The Weiser Diplomacy Center, established by the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy early this year, announced a speaker series featuring prominent figures in the fields of diplomacy and foreign affairs through the end of 2019. 

The Weiser Diplomacy Center was established last fall after Ambassador and Regent Ron Weiser and Eileen Weiser donated a gift of $10 million towards its formation. Beyond the speaker series, the WDC will provide workshops for students interested in diplomacy, as well as funding for institutional and international internships in foreign policy.

The star-studded list of speakers includes former Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power. The Public Policy School posted the schedule of dates for the upcoming speakers last week, with lecture topics ranging from U.S.-North Korean relations to security in the Persian Gulf.

John Ciorciari, director of the WDC and associate professor of public policy, said the idea for the WDC began last summer and was well-received by the Weiser family from its conception.

“Last summer, we started a conversation with the Weisers about the prospect of doing something a little bit larger around the theme of practical training in foreign affairs, and also around the theme of policy engagement with the diplomatic community,” Ciorciari said. “They share a priority that we have to train students not just in the classroom, but also in a variety of ways outside the classroom.”

While the speaker series will bring strong figures from the world of diplomacy to the University this fall, the WDC staff itself also boasts top leaders and experts in foreign policy. WDC Senior Adviser Melvyn Levitsky served as the United States Ambassador to Bulgaria and the United States Ambassador to Brazil. WDC Program Coordinator Zuzana Wiseley previously served at various foreign missions and was an Assistant to the Ambassador of India in Bratislava. As the WDC grows and student interest increases, the center is planning to expand the international policy focused curriculum within the Public Policy School.

Levitsky explained the importance of having a hub for foreign affairs in the Midwest.

“A lot of the schools that teach this kind of work are in Washington, D.C.,” Levitsky said. “I think we’ll offer an alternative of being away from inside the Beltway, and having good instruction, both from our regular faculty and from people like me who are former practitioners, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Ciorciari also mentioned the value of the WDC’s location within the Midwest, mentioning the University as a leading force in the field of foreign policy. Beyond the continuation of leadership in the field, Ciorciari said the goal of the upcoming speaker series is to introduce more students to the WDC and the robust resources the University has to offer.

“We really want to be a visible leading hub in the Midwest for engagement with foreign affairs,” Ciorciari said. “We hope that this big launch series will help to broadcast to prospective students, to friends of the University, to the general public, to policymakers, that U-M, which has always been an important contributor to conversations on global policy issues, is going to be even more central going forward.”

The WDC also recently announced the inaugural cohort of Weiser Diplomacy Fellows. The fellows receive support for up to two years of study within the fields of diplomacy and foreign affairs and can be rewarded up to $20,000 per year.

Marianna Smith is a Master of Public Policy student at the Ford School and is one of four fellows in the cohort. WDC Fellows are responsible for promoting and advocating for the center on campus and assisting the WDC staff in contacting potential speakers for upcoming events. Smith’s goals as a fellow include diversifying the field of diplomacy and utilizing the WDC’s resources to further her career.

“My goal would be to promote the fellowship to minority or underrepresented groups in diplomacy, to make our campus more diverse, and to make any career in diplomacy more diverse,” Smith said. 

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