UW News

February 19, 2009

New vice provost: Spread the word about UW’s activities globally

When it comes to global affairs, the UW is “number one but a lot of people don’t know it.” That’s the opinion of the new vice provost for global affairs, Stephen Hanson. He ticks off the reasons why:

  • We’re number one in Peace Corps volunteers for the third consecutive year.
  • We’re tied for number two for the number of Title VI centers we have in the Jackson School and the Business School (Title VI is the U.S. Department of Education program that supports studies of particular areas of the world, e.g., Southeast Asia).
  • We’re number two in federal funding for these centers.
  • We’re consistently ranked among the top 25 global universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Newsweek magazine.
  • We’re probably seen as number one in global health, although there is no formal ranking for that.

Hanson, who moved into the job a month ago, is determined to spread the word about the University’s activities in the international arena. And he has plans to expand them.

“We need an Office of Global Affairs to position the UW to be at the forefront of research on emerging issues, to be available as a resource to citizens and stakeholders in our community for knowledge about these global changes and to coordinate information across this vast campus,” he said.

The Office of Global Affairs was created four years ago, when Provost Phyllis Wise came to the University. Hanson’s predecessor, Susan Jeffords (now vice chancellor at UW Bothell), did a lot of work on opening the UW’s Beijing office. She was also involved in the early phases of the Global Support Project Group, led by UW Senior Vice President V’Ella Warren with a team based in Financial Management. The team works on administrative processes that support global research and education.

“I think the last year or so has been a time of testing and rethinking the office, and during the process of the search I was involved in, there was quite a lot of healthy debate about exactly how the office should function,” Hanson said. “So all of us who applied for the position drew up mission statements, we all thought through strategic plans. And I’m really excited and honored to be the person who gets to implement the next step for the office — which is bringing it from its foundation to something very institutional.”

Hanson’s mission statement envisions three functions for the office:

  • To create a clearinghouse of information about international activities at the University.
  • To provide a set of guidelines for work abroad.
  • To provide a portal for people outside the UW who want to know what we’re doing in the international arena.

The first and third functions are related.

Hanson explains: “There are amazing things happening all over campus, but often without any real coordination. And sometimes opportunities are lost because people just don’t know that a colleague is about to go to Korea, let’s say, and they themselves have been there a week earlier to meet with similar people. If we could corral our resources and work together in sync, we could have a more effective outreach.”

The long-term goal is to have a database covering every country in the world, so that by clicking on a Web site link, people either inside or outside the University could find out what is being done in a particular country, or who the UW experts on that part of the world are.

The second function involves working with the Global Support Project Group. The group has been working to coordinate and systematize the nonacademic aspects of research and education abroad — things such as visas, travel arrangements, health and safety issues, legal issues, etc.

“These are the kinds of nuts and bolts issues that people often don’t want to deal with but that have to be taken care of,” Hanson said. “We need to get our procedures hashed out so that we have templates for our people to use for research and study abroad.”

Beyond the broad mandates, Hanson is focusing on five areas of activity right now:

Study abroad. Hanson is in the process of hiring a new director for the Office of International Programs and Exchanges, a position that will report to him. He would like to increase the number of students studying abroad from the current 2,150 to 3,000, which would be about 10 percent of undergraduates.

Global grants. The office has a set of endowments that have historically been used to promote such things as departmental study abroad programs and faculty trips to try to create new exchange programs. Like other endowments, these have shrunk, but they will still be available. Hanson said he has just begun to work with the Office of Sponsored Programs on the issue of international grants from other sources.

UW centers abroad. The office will be involved in managing study abroad centers, such as the ones in Rome and Beijing.

International relations and protocols. Hanson will also be working closely with Diane Adachi, special assistant to the provost for international relations, who manages the UW’s outreach and international engagement with the world community — other scholars, other universities, including prominent political and government leaders abroad. Adachi also provides guidance and support on the university’s diplomatic engagement and will work closely with Hanson on building the UW’s presence abroad.

Strategic initiatives. The office has decided on several research foci, including global health, global environmental change, global development challenges and global cultural change.

Hanson comes to the job as someone who has long been excited about international affairs. He had his first taste as an undergraduate when he traveled to China and Japan as part of the Harvard Glee Club. But his real passion was ignited during his first year in graduate school, when he traveled to the then-Soviet Union.

“It was an exposure to a way of life, a set of institutions, a set of social rituals that I had absolutely no preparation for as a 22 year old,” Hanson said. “I got to use my Russian language skills, and I was hooked. It made me feel there couldn’t be a more interesting intellectual puzzle than how the rest of the world worked.”

He went on to earn his doctorate at UC Berkeley and came to the UW in 1990 to join the Political Science Department. Since 2000 he’s been the director of the Ellison Center for Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies. He continues to travel to the former Soviet Union nearly every year, and has traveled widely elsewhere.

Hanson is a past winner of the Distinguished Teaching Award and hopes to be able to teach one class per year while running the office of Global Affairs, which he’ll do for at least the next five years. But for now he’s concentrating on the job at hand — spending time getting his team assembled and meeting with people all over campus.

“It’s really great to talk about the office,” he said. “People, I’ve discovered, are really excited that this is happening and are ready to help.”