SH: When you arrived at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in August 2010, what were your first impressions of the school and how have your impressions changed?
DH: I came here from a previous career in the foreign service, a 33-year career, and directly from a previous assignment in Iraq two weeks before. So this was quite a change in many respects. The first year has definitely been a learning experience.
SH: Do you feel you have a greater understanding of the school as an institution after one year?
DH: Oh sure. I think when you’re a dean there are two fundamental elements of your job. One is a sort of internal management – making sure all cylinders are operating and the school is functioning well. The second is an outward projection of the school. And so that outward projection involves dealing with donors, alumni, deans at other schools and of course, very critically, it involves dealing with the chancellor and provost.
SH: Being the dean of a top international studies graduate school seems to be more of a lifestyle than a profession.
DH: Yes, definitely. What you want is for the world to know what Korbel is. I consider that a very important aspect of what I do. I think there’s real success in increasing the profile of the school.
SH: What are some concrete factors you can point to which indicates an increased profile for the Josef Korbel School?
DH: As a former diplomat, a former ambassador in Iraq, former North Korea negotiator, I do a lot of public speaking, I was on NPR earlier and I make sure whenever I speak on a national radio outlet or in the case of CNN, an international television platform, that Korbel is advertised with my name. And we’ve had a lot of success with that. The more people that see the name the better off we’ll be.
SH: How does the past year rate on a level of personal satisfaction and professional enjoyment?
DH: I like working with students, I have a policy that if a student wants to see me, I am available for that student. I’ve also enjoyed guest lecturing in classes. What I’d like to do next academic year is have my own course in the spring quarter and right now I am working on what that course will look like. So working with students has been important.
SH: Was the transition difficult for you – from being a diplomat, roving far and wide- coming to CO?
DH: No. I think Korbel is a school of reasonable size where no one gets lost in the shuffle. People who come here get to know faculty, and take different courses. We’re also in Denver, CO, which is a young person’s town, it’s really full of life. Everything is quite accessible here. If you’re a skier, as I am, you can be on the slopes within hours – and I mean really world class slopes.
SH: Did you get a chance to enjoy the slopes this year?
DH: I did but not enough. I had a season pass but I didn’t go as much as I wanted to.
SH: Tell us a bit about your long-term vision for the school. How do you see the school changing over the next three to five years?
DH: I think the turn to a professional Master’s degree appropriate – that should be our focus. That said, there are two other things I also want to keep in focus. One is to maintain a small-to-medium size PhD program. Small is 10-15 PhD students but we’re talking about more than 10 students, at any time, getting their PhDs.
The other thing that I think we need to try to be a part of, is the undergraduate program.
The real question, is whether we should get bigger, should we get smaller? In any event we need to continue monitoring whether the degrees we’re offering are the degrees the job market is looking for.
SH: Do you see any substantial changes in the next 3-5 years in that area?
DH: I don’t think so. We have people who earn the general international studies degree. We have the International Security degree, which is very dear to my heart. And we also have a very robust International Development degree with over 100 students. So these are the main things we’re looking at, along with some smaller areas, but we have to just continue to monitor that.
SH: Some of us have been talking about how there is a lack of cross-pollination between degree programs. How, for example, you’re not required as an international security student to take any classes in human rights or development. In this global environment there is a need for a holistic understanding of problems. When you’re looking at the issue of a weak or failing states, for example, analyzing the problem involves multiple tracks of analysis – it involves security, it involves human rights, international law and development too. Is there room to expand the programs or require that students take a course that informs them of the other “tracks” necessary in solving complex international issues?
DH: I’ve been concerned about that lately. And you talk about cross-pollination but what I was thinking about also is that there ought to be some common denominator in the programs that everyone in Korbel has done something together. I’m looking at a couple of possibilities. One involves a course, or two, which everyone would have to take, presumably providing a smattering of everything. The tension there is that you’re dealing with graduate students who sometimes come here with very specific notions of what they want to study. And if they’re security they don’t want to study human rights, and vice-versa. I’ve started that conversation with the faculty.
The second idea is much less difficult to implement: each degree director will recommend one book, so there would be about six book on a Korbel reading list which every student coming here would have to have read. The question is how to make that a verifiable requirement and not a “nice thing to do.” So we have to think about what’s on the other end of that. I would like to see if we can emphasize the fact that you can’t solve problems with just security – you need human rights. And by the way – you can’t solve problems with just human rights either, or development. It’s very much on the radar and I’d like to see if we could do something systematic in that regard. Every student I have talked to about this has been very favorable to the idea.
SH: Could you comment on the creation of CENEX, Korbel’s first large-scale simulation, which had its debut this year in May 2011?
DH: Sure, I’ve heard extremely favorable things about the simulation. When you work in government it is a team sport all the way. You have to work with others, you have to depend on others to get their job done so you can get your job done. I think simulations of this kind are very important for instilling that kind of concept of working together. I want to see the exercise continue regularly and I want to see it done well. I think the student participation this year was very positive and I’d like to see students beating down the door for the next one.
SH: Thank you for talking with us today Dean Hill.
DH: I am here to be approached and I want people to know I’m around and available. And thank you as well.
Shane Hensinger, MA candidate in International Security
Josef Korbel School of International Studies