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Profiles in a DU Pioneer Education

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Q&A with Dean CHristopher R. Hill, JOsef Korbel School of International Studies, part one

Christopher R. HillIn March, DU announced the receipt of a $17 million gift from philanthropists Anna and John J. Sie. The donation will support the University's Josef Korbel School of International Studies through the construction of a 43,000-square-foot building and marks the largest single private gift in the Josef Korbel School's 50-year history.
We sat down with Dean Hill to give you an inside look at the Josef Korbel School.

Q: Give us a brief overview of your school-a general snapshot of the education you provide to students.

A: The Josef Korbel School is a professional school that combines training with education. Training is needed to equip students with the skills required in today's job markets, and education will kick in over the lifespan of their careers. The training element teaches students how to reach the bottom rung of the career ladder, and their education will help them climb up those rungs.

Right now the School is very much a professional master's program, with some PhDs and a growing number of undergraduates. I would like to see a greater number of those undergraduate students continuing on to a master's program here.

Q: Tell us about some of the challenges associated with running an international studies program from the middle of the country-away from all the international government agencies, etc.

A: Name recognition is a priority. I personally try to be very visible and make sure the Korbel School name is visible. Whenever I do press interviews, I mention the Korbel School to make sure that news sources are aware of where we are. We have a good marketing effort within the school; it's something we're constantly working on.

International studies has evolved to include a great deal of current policy. The challenge is to make sure our students get exposed to policymakers, and we put a lot of effort into bringing guests here to speak on contemporary issues with our students.

Q: What distinguishes the Josef Korbel School from its competitors, the other schools in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA)?

A: At the Korbel School we have a strong focus on human rights, including an MA in human rights and an international human rights law certificate that we offer together with the law school. We have a strong interdisciplinary program that enjoys synergism with other DU professional schools. We encourage our students to maintain their personal values while preparing for their careers.

Additionally we have strong overseas programs. For example, the Sié Chéou-Kang Center features the Korbel in Geneva program, where we offer students the opportunity to spend six months in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of an academic program with our sister institution, the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies. The Institute has a long-standing reputation of excellence and shares strong ties with the international and non-governmental organizations in Geneva as well as being home to a diverse and vibrant group of students and faculty from all over the world.

We also have an in-house career services office devoted to serving the students at the Korbel School and alumni, which, in addition to career coaching and development, manages the credit-based MA student internship program. Internships and hands-on experience are critical to an international studies education; most of our degree programs require an internship.

I personally call a lot of companies looking at our students as prospective employees and serve as a reference; it is a core part of my job. The success of the School is ultimately judged on the jobs of our alumni.

Q: Peace Corps recently recognized DU as the top volunteer-producing graduate school in the U.S., with 23 graduate students currently serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Tell us about your commitment to volunteerism.

A: We're very proud to be a strong Peace Corps program. I was a Peace Corps volunteer myself; I served in Cameroon, West Africa, where I supervised 28 village and plantation credit unions, auditing their books (what would now be called micro-finance).

The Peace Corps Master's International Program allows students to combine Peace Corps service with their graduate studies, and we offer the Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV), where we help take the experiences they've gained while in the Corps and mold them to serve the rest of their careers. Our active RPCV community ensures our returned volunteers will have opportunities to interact with each other, along with impacting the community.

By Katie Watt
Posted April 1, 2014


Q: The Josef Korbel School is home to a number of research centers; how does the work your students do in these centers embody DU's vision of being dedicated to the public good?

A: Our research centers are intended to serve a number of purposes. They maximize synergisms among professors; we don't want 35 professors doing 35 different research projects, and the centers aid in helping them work together. The centers also provide a considerable amount of student employment where they can also develop area and functional expertise.

For our PhD students, the centers are becoming an organizing principle. Their main purpose is to develop research and publication, and they give students an opportunity to work with like-minded professors.

Right now we don't have the space to further open our doors to visiting professors and other researches, but that will change enormously in the coming years.

Q: The Josef Korbel School recently received its largest single private gift, from Anna and John J. Sie. The gift will support the construction of a 43,000-gross-square-foot building, which will adjoin the existing Cherrington Hall and the Sié Chéou-Kang Center to form the Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex. What does this mean to the school?

A: The entire Josef Korbel School community is thrilled and humbled by the Sie family's ongoing commitment to our students and the future of the Korbel School.

We are building a structure for the next century. We need to connect with the rest of the world, and this new building will provide a meeting place where we can do that through technology.

We're looking to encourage collaboration with other top schools and guests, and to accomplish that the wires and antennas in this new facility will be as important as the brick and mortar. The new building will provide opportunities for our professors to give lectures here, while sharing them internationally in places such as Africa and the Middle East, and vice-versa.

Additionally we'll have the space to host events like never before. We'll be able to host dignitaries from around the globe, bringing world leaders right here to DU.

Q: What do you want people to know about the Josef Korbel School?

A: We are part of a broader campus with superb professional schools; we have a new generation of professors who embrace the DU campus as a whole and have reached out to find areas of cooperation as never before.

We embrace thinking outside the box, while also understanding why the box is there in the first place. We strive to be open-minded: as an international school we should be bringing former U.S. presidents, world leaders and diplomats to campus, and we are doing just that.

Our alumni span the globe in the realms of commerce, education, government, diplomacy, law, conflict resolution, military affairs, economic development, global health and humanitarian relief. We have a number of noteworthy alumni such as Condoleezza Rice, 66th U.S. Secretary of State; Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister; George W. Casey, Jr.,36th chief of staff of the United States Army; and Heraldo Muñoz, former assistant secretary-general and director of the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and now Foreign Minister of Chile.

By Katie Watt
Posted April 8, 2014