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The next in our series of Faculty Spotlight posts comes from Steven Block. Prof. Block currently teaches Development Economics: Macroeconomic Perspectives, Agriculture and Rural Development in Developing Countries, and Political Economy of Reform, Growth, and Equity. It was also announced today that Prof. Block will serve as Academic Dean in 2015-2016.
My interest in economics came initially from outside the field. During my senior year in college, I took a class on the politics of hunger. I found the topic compelling, and after graduating volunteered at Oxfam America. A year later, I stumbled into a class on the “economics of the world food system” and I was swept away by the realization that the dry and seemingly counterintuitive theories that filled my introduction to economics curriculum could actually be applied to analyze and propose solutions to a real-world problem that mattered. My professor in that class would later become my PhD thesis advisor, and we still collaborate on research over thirty years later.
I hope that my own teaching at Fletcher has the same effect on my students. In my class on food policy and agricultural development, I try to demonstrate the value of applied economic theory as a tool to understand the complex and emotionally vexing issue of world hunger. The topics that I cover in that class include the design of policy interventions to protect nutritionally vulnerable consumers, as well as interventions to generate income for smallholder farmers. These challenges are magnified by the recognition that consumers and producers of food often have conflicting interests (that is, producers prefer high food prices, while consumers prefer low food prices). Resolving such conflicting interests among groups in society inevitably leads to issues of political economy – another core focus of my teaching and research.
These topics also motivate much of my academic research. In recent years (often in collaboration with colleagues at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy), I’ve investigated the measurement and determinants of agricultural productivity in Africa, the roles of maternal education and economic growth on child nutritional status, and the politics of agricultural trade policy in Africa.
My broader interest in development economics stemmed from my initial interest in hunger issues. Needless to say, hunger has its roots in poverty. But the relationship between poverty and hunger is complex, with causality running in both directions at once. I’m particularly interested in the potential for agricultural development to contribute to the broader process of economic development. Thus, core topics in my development economics class include poverty, equity, and the effect of economic growth on both. Since poverty in developing countries is disproportionately rural, development strategies that include agriculture have the potential to generate “pro-poor” growth.
While I take every opportunity in class to demonstrate the uses of economic theory in addressing these issues, I also stress the need for interdisciplinary approaches. Towards that end, I teach a class on the political economy of growth and equity in developing countries. Part of the motivation for the class is the recognition that while economic models can prescribe the “right” answers to policy challenges, politicians often make other choices — frequently to the detriment of a majority of their own citizens. In this class, we explore various paradigms that seek to explain the too frequent observation of politicians sacrificing social welfare for political survival.
Tagged with: Faculty Spotlight
One of the Ginn Library research librarians, Ellen McDonald, asked members of the faculty to tell her what they have been reading in this snowy winter. This is not an assignment for students (current or incoming)! But if you happen to be curious about what they recommend, feel free to peruse the list.
From that page, you can also click through other Ginn Library resources, which will give you insight into what students consider important in their academic work.
Tagged with: Ginn Library
Returning to our Faculty Spotlight series, today’s post comes from Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, lecturer in Human Security. Prof. Scharbatke-Church teaches a series of intensive short-term classes, including Design and Monitoring of Peacebuilding and Development Programming, Evaluation of Peacebuilding and Development for Practitioners and Donors, and Advanced Evaluation and Learning in International Organizations.
Colleagues sometimes ask me why I stopped working in peacebuilding to be an evaluator. I respond by asking: how is determining the dynamics of a conflict and its actors, and the ability of an intervention to catalyze change, anything but peacebuilding? Understanding how change happens in complex conflict and fragile affected states, be it on issues related to corruption, rule of law, or conflict, has been the focus of my career as a practitioner-scholar. In my opinion, this is the crux of all forms of international development and peacebuilding.
As a practitioner-scholar I purposefully straddle the theory and practice communities. The issues, challenges, or questions I identify on the ground when working with partners such as the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), or the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) directly feed my research and, by extension, my teaching. Real cases are always part of class discussions to bring to light the complexity of issues. In addition, through my organization Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, students have the opportunity to engage in projects that are committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues.
