Summer 2018 Bulletin

From the President

Jonathan Fanton

The Academy’s larger projects, like the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education and The Public Face of Science, are designed to help influence the intellectual life of the country – by providing new ideas, recommending new ways to address challenges, and calling attention to new knowledge. Often, these projects produce written documents – reports, occasional papers, or issues of Dædalus – that express the findings of their multidisciplinary committees. Increasingly, these projects also rely on the extraordinary convening capacity of the Academy – its ability to bring together experts from a range of fields and disciplines – to extend the influence of their work. Many of our projects continue long after their planned activities have concluded, by facilitating new collaborative efforts and establishing partnerships with the organizations and institutions most likely to benefit from our work.

Two projects, in particular, have been very successful in establishing these partnerships. The Academy’s project on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses produced two volumes of Dædalus (Fall 2017 and Winter 2018) that explored the current state of civil wars around the world, the threats associated with intrastate violence and state disorder, and the policy options for the United States and the international community to respond to widespread violence and mitigate the global risks associated with it.

The project hosted conferences, private briefings, public events, and workshops with UN representatives, government officials, academics, policy-makers, and practitioners in the United States and internationally. Following the release of the second volume of Dædalus, selected project participants met with military and civilian personnel from the office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other Department of Defense offices to discuss the U.S. evolving strategy on counter-terrorism, including the role of international humanitarian law in counter-terrorism practices.

Several project participants also met with members of the National Security Council. The group participated in a briefing with more than ten NSC staff and region-specific directors. The project experts offered short- and long-term recommendations for preventing, mitigating, and helping countries recover from civil violence.

Along with collaborating with domestic institutions, the project team also engaged with international organizations, including the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The meetings focused on how best to improve the internal capacities of the UN to respond to widespread violence around the world. The project’s experts discussed how emerging and evolving technologies – when duly regulated – could help enhance UN capacities to intervene in conflicts, protect civilians, and monitor more accurately displacements and dislocations.

Similar to the Civil Wars project, the Commission on Language Learning produced several publications, including a final report on America’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century. The report has helped to shape new legislative proposals at the federal level, including the World Languages Advancement and Readiness Act, which, if passed, would fund a grant program within the U.S. Department of Defense to foster innovative language instruction in K-12 education. It has also inspired new conversations about global education curricula at schools and colleges like Northwestern University and Indiana University, and a range of outreach activities around the country.

Since the report was released in 2017, the Academy has convened a working group to coordinate additional follow-up efforts. The America’s Languages Working Group includes Commission members as well as other representatives from the language profession, academia, government, business, NGOs, and heritage and indigenous communities. On May 30, 2018, it published its first joint statement, “Bridging America’s Language Gap,” a call-to-action urging increased support for language education and improved access for students at every level. Thirty-eight individual business, government, and cultural leaders and over 150 organizations, including academic associations, businesses, colleges and universities, cultural and international organizations, language education associations, professional associations, school systems, and state humanities councils, have signed the call-to-action. The Academy will continue to add endorsements over time. The Working Group plans to use the call-to-action and a future online resource highlighting successful practices to help advance the Language Commission’s recommendations around the country.

The project on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses and the Language Commission were both initiated by committees of distinguished Members and experts who worked together to formulate practical recommendations. Once these committees completed their work, the projects shifted focus to the people and organizations in the best position to advance their recommendations, fostering collaboration, building consensus, and encouraging further activity. This is an important strategy for many Academy projects, and one that the Academy has pursued more frequently in recent years to great success.

To help identify potential partners and receptive audiences for our work, the Academy – with generous support from Morton Mandel and the Jack, Joseph & Morton Mandel Foundation – has also created a new position: Director of Strategic Implementation. Our first director, Peter Robinson, is already working with Members and others to ensure that our projects have their intended effects.

We welcome your thoughts and suggestions about other ways to enhance the impact of our work.

Jonathan F. Fanton