by Dean Allan Stam
How Batten prepares students to navigate the choppy waters of public policy—nationally and internationally
Dean Allan Stam
Dean Allan Stam

In her most recent lecture at UVA hosted by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and the Shadwell Society, Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter talked about the current geopolitical landscape—its hot spots and blind spots. A seasoned policy expert and tenured professor at Princeton, Slaughter is acutely aware of the complexities that exist in both national and foreign policy milieus, and what they require of today’s policymakers.

We here at the Batten School know that when it comes to policymaking, a back- ground in public policy alone does not suf- fice. It’s just one aspect—leadership being another component—of a crucial approach to effectively navigating the intricate world of public and global policy.

That’s why this edition of Batten Reports aims to look at the different avenues and disciplines that provide our students with a strong foundation, so that they can not only better understand the hot spots, but also identify the blind spots in our geopolitical landscape. How can we equip future policy- makers and leaders with the skills and tools to navigate contentious situations, so that they can overcome conflict diplomatically while still achieving productive outcomes?

Conflict—a touchy word—is unfortunately inevitable. We have witnessed this in our own community of Charlottesville. On a na- tional level and a global level, there remains a wide array of unresolved issues that continue to challenge and baffle policymakers—even the most brilliant, highly educated and ex- perienced ones. So, as Slaughter pointed out in her lecture, there needs to be a new model for looking at the world, and for how we ap- proach its issues.

States are no longer the only actors in the so-called chess-game; now, there are new players. Vast networks that defy state lines— whether it’s tech goliaths, the continuing global expansion (and increasing power) of corporations or the world of hacktivists—all play a role in shaping our world, for better or for worse.

The Batten School is already up to speed—call it a preemptive strike. Take our new partnership with the Center for Politics, driven by the idea that government works better when politics works better, and poli- tics works better when citizens are informed and involved participants. This idea is in- tegral to our own mission here at Batten. It informs our National Security Policy Center, led by Batten Professor Phil Potter, and its two new programs: Hacking for Defense and Intelligence Analysis—both of which expose students to the real-world challenges of na- tional security. Another example is our UN boot camp led under the direction of Profes- sor Kirsten Gelsdorf, a seasoned humanitar- ian worker. Gelsdorf has translated her own policy and field experience both inside and outside the classroom, showing students what it’s actually like to work in the field— how to make good (emphasis on “good”) decisions, even when you’re underfed and sleep deprived—all against the chaotic back- drop of a humanitarian crisis.

Programs of this caliber and acumen are what set us apart from other schools of pub- lic policy, and I hope they always will. Until next semester.