Equally, my academic work influences my practice as it enables me to not only stay current, but to critically assess the potential value of theory against real challenges. For instance, I am leading a project, funded by the Department of State, that seeks to operationalize new approaches to corruption in the justice sector in conflict affected states. The impetus for the project came from teaching a course on Corruption and Conflict where it was clear that the proposed solutions in academia were not bounded by the practical realities of the contexts in which these responses need to be implemented.
The courses that I teach at the School are unique in a number of ways, primarily because they emphasize skills development and are offered in a three-part series taught in an intensive format. Working daily with students who are exclusively committed to the course creates a unique classroom experience characterized by camaraderie and a dedication to understanding how and why change happens. This camaraderie and engagement often lead to long-term relationships with students.
As a result I am fortunate to have the opportunity to continue to work with and learn from the alumni of my classes. Fletcher alumni now include a growing cadre of professionals who call the discipline of evaluation their profession. At the 2013 American Evaluation Association conference, over 30 alumni were in attendance in their professional capacity. They are found working throughout implementing actors and donors in the international community. I am proud to say they are advancing the practice of evaluation, from which the School in turn benefits, as they act as guest speakers, offer topics for capstones, and establish internships.
Last year, we turned the blog’s focus to members of Fletcher’s faculty. Kicking off the Faculty Spotlight series for 2015 is Antonia H. Chayes, Professor of Practice of International Politics and Law. Prof. Chayes currently teaches Civil-Military Relations and International Treaty Behavior: A Perspective on Globalization. Her post is a timely piece that demonstrates how professors can redirect their research focus when world events require.
The news story about hacking Sony Pictures dominated the holiday news. North Korea, allegedly, with its vast cyber skills, brought a major corporation to a dead halt, and moreover, exposed its seamier corporate life to a public, always voracious for gossip. President Obama promised a proportionate response — and put blame on Sony for pulling the picture from theaters after North Korea threatened dire consequences if the picture, a silly spoof on CIA assassination efforts in the hands of bumbling journalists, were released. Sony, and its independent theaters reconsidered, and a limited theater showing was made, accompanied by widespread home availability. Then North Korea’s internet went down, and it has suffered short spurts of blackout. The attribution has remained cloudy, and speculation has abounded, including the notion that a Russian group engineered the original Sony cyber exploitation simply to stir up trouble.
Then come the pundits and analysts — is this cyber-terrorism or cybervandalism? Should this be considered another step toward cyberwar — part of the spreading inkblot of a grey area that is neither peace nor war? In fact, this is just a minor episode in an ongoing set of cyberattacks and counterattacks throughout the world. Banking firms have been hacked; cyber espionage from China has caused the U.S. to indict specific members of China’s military (in absentia, of course) for cybercrimes. Have we forgotten that Estonia was brought to its knees by a cyberattack by the Russian youth group Nashe in 2007 over the removal of a statute of a Soviet soldier from the central square in Talinn?
The United States has spent billions preparing for cyberwar, yet the government lacks control of its critical infrastructure, which is most likely to be the target of an attack. 85-90% of that infrastructure in the United States and Western Europe is in private hands. The Department of Homeland Security has been anointed to take charge of private infrastructure, and an Executive Order and a Presidential Directive have been the only means to secure support from the private sector. Several bills were introduced in Congress to legislate minimum standards for private infrastructure, but these were defeated — even the mildest form of regulation. Thus private industry is expected to do on a voluntary basis what it managed to defeat as a matter of regulation. Nor it is clear which agency would run the show in a crisis — civilian or military. The disparity between the Department of Homeland Security, whose 2015 budget request was $1.5 billion, and the combined Cybercommand and NSA, request of $5.1 billion — is enormous.
Both agencies have engaged in real world simulations, and the results have not been exactly transparent. Some public reports, whose language is rather bland, suggest room for improvement. And further, U.S. Supreme Court precedents such as the “Steel Seizure” case under President Truman cast a long shadow, should the U.S. government try to seize control of private infrastructure in a crisis.
The problems posed by the whole range of cyber exploitation, from cybercrime to espionage, up to attacks — are international as well as national. There has been some progress in the NATO alliance — a Center of Excellence in Talinn, reinforcing broad concern over the attack on Estonia in 2007 and the Cyber Defense Management Board, where political, military, operational and technical staff operate at the working-level. The Talinn manual fits cyber issues into the vast canvas of international law, and is now under revision. At the NATO summit in Wales, September 2014, NATO announced an enhanced cyber strategy recognizing that a cyber attack might be as harmful as a conventional attack. It affirmed that cyber defense “is part of NATO’s core task of self defense.” but added that the decision to intervene would be made on a case-by-case basis. There is a fairly weak EU directive that urges states to take protective measures.
