Friday, June 10, 2016

Public Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy


Dear [Public Diplomacy Council] Colleagues
Below is a response to the message you saw earlier [see] about Public Diplomacy at the Fletcher School

Adam Clayton Powell III
Public Diplomacy Council

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From: Stavridis, James;
Sent: Thursday, June 9, 2016 2:49:50 PM
To: Adam Powell III
Cc: Folkins, Paulette
Subject: Public Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

Dear Mr. Powell:

I am writing to you in your position as president of the Public Diplomacy Council in hopes that you might post this response for your members.  The online impression has somehow arisen among many of them in recent days that the Fletcher School has abandoned public diplomacy.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our activities and research concerning public diplomacy are in fact being expanded to respond to the demands of our students and the global needs of the times.

The Edward R. Murrow Center has been reinvigorated and re-named the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World: Cyber, Media, Public Diplomacy The center historically focused on public diplomacy and on the reporting of foreign affairs.  The new emphasis on digital matters was done to respond to the fundamental change in international relations and public diplomacy caused by the digital information revolution and the emergence of the new dimension of cyberspace.   The U.S. State Department, and governments everywhere, are scrambling to respond. 

It is the mission of the Fletcher School as a thought leader and teaching center to best study how governments should respond.  In doing so, the school is following in the tradition of innovation of Dean Ed Gullion, who coined the term of public diplomacy, and of Edward R. Murrow himself, who helped lead the American media and government into, first, radio, and then television.  Murrow and Gullion led the way for their era.  We are sure that they would agree with what we are doing for ours.

None of this is to say that what we think of as traditional public diplomacy is unimportant.  The cultural, communications and person-to-person missions remain vital, and we teach about them.  But the information environment has changed.  In an increasingly networked world, in which private and public international information flows are so powerful and noisy that the U.S. government struggles to be heard effectively, the lines between what constitutes public and other forms of diplomacy is blurry and presents new challenges.

We have consulted with State Department officials, with alumni and with students over the last year and their resounding message has been that how Fletcher can best contribute to public diplomacy—and to the country’s diplomacy in general—is to draw on our unmatched strengths as an inter-disciplinary school to tackle what is an inter-disciplinary global challenge.  To that end, we have 20 courses highlighted within the Murrow Center site that we invite you to review here.   As with all Fletcher course offerings, these are overseen by Academic Dean Steven Block and the academic committee. 

These courses include popular skills courses on how to use different media and forms of communication to influence the public debate, including very specific courses on crisis management, on measuring and modeling communications policy, and on communicating political economy matters.  In addressing public diplomacy, we also have more traditional academic courses on counter-terrorism, on social networks, on digital citizenship and development, on international communication, and on cultural issues and intellectual property.   And then there are our many core courses on diplomacy and statecraft.  Indeed, “Diplomacy, History and Politics” remains one of the school’s three academic divisions.  This division’s renowned head for the past several decades has been Professor Alan Henrikson, whose research and writing has often focused specifically on public diplomacy, as have his popular courses and major conferences that he has hosted.  Alan is retiring this year, but we are actively seeking a replacement who will continue in his footsteps.  Alan has been one of the most beloved professors at Fletcher.  To suggest that the school has abandoned public diplomacy diminishes the legacy Alan helped to build here.

Meanwhile, Fletcher continues to host an annual State Department fellow who by design comes with an explicit public diplomacy background.  A separate public diplomacy course that focuses on practical issues in the field is sometimes taught by these fellows, based on student demand.  The course has had modest enrollment in recent years.  This past year’s fellow, Bill Bellis, did not teach a course, but he was very effective in advising students on public diplomacy and Foreign Service careers. He also brought speakers to the school.  His last invitation was to the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Richard Stengel, who almost came in the spring and we hope will come in the fall.  Perhaps most remarkably, Bill attended and  participated in almost every class of Alan Henrikson’s famed D200 course on the history, theory and practice of diplomacy.  Bill pulled further public diplomacy duty by doing things such as lecturing last month to visiting Polish diplomats.  The Murrow Center’s new director, Edward Schumacher-Matos, is doing the same next week with visiting Ukranian [sic-JB] diplomats.

I could go on about a number of exciting research and other related projects that are underway at the Murrow Center under Edward’s dynamic leadership, but what might be most useful is for readers to look at the center’s web site to see for themselves how we have expanded our vision.   Edward comes from the news media side, after a distinguished career at The New York TimesThe Wall Street JournalThe Washington Post and National Public Radio.  However, he is also a Fletcher graduate who also has taught immigration policy at Harvard and digital strategy at Columbia, with a focus on cross-cultural communications.

We welcome any suggestions from you and your council members on what more we can do.  But one thing remains clear:  the Fletcher School is committed to teaching and research on public diplomacy in its full breadth for today’s world. 



Admiral James Stavridis USN
Dean The Fletcher School
Tufts University
160 Packard Av
Medford MA 02155

Facebook: James Stavridis
Twitter: stavridisj

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