Students at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies had their first opportunity to interact with new dean Christopher Hill last Wednesday.
The informal town hall setting encouraged a variety of questions from approximately 150 students interested in Hill's personal life, career experience, and vision for the Josef Korbel School- in addition to some more unusual inquiries.
"What happened to the Red Sox?" asked one student. "Is your appointment some sort of political statement on the Middle East?" wondered another.
Hill addressed everything with good humor, but spent much of the session discussing the Josef Korbel School's branding history.
"Korbel is a bit of a hybrid," he said. "If the Josef Korbel School is to be successful as a professional school, it has to be successful at scholarship. It's a place where you can do all these things while you're here, but also where you can get the job you want when you leave, whether that's with an NGO, the government, or international business. I want to congratulate you on your choice in coming here; it will be one of the highlights of your life."
With that in mind, Hill stressed that students interested in foreign policy careers now need the ability to deal with outside agencies, to prove emotional intelligence and to write quickly and adeptly.
"The bureaucracy in Washington ends up being like a pee-wee soccer game: everyone congregates around one ball," he said. "You need situational awareness and we can help you with that you; you don't want to have to go through culture shock when you are in those positions."
Although Hill is not an academic by profession, he noted that the Josef Korbel School was much like an embassy building- albeit, without a saluting Marine at the front doors- and that his previous experiences in foreign diplomacy made him a good fit for the job.
"I like the view of the mountains from my office," he said. "But then, anything is better compared to my view in Baghdad. Barbed wire is only interesting the first day."
As for the future of Iraq, his last posting as a U.S. ambassador, Hill said that they key to the country's success would be securing oil production agreements with large companies, such as British Petroleum. These contracts would not be about the oil itself, but about fostering Iraq's economic power so that they could pay for services such as electricity and education.
Hill made quite an impression on students, who were pleasantly surprised by his sense of humor and level of engagement.
"I was interested in how he would interact with students," said Greg Maly, an International Studies student. "You know, we all want to work for someone like him, but usually we would be way down in the ranks. Now, he's new and we're new; I like where it could go."
Hill later said that he was pleased with the students' questions, and that he would like to hold the town-hall meetings more frequently. In the meantime, his door is always open- and he likes cheese pizza.
Hill, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, began his tenure as dean on September 1, 2010.
-Nirvana Bhatia, MA candidate in International Human Rights
Josef Korbel School of International Studies