and can be used to help in recruiting them and help in and enabling their participation.

BRIGETY: Can I say one thing about that, Jamille, because here's the thing. I mean, the reason you have a strategy for anything is, amongst other things, to decide where you want to deploy your resources—time, money, whatever—and a strategy helps you to prioritize what's important. And so if you're not prepared to put resources behind diversity, financial, intellectual, temporal, etcetera, then it is not a priority. And quite frankly, that's the way the world is going, certainly in the United States. So as an example, right, so here at the University of the South our Board of Regents two years ago, prior to my arrival, made a decision that we would meet full financial need for all students. A number of universities do that, most don't. That is a nontrivial financial commitment. Now, why would you need to do that? Not only does it improve access for students of any race to have access to your education but look, the average Black family when you control for everything else has one-seventh the wealth of the average white family in the United States of America. And that has direct ties to a series of policies from everything from who gets to own and retain land to redlining for housing, which we know is where most Americans have most of their wealth, to access to jobs. All sorts of things. And so it's all connected. And if you're going to figure out how you're going to begin to address these issues then you simply have to make it a priority and that includes financial priority.

KOPPELL: Jamille, I forgot to speak to the question directly about how Georgetown is engaging, and I wanted to just say that we're sort of at the beginning of a process. I think it kind of combines what Reuben is talking about, about trying to do a better job of meeting financial need and also engaging to a larger extent with the Washington, DC, community and the feeder schools that surround us. What we're hoping is that results in more students of diverse backgrounds locally coming to Georgetown to the School of Foreign Service, but we also know that by engaging more closely with the community and putting our community in touch with Washington, DC, we have benefits for the climate at our school.

So apart from whether or not you change the composition of students accepted in an attending Georgetown, you're also creating connective tissue that otherwise didn't exist. And I know that Carnegie Mellon and Pitt, interestingly in the same place, have both really taken strides to engage more with the local community with benefits both for the sense of belonging of students at the school and also for the extent to which the students are matriculating there. So I think there's a lot of promise in that work. There's also a great deal more outreach going out to minority-serving institutions from both the State Department and AID with Foreign Service officers serving in capitals around the country. And for those who are in various parts of the country it's worth looking if there is a Foreign Service officer posted nearby because they are very much all about trying to recruit and introduce people to the international affairs field. And I think there's an opportunity to bring in somebody who is a working diplomat or development professional to talk about how you do construct a career in this area and how that career unfolds. So there are resources out there to draw on.

BIGIO: Thank you, Carla. And speaking of resources, I'll point folks in the Q&A tab. Heidi Hardt from UC Irvine has shared some resources that she has done and with others on diversifying syllabi and on panels. So thank you, Heidi, for sharing those resources. Veronica, I think we have time for one more question.

STAFF: Sure. Reynold Verret of Xavier University of Louisiana. President Verret, I believe you had your hand raised. Do you still have a question?

Q: Well, it was a general question. As we are trying to broaden the pipeline, is there any possibility of drawing more broadly than from the traditional disciplines given that the Foreign Service and international affairs space needs students from traditional STEM fields, from fields that are not even from the humanities. We know that, especially in the disarmament field, that students who are more technological have been applied, but the traditional route to the Foreign Service, to the cultural aspects of the Foreign Service as well, tend to draw from a rather a narrow pipeline of students. And I'm wondering whether that's an avenue that we should be exploring?

BRIGETY: It's a great question that has both merit and challenges. I'll try to explain what I mean by that. So first of all, when we're talking about foreign affairs professionals, at least when I talk about it, I'm not talking exclusively the Foreign Service. And in fact, one of the great things about being a young person who's interested in these things right now is that you can have a vibrant full career as a foreign affairs professional and never work for your own government. You can work for NGOs, work for multilateral organizations, increasingly work for private firms, banking, consulting, whatever. They need to have the skill set, so that's great. Secondly, you're absolutely right, that, as opposed to studying political science, history, whatever, that there is increasingly a need for people that have technical skills. Especially as we see things like, cyber threats or climate change or as you said, arms control issues that require particular technical backgrounds. Here's the challenge. That is sort of like a double-blind, double-loop challenge because we already know that minorities are underrepresented in STEM fields.

And then to have minorities with STEM disciplines that are going into some aspects or foreign affairs is another challenge. The good news is that we increasingly have women and people of color that are succeeding extraordinarily in this field. I think of Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, who's our new undersecretary of state for arms control. An African American woman who is sort of like a prototypical of this kind of new generation of women and people of color making pioneers in what was, certainly throughout the Cold War, an all-male, all-white field in terms of arms control. And Frank Rose, similarly, who also was an assistant secretary of state in the arms-control bureau. So I think the question is how do we actually get those stories out so that increasingly people that have computer science degrees but don't want to go work for Google or that are interested in doing biology but don't want to go do a biology PhD or don't want to do bench research their whole lives and instead actually want to go and see much of the world, can understand that that is a viable career path for them. And that sounds like a CFR task force to me, Irina.

BIGIO: That's great. Well, I wish that we had more time to continue this conversation with you, Reuben and Carla, and with our participants. But I will take this moment, first, on behalf of myself, Irina, and the CFR Academic team, to thank you, Reuben and Carla, for joining us today for your incredible leadership and for all of the insights that you've shared. Thank you to the participants, to everyone who has joined today and keep a lookoutIrina will be sharing all of the links that we put in the chat so you all will have those resources. So thank you all again, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.


Top Stories on CFR



The closely watched elections on July 28 will determine whether incumbent President Nicolás Maduro wins a third term or allows a democratic transition.

International Law

The high court’s decision could allow future U.S. presidents to commit grave abuses of power with impunity, with serious implications for U.S. foreign policy and national security.