The Kissinger Center is pleased to host the International Policy Scholars Consortium and Network (IPSCON), a multi-year initiative funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
At core of the many “bridging the gap” efforts over the past several years is the conviction that foreign policymaking in the United States and elsewhere is seriously compromised by the disconnect between the academy and the world of practice. The challenge is especially acute in doctoral programs in history, political science, and related disciplines. Many students begin their studies with a strong interest in policy and a significant number look to have a policy dimension to their subsequent careers. Yet few schools are able to give those students the coursework and mentoring they need to perform at a high-level in senior policy roles, or to address their research to the real-world problems policymakers confront.
IPSCON aims to create a cohort of scholar-practitioners who understand the problems and perspectives of each world and can successfully pursue careers in both. Now in its fourth year, the network includes more than 60 graduate students at seven top universities for the study of international affairs: Duke, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Syracuse, MIT, Stanford, the University of Indiana, and the University of Virginia. In parallel, IPSCON supports innovative research and curriculum development to help reshape the way we teach and learn about international affairs
Building a Network of Scholar-Practitioners
IPSCON connects graduate students interested in conducting scholarly research on key policy questions, working directly in policymaking roles, or both. These aims are rarely celebrated in traditional programs, which tend to bifurcate into two distinct tracks – a professional masters degree program and an academic PhD program. IPSCON junior scholars are typically PhD students nominated by one of the consortium institutions. By linking junior scholars to senior faculty from across the network, IPSCON’s unique consortium model draws on the diverse strengths of its constituent institutions, while cultivating a robust network of scholars with a shared interest in international affairs and policy.
Key activities for junior scholars include:
- Minnowbrook Retreat. The unofficial kick-off to each academic year is a three-day retreat in June to Syracuse University’s Minnowbrook Conference Center in upstate New York. The retreat focuses on strategies to make academic research policy-relevant, the use of case studies and other methods to better understand problems in history and international relations, and a dissertation workshop for junior scholars to solicit feedback from senior scholars and practioners. These sessions challenge participants to sharpen their scholarship and consider how their work might be applied to particular policy debates. Minnowbrook also offers a host of social activities and an informal salon designed to cultivate and deepen relationships across the network.
- Virtual Seminars (“Carnegie Squares”). During the academic year, IPSCON organizes a monthly video teleconference that considers a timely foreign policy issue through the lens of the latest academic research. Recent topics have included, “Making the National Security Strategy,” “History, Policy Making, and the Balkans,” “Bridging the Gap in the Age of Trump,” and “Understanding the North Korea Nuclear Crisis.” Each 90-minute meeting is co-facilitated by senior and junior scholars.
- Policy Workshop in DC. Anchoring the fall semester is a two-day workshop hosted by Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, DC. The workshop is focused on expanding junior scholars’ exposure to how foreign policy is crafted and implemented inside the Beltway. Current and former senior policymakers have offered sessions on topics ranging from U.S. grand strategy vis a vis China to the challenges of working on the foreign policy team for a presidential campaign. Typically, the workshop also includes a simulation or other participatory exercise that provides insight into the structure of the national security bureaucracy. In 2016, for example, junior scholars played the role of staffers on the National Security Council responsible for evaluating and presenting to the National Security Advisor alternative strategies to counter the Islamic State.In 2017, a highlight of the workshop was an exchange between Professor Peter Feaver of Duke University and Brian Hook, Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State, and Director of the Secretary's Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State (photo below).
Research and Curriculum Development
IPSCON also supports research and curriculum development focused on historically-informed statecraft and policy design. This includes two lines of work:
- Curriculum Development. In contrast to models that focus on disciplinary or technical training, IPSCON is developing rigorous, policy-relevant curricula designed to prepare current and future practitioners for high quality work that blends cutting edge research with an understanding of the needs and exigencies of practice. The courses will be made available in formats that are flexible to accommodate a range of consumers – from graduate students in international relations who plan careers in the academy but will be teachers of future generations, to graduate students in other fields (law, business and applied sciences like engineering and health), advanced undergraduates, and current government officials and staff at multilateral or nongovernmental organizations.
- Pre-doctoral Fellowship. Beginning in 2017, IPSCON will support one pre-doctoral fellow each year to stretch into and sustain rigorous policy-oriented research and otherwise contribute to the program. Candidates are limited to advanced doctoral students at consortium universities and are nominated by consortium senior scholars.
In the initial grant, IPSCON focused on generating content, increasing exposure, and building networks – both vertical (mentors with students) and horizontal (among young scholars and practitioners), to provide support and synergy in navigating this challenging career track. With the second grant, IPSCON aims to broaden and deepen the reach of this work by generating innovative curricula and content that can be emulated by other programs in international affairs and by bringing more young scholars into the network. Despite its growth, the focus of IPSCON remains the cultivation of a strong and enduring network of scholar-practitioners. Its success can be measured by the success of its alumni, who have secured prestigious positions in the academic and policy worlds, collaborated on publications, and utilized the network to develop joint research projects or confer on pressing policy challenges. Ultimately, the project aims to produce students who will become leaders both in and outside the academy, able to improve the quality of statecraft and better equipped to face the international challenges that lie ahead.
Consortium Senior Scholars
- Hal Brands, Henry A. Kissinger Professor, Johns Hopkins SAIS
- Peter Feaver, Director, Triangle Institute for Security Studies; Director, Program in American Grand Strategy; Professor of Political Science, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
- Lee A. Feinstein, Founding Dean, Indiana University School of Global and International Studies; Senior Fellow, German Marshall Fund
- Francis J. Gavin, Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and Director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins SAIS
- Margaret Hermann, Cramer Professor of Global Affairs, Department of Political Science; Director, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, Syracuse University
- Bruce Jentleson, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science; former Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
- Vipin Narang, Mitsui Career Development Associate Professor of Political Science at MIT and a member of MIT’s Security Studies Program
- James Steinberg, University Professor, Social Science, International Affairs, and Law, The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
- Jeremy M. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
- Philip Zelikow, White Burkett Miller Professor of History, University of Virginia
Interested graduate students at consortium universities should contact one of the senior scholars listed above for further information on how to apply to participate in the program.
For the 2018-2019 academic year, IPSCON will also select at-large junior scholars who are not affiliated with a consortium member. Preference will be given to current PhD students in political science, history, or a related discipline with a demonstrated interest in policy-relevant research on a key topic in international affairs. Minorities and individuals from underrepresented groups are especially encouraged to apply. Please send a copy of your CV, along with a 500-word essay explaining your interest in IPSCON and your career objectives, to IPSCON_SAIS@jhu.edu no later than March 1, 2018. Successful candidates will be notified by May 1, 2018.
For more information on IPSCON, please send an email to IPSCON_SAIS@jhu.edu.