By Bryan Gerhart
The COVID-19 pandemic upended the entire world, and the academic sector was no exception. Institutions of higher education were forced to confront existential threats and operational dilemmas in real-time, adjusting and readjusting plans for the students, faculty, and staff on their campuses repeatedly.
If the DipLab Demo Day, Feb. 12, was any indication, the students in the Diplomacy Lab network faced these disruptions without missing a beat.
This inaugural virtual event, hosted by the Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships (GP), showcased exemplary presentations from the fall 2020 cohort of Diplomacy Lab research projects for an audience of 200 students, faculty, and Department officers. Student teams presented their findings in a fast-paced “pitch-style” format. Each demonstration was followed by a discussion between Department representatives and faculty leads for the projects. The presentations covered a broad swath of topics, including “Global Attitudes on Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights” by Indiana University Bloomington, “Cultural Economy in Times of Financial Crisis” by Northeastern University, “Evaluation of Kosovo’s American Corners Program” by Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, and “Analyzing Risk Communication and Behavioral Change During the COVID-19 Pandemic” by Kennesaw State University.
Diplomacy Lab is a public-private partnership managed by GP that enables the Department to “course-source” research related to foreign policy by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty at universities across the country. The partnership provides the Department with its own think tank and provides students real-world experience and an opportunity to interface directly with Department officers.
“I’ll just say it this way: I think Diplomacy Lab is the best thing ever,” said Professor Isak Nti Asare, associate director of Indiana University Bloomington’s Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program during the event. “We have a lot of students who want initial experiences in diplomacy, and [this gives them a chance to] get their feet wet.”
Twice a year, a list of proposed projects is submitted by officers in domestic bureaus and overseas posts and shared with Diplomacy Lab’s partner universities. After “bidding” on the projects, faculty at these institutions lead teams of students in researching the projects during the following semester. Research can be conducted as part of a course, seminar, or as an independent research project.
To learn more about participating in Diplomacy Lab, visit their website.
Bryan Gerhart is a senior program officer in the Office of Global Partnerships.