Courtney Smith interviewed by Jim Wurst, March 26, 2015
JIM WURST: Let’s talk your connection with the alliance with the UNA. How did that happen and what was your role in that?
COURTNEY SMITH: I was hired in the first group of full time faculty for the school. The interviews were done in the spring of 1999. I arrived in the fall of 1999, for the beginning of the fall semester. By that time the relationship with the UNA had been established. The agreement between Seton Hall and UNA was actually established two years before that in 1997. What happened after that was UNA and Seton Hall agreed to creating a professional school of international affairs that a focus on the UN. A team of Seton Hall faculty members were put together to create a curriculum for the school. That curriculum was approved that year.
JIM WURST: Now before 1997 there was not an international school?
COURTNEY SMITH: Correct. The school was created as part of the partnership with UNA. It was completed in 1997.
JIM WURST: So it wasn’t an international school seeking a partnership with UNA?
COURTNEY SMITH: No. If anything it was actually the reverse. That partnership concluded first in 1997. Once the partnership was done, Seton Hall actually had to build the school. The first steps were to set up the structure of the school, and to get a curriculum in place. That was largely done in the 1997-1998 academic year. Then the school started teaching students in the 1998-1999 academic year.
JIM WURST: So whose idea was this? UNA just came to SHU?
COURTNEY SMITH: What I heard was that the Board of Regents at SHU and UNA’s Board of Directors had a chance encounter. I heard it was a game of golf, but I don’t know for certain. Either way they had a conversation and they were lamenting that there is a lot of schools of international affairs in the US, especially on the east coast like in Boston, New York, or Washington DC, but none of them in New York had a real focus on the UN or multilateralism. The idea was that there would be an opportunity for a hole to be filled in SHU was to create a school of international affairs and focus on the UN. That could be done if UNA was part of that equation in terms of the access they could provide, the experiences, and that dimension of the curriculum.
JIM WURST: So it started with Seton Hall’s Board of Regents.
COURTNEY SMITH: Then the senior leadership of Seton Hall, Jack Shannon who I’d like you to talk to. He was the head of the University Advancement. He was a faculty member of business and then dean of the business school. When this partnership was negotiated, leading up to 1997, he was the head of University Advancement. That handles alumni affairs, PR, and marketing. It also deals with the board a lot so that’s where I think he was involved in the conversation. The agreement with UNA was first completed in 1997, then the first…
JIM WURST: Who were you partnering with at UNA?
COURTNEY SMITH: I do know Mr. Whitehead was involved in those conversations. He was the Chairman of the Board of UNA at the time. I don’t know if he was involved on a daily basis, but he was definitely involved. I arrived in 1999. Luers was the first one I was interacting with as a kind of partner. So Luers was the head of UNA and by that time UNA had hired a staff member by the name of Suzanne DiMaggio, who I think you talked to. Her portfolio was the relationship with SHU. She was the point person with UNA on the relationship. I know it was by the fall of 1999 because what SHU did was that after the agreement was spend a year developing the curriculum and then teach it using adjuncts. Some were arranged through UNA and the UN community. They also used professors on loan from SHU to test the curriculum. We used that through the 98-99 school year. During that year it was clear they would need some full-time faculty. So they advertised for four full time faculty positions. I was part of that group. That threefold process with the UNA, the curriculum, and then the faculty led to the creation of the school. The first thing that occurred was the partnership with UNA. The building of the school happens in the time after that.
JIM WURST: 97 would’ve been Alvin Adams as President of UNA.
COURTNEY SMITH: It very well could have been. All know is by 99 it was Luers. When I knew Luers from back then was that it was something he valued (the SHU relationship) highly, but it was very much in the works when he assumed the role. I don’t know the extent John Whitehead was available. It didn’t involve him on a daily basis, but he certainly would have been given the blessing to whomever it was doing it for him.
JIM WURST: So the fact that Whitehead lived very close to here is just a coincidence? It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that the school was so close to him?
COURTNEY SMITH: Yeah, that kind of entered the conversation. As far as I know he didn’t have any ties to SHU before. None to my knowledge. By the time he moved back and had his role at UNA, he wasn’t living in New Jersey anymore. When he came back from his time in the Regan Administration, he lived in New York, not in Montclair like before. I guess he still had roots out here. I don’t think it had a lot to do with it.
JIM WURST: Philanthropy had a lot to do with universities in New Jersey, not this one other than the whole process. So another coincidence, Ted Turner’s commencement speech on the billion dollar to the creation of the UNF the same year. Coincidence?