The Budapest convention addresses cybercrime, but in the context of urging state uniformity. These measures, admittedly weak, represent a beginning of international cooperative action. Many regional organizations are at similar stages.
At Fletcher, Professor Martel had been working with a group of faculty and students on several Codes of Conduct — for states, corporations, and individuals — at the request of Lincoln Laboratories. This kind of work is the essence of Fletcher’s interdisciplinary experience. We must honor Bill’s memory by continuing the work he so cared about.
A Code of Conduct is not yet regulation — it is a pledge of behavior whose aspiration is to change norms. For those of us participating in the project, we hope to get widespread adoption and will be seeking foundation funding to do so. Fletcher’s strength in both international law and cyber studies puts us in a good position to move forward. And my forthcoming book, Borderless Wars: Civil Military Disorder and Legal Uncertainty concludes with a chapter on cyberattacks seeking more robust regulation, stating “Regulation of offensive cyberattacks cannot provide the same level of reassurance that intrusive verification of visible chemical or nuclear weapons production provides. But the very process of engaging in a widespread international cooperative effort has a deterrent effect, and may reduce, if not eliminate the threat of attack.”
Tagged with: Faculty Spotlight
Fletcher students, alumni, faculty, and staff learned on Monday that Prof. Bill Martel had passed away. The community has received the news with tremendous collective sadness, reaching out to each other for help in understanding something that seems impossible to understand.
Bill made his mark at Fletcher, especially on the student community, in so many different ways. He taught and advised a great number of students. His focus on cyber security drew additional students to consult him on their research. He joined the annual ski trip for a day of skiing, and he is known to have enjoyed the chili served at the Mugar Café — a typical indicator that he didn’t simply buy his lunch and run.
The Fletcher faculty is loaded with nice people, but in any group of nice people, someone can still be the nicest. Bill was the nicest. As he walked through the building, he greeted everyone by name. If he didn’t recognize someone, he introduced himself. With his incredible ice-blue eyes, he transmitted kindness and warmth. He was one of those very rare individuals in the world about whom everyone had something good to say.
Bill was a true friend to the Admissions Office, and we loved working with him. He served three years as chair of the Committee on Admissions, and created an atmosphere of warmth and respect. He valued hearing what students and staff members had to say — no claims of faculty privilege for him. He checked with us to be sure he was doing all he could, and we needed to struggle not to take advantage of his generosity.
Even in this past year, when he was dealing with a serious illness, Bill made a special effort to stay on top of Admissions news. We would gleefully have welcomed him back to the Admissions Committee, but the dean decided to give him a light committee assignment load (like us, I’m sure, struggling not to take advantage of Bill’s willingness to jump in where he was needed). When Bill and I exchanged emails in September, we both said we’d look forward to working together again on the Admissions Committee in 2015-16. I truly meant it.
Unlike those who follow a typical path for a professor, taking a permanent position shortly after completing a PhD, Bill came to Fletcher with a rich teaching background, including a long stint at the Naval War College. As a result of joining Fletcher relatively late in his career, Bill was granted tenure only last May. Also in the spring, he was selected to receive the James L. Paddock Teaching Award. Because of his illness, he couldn’t accept the award in person, but he had his friend and colleague, Prof. Shultz, read his speech of thanks, in which he referred to students as the “center of gravity” at Fletcher, and emphasized the importance of a positive “can-do” attitude. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is grateful that Bill received these honors at a time when he might most appreciate them.
Bill will be formally remembered here at Fletcher in the spring. But even outside of formal opportunities for remembrance, Bill will be on the minds, and in the hearts, of all of us who knew him. Truly the nicest of men. An inspiration. And a real friend to the Admissions Office. We’ll miss him greatly.
The Fletcher community recently learned of the death of Alfred Rubin, a retired professor who taught here for many years. One of Prof. Rubin’s former students, Duncan Hollis, F95, who happens to be a professor himself now, made us aware of a lovely tribute he wrote for Opinio Juris, a blog dedicated to discussion of international law. He, and the Opinio Juris editorial board, kindly allowed me to reproduce his thoughts on the Admissions Blog. I hope you find his comments as touching as I did.
