Brown University's Watson Institute for Public Affairs.

Wendy Schiller will be interim director of Brown’s Watson Institute – Edward Steinfeld leaves in June

Provost Francis J. Doyle III released a statement regarding the transition in leadership at the Watson Institute

After over eight years of service, Edward Steinfeld will be completing his term as the Howard R. Swearer Director of the Thomas J. Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, effective June 30, 2024. He will return as Professor of China Studies, Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs, after taking a sabbatical.

Wendy J. Schiller, Alison S. Ressler Professor of Political Science, will serve as interim Howard R. Swearer Director of the Watson Institute while a search committee is formed to seek Ed’s successor.

Steinfeld began serving as director of the Watson Institute in January 2016. Since that time, the Institute has raised over $210 million and launched a comprehensive new undergraduate concentration, International and Public Affairs, which has grown to over 300 students.

With Ed’s guidance, the Institute has also:

  • Realized a substantial expansion of the faculty, including in areas of race and power, climate and human rights;
  • Oversaw the maturation and curricular deepening of the Master of Public Affairs program;
  • Established a burgeoning military fellows program with the support of a $1 million Carnegie grant;
  • Created a new senior fellows program and senior fellow-led study groups that place our undergraduates in direct contact with leading policy practitioners;
  • Marked significant growth of the Watson postdoctoral fellows program to encompass new joint postdoc positions with the Simmons Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, and the School of Public Health;
  • Oversaw the growth of regional- and topic-related centers and initiatives from 6 to 11;
  • Saw a major expansion of strategic communications efforts;
  • Opened a major new building, Stephen Robert Hall; and
  • Achieved a substantial diversification of faculty and staff, an effort that continues to serve as a guiding principle.

During his second term, Ed led the University’s ongoing efforts to transform the Watson Institute into a leading school for international and public affairs. This process has involved continued faculty and staff growth; the maturation of the MPA, postdoctoral fellows and senior fellows programs; and most recently, two new signature initiatives:

  • $2 million commitment to launch a MPA Policy Equity Scholars program that will provide a cohort of exceptional candidates with full-scholarships as well as a leadership development, and mentorship program in order to strengthen efforts to diversify the pipeline of policy leaders of the future.
  • $1 million investment in three new Policy Labs at Watson that will involve research and teaching initiatives and engage a constellation of MPAs, Ph.D. students and undergraduates organized by a faculty member to study a particular area of policy focus. The three new labs include the Justice Policy Lab (John Eason), Realizing Rights Lab (Susan Moffitt), and Civil Conflict and Democratic Erosion Lab (Rob Blair).

Ed came to Brown in 2013 after serving on the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 17 years. While a professor of political science at MIT, he served in multiple administrative roles including director of the MIT-China program and co-director of the China Energy Group. In 2014, Ed launched the China Initiative to build on faculty research, provide opportunities for student fellowships and create long-term partnerships with Chinese institutions. Ed continues to serve as director of the China Initiative.

Wendy J. Schiller to serve as interim director

Wendy Schiller is known to many Rhode Islanders by her prowess as a media commentator. She has been a weekly contributor on WPPO’s morning Gene Valicenti show, and on local and national NPR affiliates, The Guardian newspaper, AFP and Bloomberg News. She also provides local political commentary to the Providence Journal, RIPBS’ “A Lively Experiment”, and is the political analyst for WJAR10, the local NBC affiliate in Rhode Island.

In making the announcement of Schiller, Brown’s Doyle said, “Wendy is a respected leader within the Watson Institute, currently serving as the director of the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy and served for six years as Chair of the Political Science Department. Across Brown, Wendy has served on a range of University committees including TPAC, the FEC Nominations Committee, the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board, and the Human Resources Advisory Committee.

Wendy came to Brown in Fall 1994 and teaches popular courses including, The American Presidency, Introduction to the American Political Process, and Philosophy of the Founding . She is an accomplished author of several books including Inequality Across State Lines: How Policymakers Have Failed Domestic Violence Victims in the United States (Cambridge University Press), Electing the Senate: Indirect Democracy before the Seventeenth Amendment (Princeton University Press), Gateways to Democracy: An Introduction to American Government (Cengage), The Contemporary Congress (Thomson-Wadsworth) and Partners and Rivals: Representation in U.S. Senate Delegations (Princeton University Press). She has also published articles in the American Journal of Political Science, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Studies in American Political Development and the Journal of Politics.

About The Watson Institute

The Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University seeks to promote a just and peaceful world through research, teaching and public engagement.

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