COURTNEY SMITH: As far as I know yes. The story I’ve heard was that Ted Turner would say at UNA dinner was his decision to do that was a kind of spur the moment kind of thing. I don’t know how true that is. It was only after the announcement was made that it would be needed to be done through a sort of entity, because a person just can’t give money to the UN. So the UNF takes shape after that. We as a school didn’t have much contact with UNF. We knew of them and our students knew the research and policy work they were doing but it wasn’t until the merger became likely that we started to get to know some of the people at UNF, us wanting to see what that merger may result in, in terms of the relationship so we got to know some of the people there. Fortunately after the merger or during, it became clear to the leadership of the school that the leadership of the UNF saw the relationship UNA had with SHU as an asset rather than a liability. In many ways they have enhanced it. That was very fortunate. We weren’t involved in that merger, but we paid very close attention to it and it potential impact to us.
JIM WURST: What was the enhancement?
COURTNEY SMITH: One is that additional staff have been involved. This is staff both in Washington and New York. So more staff members are involved in the relationship with us than in the past. After Suzanne left UNA, we had other partners but UNA’s capacity to devote staff to that diminished. UNF did have the capacity so they did increase it. We did work closely with a half dozen members of UNF staff in NY and DC. That has been a change. Another area of enhancement is the greater presence in DC. The school has a program where we help students get internships in DC by offering classes to keep them as students in DC. Those classes are offered at UNF space. That was not possible during the UNA years, because their DC office was small. UNF’s is reverse. They have been generous with us with their space. They have hosted our students as interns in that space. That is another example. Additionally, a lot of the things UNA was willing to do like helping us at recruitment events and marketing has become easier at UNF. That is because UNF is a bigger and more financially secure organization than UNA in the later years. The relationship has not diminished in any way. It has persisted and grown through the transition which is very rewarding to us.
JIM WURST: Do you deal with UNA or UNF?
COURTNEY SMITH: It depends on the issue. Most of the staff that is assigned to the UNA division is based in DC. So a lot of what we do with them like Chris Whatley, Mary-Frances Wain, etc. are all based in DC. Mary Francis Wayne is the director of UNA for UNF. She is Christ Whatley’s number two. She is the one who handles the dinner in collaboration with UNF. That’s really her show. She does a lot of things but development is really her area. She predates Chris. She was hired when Patrick Madden was brought on at UNA-UNF. A lot of things we deal directly with Chris. For certain things in NY though we deal with a team based here. Especially with the UN Summer Program with UNA since 2001, and UNF since 2010. There’s three members of UNF’s staff in NY who I collaborate with mostly on that: Minh-Thu Pham, Mara van Loggerenberg, and now a new person Courtney Hulse. So there’s three of them that I deal with mainly on the UN program. Chris Watley has come up and attended some sessions, but the planning is done with the NY office.
JIM WURST: Good, that clears a lot of things up. I was curious as to why SHU. None of this is recorded.
COURTNEY SMITH: There were some other connections there. For example Gillian Sorenson who was a senior advisor national advocate at UNF. At the time of the merger she was very familiar with the School of Diplomacy before the merger because as Assistant Secretary General at the UN, she had helped make arrangements, and handled external affairs, especially with academic institutions. When we hosted Kofi Annan on campus in 2001, she was one of the point people in his office. She also in the summer of 2001 played a role in the UN conference we were running. Then after she moved to UNF, she would speak on US-UN relations. She had been at a number of our events over the years. She had spoken on campus. She knew the school already before the merger. That helped with the UNF merger. She was on the UNF side not UNA and I think that helped UNF understand the partnership SHU had after the merger took place. There were some backchannel connections there that helped with UNA, but it was really the full relationship with UNF comes because they subsumed UNA.
JIM WURST: Now when did the international school become Whitehead School?
COURTNEY SMITH: That was in 2002. So it was about five years or so after we were created. There was an announcement that the arrangement was decided toward the spring of 2002. Then the gala where we celebrated the naming was in December of 2002.
JIM WURST: So the gala was UNA?
COURTNEY SMITH: No, it was a School of Diplomacy Gala. We’ve had a periodic Global Leadership Gala. The first one was in 99. The first one honored a Labor Leader Ray Poncino. The Second one honored Pharmaceutical Reps Fred Hassan, and Michael Pearson. After, the next one was Whitehead. So that year our Global Leadership Gala happened to be the naming event. It was the biggest gala in terms of size and attendance and fundraising. So that happened in 2002.
JIM WURST: So you came to Whitehead or Whitehead came to you?
COURTNEY SMITH: I do not know. That was under Clay Constantinou, who was our dean. I don’t know if that was something Clay brought to Mr. Whitehead or vice versa. I was not in an administrative role then. I was a junior faculty member. I was here but all of that would have happened way above my pay grade. I was also pre-tenured so I was feverously writing my book. I remember hearing the announcement, and being very excited about it. I attended the gala and so forth but the lead up I wasn’t involved in it.
