Leir Institute Newsletter – Fall 2020

Newsletter Content
What’s New with the Leir Institute
Upcoming Student-Led Events
Past Events
Faculty Updates
Human Security Fellows
Alumni Spotlight

To our alumni and friends,
 
I am pleased and honored to greet you as the new Director of the Henry J. Leir Institute at the Fletcher School. As you may know, Professor Eileen Babbitt stepped down in July after leading the Institute since 2014. Under her leadership, the Institute expanded its initiatives, raised significant funds, and nurtured a vibrant and collaborative community of faculty, staff, and students. My goal as Director is to consolidate and build on these accomplishments while exploring new and innovative ways to teach, research, and advocate on issues related to human security.
 
I am beginning my tenure at an exciting time but also a challenging one. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that has converged with a worldwide movement to acknowledge and dismantle systemic racism rooted in slavery and colonialism. Both challenges are intrinsically connected to human security, which I believe merits their inclusion on the Institute’s agenda. Moreover, these converging crises have made it painfully clear that the United States is not immune to human security threats. To the contrary, it is plagued by many of the same ills we usually associate with the “Global South” such as entrenched inequities, militarized policing, dysfunctional governance, and high-level corruption. For these reasons, I believe the Institute should be at the forefront of addressing such challenges from a human security perspective. I also believe our approach should be truly global, which means including what is happening in our own back yard.
 
This agenda does not negate the importance of work our faculty are already doing on migration, gender, mediation and conflict, humanitarian assistance, social norms and corruption, international health policy, and religion and security. Nor does it cover all the defining challenges of our time, most notably climate change, which we are adding to our agenda as well. But I expect that none of these issues will remain untouched by the pandemic and that all of them intersect with racial injustice in complex and often unexamined ways. I have therefore dedicated my first year as Director to generating research and programming around these effects and intersections through a human security lens.
 
We already have a wealth of knowledge and experience on which to draw within the Fletcher community, but we can also take advantage of virtual technologies to bring other voices into the conversation, particularly the voices of those who have traditionally been left out. I have already begun consulting with faculty, staff, and students about how best to further this agenda as we move into the next academic year. With this letter, I am reaching out to all of you and requesting your thoughts and greater involvement with the Institute’s programming and outputs.
 
We are launching several new initiatives this semester that I am pleased to share with you. We will soon be launching a Leir blog and a Leir Policy Paper Series. We encourage alumni to follow both streams and to submit content. On the programming side, we are organizing two year-long series to address the issues highlighted above. One will examine the impact of COVID-19 on two vulnerable populations: (1) those incarcerated in prisons or immigrant detention centers; and (2) low-skilled workers in “essential” and/or informal sectors. The other will examine racial justice as a human security issue through the eyes of local activists or practitioners in different countries. Finally, we are collaborating with Fletcher’s Office of Career Services to provide virtual opportunities for students to meet and interact with alumni working in the human security space.
 
These activities complement and build on our ongoing activities, which are profiled elsewhere in this newsletter. You can learn more about our work and follow our activities on our website. We also encourage you to register in a new database we are creating for Fletcher alumni who would like to be more engaged with the Institute.
 
I am excited to go on this journey with all of you. Please stay tuned and do not hesitate to reach out if you have ideas, concerns, or questions. If you would like to learn more about my work at Fletcher, please consult my faculty webpage.
 
Wishing you health and safety,
 
Katrina Burgess
Director, Henry J. Leir Institute

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