After an illustrious career as a foreign diplomat, Christopher Hill settles into his new post as Dean of the Josef Korbel School.
Christopher Hill's office is more like a history museum.
Crammed onto his bookshelves are framed photographs of the former U.S. ambassador shaking hands with the President of Kurdistan, pouring over documents with Hillary Clinton, and laughing along with George Lucas, Michael Douglas, and Colin Powell at a conference. Another shelf holds his rock collection: a piece of the accidentally bombed Chinese embassy in Belgrade, a part of the World Trade Center, a portion of Uday's (Saddam Hussein's son) bedroom in Iraq. Other shelves hold medals of honor still wrapped up in bubble paper; a signpost declaring his address as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Cameroon; and what appears to be the remnants of a landmine.
It's amazing Hill manages to stay still in his new post as dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, but as he approaches his first fifty days in office, it's evident he's beginning to settle down.
"I'm very pleased with my first fifty days," Hill said. "It's been mostly meeting people and getting to know how things work here. Before you suggest that something should be changed, you need to figure out why it is the way it is now. I am very inspired by the Josef Korbel School . . . it's not only up-and-coming, it has arrived."
The faculty, the strength of the Peace Corps community, and the school's career services have all impressed Hill, who wants students to understand that their time at the Josef Korbel School will be followed by actual jobs in the field. And while he approaches the focus on human rights and development, he hopes that the school will also come to appreciate diplomacy and security as key disciplines.
As someone who has worked both on nuclear negotiation treaties and in refugee camps, Hill believes that human rights and security are indubitably linked. As he noted, someone who speaks solely from a rights or security perspective is someone who has trouble making their point; it must be an integrated approach.
In this light, the new dean hopes to teach a spring quarter course on diplomatic history, where students are asked to research a peace treaty each week and to determine whether it was successful or not. Taking advantage of his new surroundings, Hill also wants to address Native American treaties here in Colorado. Ever the diplomat, Hill will reserve seats in his class for undergraduates as he wants to ensure that they have a home at the Josef Korbel School as well.
Hill will probably always have one foot in diplomacy though. Recently returned from talks in Singapore and South Korea, the foreign diplomat has logged more that 750,000 miles on travel- on one airline alone.
When asked about his most memorable travel experience, Hill immediately recalls his interest in East Timor, whose development issues continue to fascinate him.
"There is no system of land tenure in the cities," he said. "I'm talking about ownership in Dili, which is plagued by vacant lots and burned down buildings; these are development problems that are quite solvable. The international community moved on after independence, but the problems remained. You need to be patient and be prepared to stay."
According to Hill, the advantage of the Josef Korbel School is that it can give students the analytical framework to understand the nature of problems such as those in East Timor and to solve them, instead of just admiring the issues from afar.
"Once you make the decision to go into a country, you cannot expect to be out by the weekend," the Josef Korbel School dean said. "You can never underestimate the trauma caused by war; it could take generations to solve those problems, so you must be realistic about how long you'll be there. War is hell, but peacekeeping is not much better."
As for the current administration's foreign policy agenda, Hill mentioned Pakistan as a concern but said that the greatest challenge for the United States was making its commitment to working with others real. He feels that too often multilateralism means a serious commitment by America, and token commitments by other nations.
"Multilateralism needs to work on the basis of everyone pitching in," Hill said. "Countries look to America for leadership and sustainability, but our resources are not limitless."
As for the perks of the diplomatic world, Hill says there are more things he doesn't miss than he does.
"I don't miss having a security detail, some of the ceremonies, or always being on display- I get to wear my blue jeans more often now," Hill said. "I have more anonymity now. The thing is if someone insists on making you breakfast, you have to be there a certain time; or your favorite pair of pants goes mission when they offer to do your laundry. The perks are not all they are cracked up to be."
There is however, one more thing the renowned foreign diplomat does miss.
"I miss the sense of service to one's country," Hill said. "In an indirect sense, I feel that if I'm successful with the students here, then I'm also serving my country."
-Nirvana Bhatia, MA candidate in International Human Rights
Josef Korbel School of International Studies