JIM WURST: I made the deliberate decision not to ask Whitehead about this because we knew the nerves were still raw about what happened. So there is a bit of a gap. The one question I avoided asking was…I know the answer off the record. Is there any on the record explanation as to why Whitehead had his name removed from the school?
COURTNEY SMITH: No the only on the record thing that the University stood by is that it was a request by Mr. Whitehead to the University’s Board of Regents and that the Board decided to honor his request. I have heard a lot of things also about potential reasons for the request from him, but I haven’t heard any of those from him. I have heard those from other people so I’m not sure if there really what he felt or if someone else is trying to portray how he felt. So the official response has been that it was his decision and not the University’s, but one the University decided to honor. I do know, so it was a decision that made for the school not by the school. Meaning it was done by the University, not the school. I do know in times where I personally saw Mr. Whitehead, after that decision was made, he very much had positive feeling toward the school and toward the students. It’s my sense that it was something else that was involved in that. Again something that was between him and the university at a much higher level. He still valued his time as being namesake of the school.
JIM WURST: Just to clarify, since the beginning of the Whitehead School in 2002 when it was formed, it was simply School of Diplomacy and International Relations.
COURTNEY SMITH: Same name as we have it now. Yes. The School of Diplomacy and International Relations, then it was the Whitehead School of Diplomacy and then it went back to its old name.
JIM WURST: Just for clarification, the years. The networking with other schools, FDU, and MSU. When did that happen?
COURTNEY SMITH: This was something that happened in the first couple years of the school. This would’ve been like 99 or 2000. We did some video conferences with the UN. It was called Ambassadors Club that Ambassador Kamal from Pakistan had created. We did those for a couple years. There were two reason why we stopped doing it. One was that we had a renewed push to actually take our students to the UN instead of doing via video conference. Second there was some tech difficulties between campuses and the UN. Because we had these tech delays it made sense to do it ourselves. Sometime after that FDU moved into the picture and because Ambassador Kamal was an adjunct here for a number of years, he got connected with FDU. He went on to their board and that is when FDU started this UN Pathways program. Initially it came from Adams. It was run through the Provost office. Two directors of their UN Pathways program participated in the UN Summer Program that we run. The second of these was JoAnne Murphy
and she did my program. Murphy left FDU after a year or so ago but she still local because she is on the NGO executive committee. I was on a conference call with the committee and her yesterday. I know she is around so she would have the FDU history, but there is no SHU UNA part of that story.
JIM WURST: Okay, I just wanted to make sure.
COURTNEY SMITH: There were certain common people involved like Kamal. Now he is not involved in FDU and we would like to reengage with him. Josh Weston is a common person who has relations with FDU. He was definitely involved in UNA, UNF and with us. He is connected to Mr. Whitehead, but I don’t know of any relationship between FDU and UNA because I do remember on multiple occasions, people from UNA, Suzanne, Bill, telling us that they were approached by other universities. I’m fairly sure FDU was one of them. They decided to do it with SHU. Whether FDU was in the picture in 97, I don’t know.
JIM WURST: Is there anything else that we didn’t cover that you think is important?
COURTNEY SMITH: I just wanted to highlight that at least from our perspective that it was a mutually beneficial relationship. If you’re talking about the legacy of UNA, there are things that UNA did through the relationship with us that would not have been possible for the school without it. For instance, the Dialogue Amongst Civilizations Project the school did. Back in 2001, we served as a coordinating secretariat for that. The matchmaking that connected us to the SG and his office was facilitated by UNA. The School of Diplomacy, going back to 2000, has had consultative status with the UN Department of Public Information. There is a waiting period for an NGO to get it, but we got it in the minimum amount of time because UNA-USA supported our application. They had been a member for years. They helped make us known in the UN community very early on. Hosting Ban Ki Moon was made possible because of UNA. Two different leaders of UNA. This is when UNA was going through leaders a little more quickly. They had valued this as important to the partnership. The ability to be named for Mr. Whitehead came from that relationship with UNA. Not through any other connection. There’s a lot of things that the relationship did that benefitted School of Diplomacy and SHU. I’ve also heard from UNA staff that there were benefits to being connected with SHU. The ability to be engaged with students and use them as an outreach. The greatest strength of UNA right now, as I understand it, is Chris Whatley. The GenUN and professional development programs. We are one of the largest chapters of the campus advocated program in UNA. The UN program gives access to a lot of members from around the country. A lot of UNA members have done the summer program over the years to enhance their knowledge on UN programming for their chapters. I think that it has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both organizations, including UNA before the merger. Hopefully they are saying the same thing.