Interview with Dr. Philip Moremen
Interview conducted by Patricia Zanini-Graca
Dr. Philip Moremen joined the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University in the spring of 2000. His areas of expertise include public international law, international environmental law and policy, and peace operations. The Journal of Diplomacy interviewed him in November 2018. His answers and comments are his personal opinions and do not represent the views of Seton Hall University, his current, or prior employers.
You have been with the School of Diplomacy since its inception. How do see the evolution of the School of Diplomacy throughout these years?
I see the evolution of the school as a rising trajectory. I was among the first four full-time faculty along with Dr. Bariagaber, Dr. Balmaceda, and Dr. Smith and we really had to create the school in a way that the curriculum would be developed gradually over time. New faculty members joined this process. We added classes, we changed our approach and managed to get the program where we wanted. We had at the same time a new student body coming to the school who also played an important role. Amongst the faculty, we now have a group of full-time professors, as well as adjuncts and fellows.
Our curriculum has been revised. We also added some faculty-led initiatives, such as the centers – Center for UN and Global Governance Studies and the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. We developed and expanded the curriculum including the Executive MS and various online programs. Furthermore, we are an affiliated member of APSIA – the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs – we hope to push towards full membership in the next few years.
What makes the school unique?
The connection with the UN, UN-USA, and UN Foundation is one of our strengths, and it has served to provide publicity for the school. Similarly, I think that our programmatic focus on the UN is a strength that draws students – a lot of our faculty members are focused on international organizations such as Dr. Smith, Dr. Edwards, and others. Last, I would say that, at the same time, the School offers a broad range of courses in its thirteen functional and regional specializations, providing our students with a comprehensive international affairs education.
The School of Diplomacy has a heterogeneous student body, how do faculty manage to mingle these students that all of them learn equally and evenly?
It is definitely a challenge to make sure that all of our students are on the same page. However, I think that having students from different backgrounds from various countries is a plus for all faculty. As faculty, we try to take advantage of the heterogeneous student body. It is very rich to have people with different cultural backgrounds and different nationalities in a classroom. We are a school of international affairs and what we do is to train our students to go out into the world and work in international affairs and have a knowledge of different disciplines and different approaches. We enable our students to be successful outside the academic context. By teaching the students essential ideas and concepts, we assume students can build on this common knowledge so that they can then move onward and upward from that base.
How do faculty add or drop classes from the curriculum?
We try to combine the regional and disciplinary expertise of our faculty to make a richer curriculum. We also benchmark with other schools of international affairs to see what disciplines and courses they are offering. I would say that one caveat is that we are limited by our disciplines and the size of the faculty. However, I can give you an example of taking advantage of our existing talents and resources. We have a number of faculty who have expertise in the post-conflict area, another niche of ours, a critical mass of people with similar backgrounds and interests, so we developed a post-conflict certificate. This kind of initiative of taking our existing talent and then trying to develop a program reflects the talents we have. I hope we can increase our faculty to create a deeper curriculum and to explore new trends in international affairs education.
You teach and practice international law, which one is more difficult and why?
I practiced environmental law for six years, which I stopped 25 years ago. Since then, I have been involved with academics. For me, I prefer teaching because I really enjoy it, I love being in an academic environment. Also, teaching at the School of Diplomacy is very rewarding. I like various things about being an academic, such as planning and teaching classes, engaging in scholarship, and being involved in governance and administration.
In July, the Economist published an article about the WTO being in danger. Given your experience with WTO and dispute settlement, in your opinion what is the future of the WTO and its impacts in trade?
I have to give a very general answer to this question because I haven’t been following the WTO closely for the past couple of years, or the ramifications of the current tariff wars on the WTO. So very generally I would say is that I think this is going to be challenging for the United States because we are one of the founding members of the WTO. In addition, the U.S. is still the country with the largest economy and the greatest trade volume. So, I think if the U.S. is pushing the envelope, it is flouting the WTO’s rules which can result in a big problem for the leading economy. Throughout the years, the U.S. has insisted on bringing more of a rule of law approach to trade to make it less political, trying to regularize trade interactions and operations. And we are now acting contrary to that long-standing U.S. position and working in ways that could serve to undermine the WTO.
The Dean of the School of Diplomacy, Professor Andrea Bartoli, initiated the 20 years revolution for the next 20 years of the School of Diplomacy. What does this revolution mean to you?
In a multi-stakeholder environment everybody participates, so I think it is a very successful model. It has been our practice, since we started the School, to invite students to participate in job talks of potential candidates. I personally think that’s important and good to get students involved in our process of new hires. We are interested in bringing people with research and those who are going to publish, but we we’re still at teaching university concerned about our primary mission which is teaching our students. Therefore, we need to have teachers who can communicate and reach our students as well as academics who can publish and then perhaps also be active international affairs, so I think I think the multi stakeholder approach is the best model for us. I think it is good to involve alumni for a number of reasons. First, for the wealth of having their feedback and maintaining their personal connection with the School. Second, alumni provide a wealth of contacts for jobs for our alumni clubs and associations and new graduates. I think it is also important we have the board of overseers to assist the School with resources, connections, and counsel. I think it is important to engage them. Overall, I think it is important to maintain our primary role to be an academic institution and so its main source of legitimacy is the quality of the programs we offer.