Alfred P. Rubin: The Best Professor I Ever Had
by Duncan Hollis
For those of us fortunate enough to end up with a career in international law, we all have our mentors, our guiding lights. Mine was Professor Alfred P. Rubin of the Fletcher School. He died last week. I write to express my condolences to his family and friends and offer a few words on his influence on my life as well as the whole Fletcher community, where he taught for 30 years. Simply put, I would not be an international lawyer — let alone a professor of international law — had Professor Rubin not pushed, encouraged, and inspired me onto my current path. He was the best professor I ever saw grace a classroom.
Truth be told, when I arrived at Fletcher in the Fall of 1993, I had no expectations of a career in international law. I had enjoyed studying it as an undergraduate at Bowdoin with Allen Springer (a former student of Professor Rubin as it turned out). But I’d applied to Fletcher to study Japan, not law; I had four years of Japanese language classes under my belt and had just finished a summer internship in Osaka. To complete my joint degree, however, I still needed four law-related courses. LAW 200: The International Legal Order looked interesting. I was a bit wary of an early morning class 3 days a week, including Fridays, plus an unusual year-long course structure. Still, Rubin’s classes were legendary so I decided to take it during my first semester.
In what was a trademark for his contrarian demeanor, Professor Rubin started off our first class with a simple, but powerful, challenge — insisting that there is no such thing as human rights. An Australian classmate took the bait, and responded that they must exist, to which Professor Rubin pushed back, asking if human rights existed as law or morality. That generated a fairly intense discussion on what law “is”, who should decide the law’s contents and by what processes. Fifty minutes later, I was hooked. LAW 200 became my favorite class. I would actually wake up happy on class days, eager to see what the morning’s discussion might hold — the Trent Affair’s illumination of customary international law, the divine law origins of treaties (which I’ve made use of subsequently), or one of my favorite cases, Mortensen v. Peters. We wrestled with the (in)consistency of the ICJ’s approach to the South Africa question, the meaning of “genuine and effective links” for citizenship, plus older chestnuts like the Lotus case. Along the way, Professor Rubin moved us beyond doctrine to legal theory, asking us to work through various iterations of positivist and naturalist methods in original and neo-formulations. We didn’t just read Hart, we went back to Kelsen (reading Kelsen being fairly atypical in American legal education).
The Spring semester brought piracy and thornier topics like recognition, succession, jurisdiction, and conflicts of law. A few years later, Monroe Leigh (who along with Cynthia Lichtenstein were my other early mentors) took me on as his associate in part because I’d invoked the Fruehauf case from Rubin’s class to advise a client. As the semester progressed, my classmates and I debated whether Professor Rubin’s tears in discussing the legality of the bombing of Hiroshima were real (they were) and marveled at how he cared about the “law” as a concept and detested hypocrisy in any form. None of us will ever forget how Rubin ended the year — re-enacting the scene from A Man for All Seasons where Sir Thomas More responds to William Roper’s call for an arrest even if it means cutting a road through the law to get after the Devil:
Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, And if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
Two decades later, I’m still trying to figure out Professor Rubin’s secret ingredient — the persistent Socratic dialogues, the deep dives into doctrine, the marshaling of legal theory in concrete cases, or that undeniable passion for his subject-matter. It may have been something as simple as his gentle voice — a slight hesitancy in speech with an ever-present inquisitive tone. I confess that my study group spent hours imitating that voice (one of us who shall remain nameless with much success). We did so without any sense of hostility or meanness — but rather as a mark of our affection for his teaching and our sense that his class was a shared experience. And it was not by any means an easy one — the reading assignments were enormous with Rubin assuming we all knew the material so we could take the class discussion to a more critical level. I still have my notes (the only ones that I’ve kept). I was amazed to revisit them yesterday to see just how much we covered that year in history, doctrine and theory. I’ve never had another class like it.
