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University of Michigan Regent Ron Weiser, R, and his wife Eileen Weiser donated $10 million Wednesday to establish the Weiser Diplomacy Center at the Ford School of Public Policy. Weiser, chair of the state Republican party, began working on the idea of the center with Public Policy Dean Michael Barr last spring with the goal of generating interest in diplomacy among students and providing them with career services in the field.
“Diplomacy is so important in the way that we deal with the rest of the world that I felt giving (students) a chance to be exposed to diplomats and secretaries of state and others who are part of that process would give (students) a path they want to follow and also give them a lot more knowledge if they chose to follow that career path,” Weiser said.
Aside from providing workshops, conferences and internship opportunities, the center is expected to bring ambassadors and foreign policy experts to the Public Policy School. Weiser, founder and CEO of national real estate investment company McKinley Associates, Inc. and former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, said he has personal connections with diplomats whom he would like to help bring to the University.
“A former Secretary of State would be nice to bring, and certainly there’s a number of ambassadors that I know – former ambassador of NATO, a number of people within the National Security Council – so people of that caliber that I want to help bring,” he said.
The contribution, along with previous donations to found the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies in the International Institute in 2014 and the Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia in the School of Education in 2008, is another in a series of efforts by the Weisers to align the University community with Weiser's previous work in Europe.
LSA junior David Carpenter, vice president of policy for the student-run Michigan Foreign Policy Council, said he believes the center will provide students who are interested in entering the field of diplomacy with the tools and information they need to launch their careers.
“In terms of career aspects for a lot of students there, I know I want to enter foreign service or something diplomacy related so I think having (the center) for students is definitely good for having career opportunities and really good mentorship opportunities,” Carpenter said.
In a press release Wednesday, John Ciorciari, director of the International Policy Center at the Public Policy School, reaffirmed the belief that the center will help prepare students for careers in diplomacy.
“This new initiative will help train a new generation of informed, principled, and entrepreneurial students committed to international affairs,” Ciorciari wrote. “ will also help connect the academy to the world of foreign policy practice to generate new ideas for addressing the many global challenges we face. No comparable concentration of diplomatic expertise exists at any university in the Midwest.”
Carpenter agreed the center will introduce students to careers in international affairs who otherwise wouldn’t have seriously considered such a career as an option living in the Midwest.
“I definitely think having people come to the Ford School that are in that field will definitely open doors for students who never really considered (careers in diplomacy) as a possibility, especially since I feel like often times the foreign policy world is so centered in Washington that people might not be able to make it a conscious effort … to reach out to universities like us,” Carpenter said.
The $10 million donation is the latest addition to the Weisers’ contributions to the University. Both Ron and Eileen Weiser are University alumni, and their biggest contribution came in 2014 with a $50 million donation. Half of the donation was distributed across the School of Education, University Athletic Department, University Health System, University Musical Society and Ross School of Business, with the remaining half dedicated to the Center for Emerging Democracies.
When asked about plans for future donations, Weiser said he has “some other ideas and thoughts” in his head.