As the sun rises on a new school year at the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, many students are preparing to tackle the challenges that accompany university life. As we acclimate to going back to our school routines, the Diplomacy School’s faculty are also adjusting to a new Dean and are preparing to tackle their own tasks.
Dean Courtney Smith joined the School of Diplomacy 20 years ago. Due to his strong research understanding and professional relationship with the United Nations, Dean Smith became a Pirate directly following the Diplomacy School’s founding. He was awarded tenure in 2005, and has served as an Associate Dean for 14 years.
During his time at Seton Hall, he has published a book and several journals and articles, interviewed hundreds of United Nations staff delegates, and written on the organization’s political process and relationship with the United States.
During the week of September 2, I had the opportunity to interview Dean Smith. We discussed the transition into his new role, his goals and aspirations entering the new school year, his advice for incoming students, and his thoughts on Seton Hall’s status as a center of learning in the field of diplomacy.
When asked about easing the transition into his role as Dean, he replied, “The timing was great going into this new school year. We worked on goals for the school over the course of last spring semester.” He remarked that these goals are not just for faculty, but also for the school as a whole. In a retreat last January, the faculty collaborated to form an initial 20 goals that were narrowed down to 3.
“We wanted to first focus on student recruitment, making sure that we are bringing in the strongest students to establish a great learning environment with your peers. The second focus is on enhancing faculty and student research, so you can engage together through our centers and other programs. Thirdly, we want to focus on fundraising so we can generate more resources for our students, for example, in the very popular internship scholarship.” He also mentioned growing student access to international experiences.
Dean Smith’s message on his aspirations for the new role was clear: we are a strong school and we need to harness that strength and use it to benefit every student moving forward. He stated that this is “not a period for complacency.” He gave an example of this by stating that, “two faculty members are negotiating book contracts, we have students serving as Fulbright scholars, and even a student who received the ‘Trifecta’ of scholarships, earning the CLS, Boren, and Truman scholarships.”
As for Dean Smith’s message for the Diplomacy School’s incoming freshman class, he made clear the paramount importance of getting involved early and finding areas where you can eventually lead. He addressed the new students by stating, “Something brought you to this school. Whether it is the internships, clubs, or the leadership opportunities, there is a reason why you are here. Now that you are here, shift your thinking.” Dean Smith stressed the significance of leadership in on-campus organizations. “the skills, initiatives, and accomplishments you will experience in a leadership role will help you move forward.”
Beyond campus organizations, Dean Smith stressed the importance of engaging in Diplomacy School events. “Come to the outside events… there are a lot of learning opportunities outside the classroom where you can engage with people in the diplomacy world.” He continued with an upcoming example of such an event. “For example, we have Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad who is coming to campus on Friday, September 27… this is an impressive individual that you can listen and talk to by simply taking a trip over to Bethany Hall.”
Dean Smith wants students to know how these events can impact their career at Seton Hall. “What is the right path for you? Well, if you listen to the stories of people like Nadia Murad and other speakers we bring, you can start figuring out what that is.” He continued by stressing that diplomacy is “a very hands-on oriented program that gives you the ability to prepare not for one job, but for a career where you might have to move across different disciplines and areas of study and responsibility.” For these reasons, it is “smart to get involved in diplomacy, because it is going to be needed.”
The School of Diplomacy’s new Dean seemed excited, prepared, and ready to foster relationships between the school and the student body, as well as to tackle the challenges and goals of this 2019-2020 school year.
He ended on a positive note by highlighting the previous, present, future success students can find at the School of Diplomacy, “Being part of a school that has been here for 20 years, and has alumni that are already out there making those contributions can serve as an example to show your generation can move forward. This is a special part of our school and what we do here.”