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Training Tomorrow’s Global Leaders

Tomorrow’s global citizens are honing their leadership skills today at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, which celebrated its official opening Sept. 19-20. The institute is working to internationalize Yale’s teaching curriculum across the campus, attract the most talented students and scholars from around the world, and deepen the University’s engagement abroad. It offers both undergraduate and master’s degrees in international relations. The Institute was established in April 2009 with a transformational gift from John W. ’67 and Susan G. Jackson.

The Jackson Institute’s founding director, James Levinsohn, brings a wealth of international experience to that post. His fields of interest include international economics, industrial organization, economic development and applied econometrics. Recently, he has studied the impact of HIV/AIDS on unemployment and school attendance in South Africa. He has lived and worked in Senegal, Botswana and South Africa. One of his projects, now in its 11th year, trains government officials, university faculty and students, and NGO staff from over a dozen countries in southern Africa on how to use data to inform policymaking.

In a recent Q&A session, Levinsohn talked about the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and its many offerings.

The Jackson Institute aims to prepare future leaders in government, diplomacy and international affairs. What skills will these future leaders need?
They will need to be quite multidimensional. As our students enter the broad field of global affairs, they are going to have to have a keen understanding of the many ways in which the world is interconnected — economically, politically and culturally. They need to be multi-lingual, comfortable in diverse cultures and able to adapt to the quickly changing world around them.

How will the Jackson Institute help them acquire those skills?
The Jackson Institute offers a wide range of courses, and we work individually with every one of our students to shape the course of study that makes the most sense for that student. We also will connect our students with distinguished practitioners in their field of interest and help them to obtain internships around the globe.

Do you expect that people already established in their careers will apply to the master’s program? How is the institute geared toward them?
Absolutely. Indeed, the vast majority of our students have work experience before coming to the Master in International Relations program. And because these students often have well-defined career interests, we work with them one-on-one to tailor a course of study that gets them where they want to go.

You will be teaching the “Gateway to Global Affairs” course, which is open to all undergraduates. What will it cover?
Yes, this course is available to every student in Yale College. This year we will cover four topics, and for each topic, I have an expert coming to co-teach. We’ll investigate U.S. immigration policy with Professor Gordon Hanson from the University of California-San Diego, the relationship between energy policy and national security with former CIA director James Woolsey, HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa with Professor Nicoli Natrass from the University of Cape Town, and the role of international law with Richard Goldstone, former chief prosecutor in the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocide trials.

Other than the “Gateway” course, are your programs open to undergraduates who are not majoring in International Relations?
All of our courses are open to students from around the University. In some cases, students in Jackson’s graduate and undergraduate programs will get priority, but all courses are open.

Who are the Jackson Fellows, and what will they do?
The Jackson Fellows are distinguished practitioners who spend some time at Jackson and are teaching courses. Yale is chock-full of great lectures almost every afternoon or evening of the week. My goal is to get the Jackson Fellows into the classroom, and virtually every one of them is teaching in courses. We have a great group of Jackson Fellows, and you can read about all of them at

Will the institute offer career services?
Most definitely. Career services is one of our highest priorities, and we have recruited a fantastic director of career service, Elizabeth Gill. Her office is open and is already hosting several events every week in addition to one-on-one appointments.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting the Jackson Institute up and running? Your biggest reward?
My colleagues have been incredibly welcoming and helpful. That’s made my job a lot easier. Add to that a tremendous staff headed up by associate director Larisa Satara, and getting the Jackson Institute up and running has been a blast.