Beyond the classroom, Professor Rubin was a thoughtful adviser. Conveniently located on the way to the cafeteria, his office door was always open. He welcomed students in to ask questions about class or the oft-discussed career question — “So, exactly, how does one become an international lawyer?” He never rushed students off (even if we’d interrupted one of his many Minesweeper computer games). I treasured those conversations, and the chance to soak in his knowledge, his experience, and his many, many books. I have a shelf-long collection of green volumes of the American Journal of International Law in my office today for no other reason than Rubin had one. In later semesters our conversations deepened and I gained insights into key sources and research methods. To this day, I’m reluctant to cite a secondary source when a primary one is at hand since I picture Professor Rubin watching over me and shaking his head, reminding me he expects nothing less.
I will always be most indebted to Professor Rubin for his willingness to go beyond advice to action. In the summer of 1994 I was (unhappily) a temporary secretary in Suffolk University’s physical plant. The job was in the sub-basement below the actual basement. It was hard to see how this was going to advance my dreams of becoming an international lawyer until I got a call from Jeffrey Bates, a partner at Goodwin Proctor at the time. Another former student of Rubin’s, he needed a legal clerk to do some research, and Professor Rubin had recommended me. Overnight, I transferred onto a large and intensive research project that laid the foundations for all that followed. I have no doubts that the Goodwin clerkship made it possible for me to join Steptoe and Johnson as an associate, which in turn led me to the State Department, and eventually Temple Law. All this from one recommendation by Professor Rubin (a recommendation I’d not even asked him to make). Nor am I alone in this experience. Generations of Fletcher students sought out the Rubin experience and found themselves entering the field of international law in one way or another. From that introductory class alone, four of us spent time in the Legal Adviser’s office at the U.S. Department of State; others ended up at the United Nations, in foreign ministries, and private practice. At least three of us followed his path into the academy to teach international law.
Having been a member of international law’s “invisible college” for a few years, I know that Professor Rubin was regarded by other law professors as an academic, known for his work on piracy and unilateral declarations, and some ferocious commentary from the floor at the American Society’s Annual Meeting. For my part, however, I choose to remember Professor Rubin as a teacher. In later years, we kept in touch until his health began to fail. He’d ask me to call him by his first name, Al. I couldn’t do it. He was and will always be my professor of international law. A gentleman, a scholar, but above all a teacher. May he rest in peace.
Last spring, blog readers met Leila Fawaz through her Faculty Spotlight feature. Today I wanted to bring your attention to a Tufts Now story about her new book, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the second in a series of event announcements, each of which invited students to come and chat, over coffee, with a professor or fellow student. Great idea! So I contacted the organizer, Ameya, for details. Ameya told me:
The idea for these chats came about from a conversation early last year between some of us who had Prof. Chayes as our faculty adviser. She has, as you know, a wealth of experience; we were all interested in learning more about her career and interests, but it was hard to do this in ten-to-fifteen minute office hour conversations, plus it was repetitive for Prof. Chayes, as well. So we set up a combined chat for an hour or so, which all her advisees attended, and it was a tremendously valuable and informative experience.
Based off that, I started setting up similar chats — maybe once a month — with other professors. At some point, it also became clear there were students and alumni with valuable experience in specific areas, so this year I’ve started alternating between faculty and student/alumni speakers. I’ve consistently found the sessions both valuable, as well as reassuring, in that everyone has had a roundabout path to where they currently are in their careers.
I really love this idea, especially the conversations with students, which formalizes the commonly stated opinion that there’s much to be learned from one’s peers here. Plus, it’s an example of how a student can create a new Fletcher tradition, and I hope that Ameya’s idea will be carried forward even after he has graduated.
Tagged with: Outside the classroom
You might remember meeting Prof. Michael Glennon last year in the Faculty Spotlight series of blog posts. Now, Prof. Glennon has a new book, National Security and Double Government. He recently sat down with an interviewer at The Boston Sunday Globe to discuss “America’s ‘Double Government.'” The Globe also included a nice review of the book. With U.S. elections less than two weeks away, this is timely stuff!
Today I thought I’d highlight a book by a member of the Fletcher community. Prof. Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Fletcher and the School of Arts and Sciences. She’s also a friend of Fletcher Admissions, and has served many years on the Admissions Committee, always enthusiastically. Her insightful comments are the sort that are still present around the table two years after her last stint with us.
And now, Prof. Jalal has a new book, The Struggle for Pakistan, about which she was interviewed for Tufts Now. A timely addition to the scholarship on Pakistan, and the culmination of Prof. Jalal’s lifelong connection to the country.
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