The E-News site has been inactive since February 2011 and may contain outdated information and/or broken links. For current and up-to-date Tufts news and information, please visit Tufts Now at
Tufts University e-news

Search  GO >

this site people
Tufts University Logo Bottom Search Bottom  
left side photo

Foreign Policy 101

Foreign Policy 101A seminar taught by former Ambassador John Shattuck gives students a front-row seat to the inner workings of U.S. foreign policy.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.05.07] Learning about the Cuban missile crisis from a textbook is one thing. But to hear President Kennedy's advisor at the time, Ted Sorensen, discuss the crisis in the setting of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library brings that chapter of history to life.

This semester, Tufts students have enjoyed such rare glimpses into the inner-working of U.S. foreign policy in the seminar, "The U.S. and the World: Contemporary Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy," where guests such as Sorensen are a regular occurrence. The course is taught by John Shattuck, former United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic and a former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the Clinton administration.

As a member of the Clinton administration, Shattuck helped broker the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 and end the war in Bosnia. Each week his course features former government officials who have played key roles in many U.S. foreign policy decisions. The trip to the Kennedy Library for Sorensen's talk was a special treat for the students, who come to the class with a strong interest in how American politics play out on the global stage.

Samira Alic (A'08), an international relations major, is a native of Bosnia who jumped at the opportunity to take Shattuck's class.

"To actually learn about the Balkan crisis from insiders who were there shaping and implementing policies that affected me and everyone else in the region was something I couldn't pass up," says Alic.

The class is taught through the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, the Institute for Global Leadership and the political science department in the School of Arts and Sciences.

In the seminars, students prepare policy briefs on the week's topic. They also question Shattuck and his guest speaker on the topic before presenting their briefs., debate and discussion among group members follow.. The end result is a workshop in policymaking and exposure to how political decisions are made.

"This is sometimes very hard because you may be assigned to defend a decision you fundamentally disagree with," says Alic.

An hour of the class is reserved for a "brown-bag" session for students who aren't enrolled in the class and faculty from the School of Arts and Sciences and The Fletcher School.

Shattuck, who sits on the board of Tufts' Institute for Global Leadership and received its Jean Mayer Global Leadership Award in 2003, says he has been impressed by his Tufts students.

"I found the students very well prepared, very lively, very interested," he says. "They all tell me that [the class] is different from anything they've done and that they enjoy it."

"This class is just a representation of what Tufts does in general," agrees Alic, "which is give its students an opportunity to learn from a wide range of sources."

Inside Politics

The course follows a model developed by Tufts graduate and trustee Alan Solomont (A'70), a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who taught a similarly structured seminar on the Clinton presidency at Tufts in the 2005 and 2006 fall semesters.

This semester, Solomont's course is focused on the 2008 presidential race. His guest speakers have included Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, former New Hampshire. Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and former U.S. Sen. Dick Gephardt.

"The approach seemed to make a lot of sense, to have a thematic course involving a set of contemporary problems," says Shattuck.His speakers this semester have includedAmbassador Barbara Bodine, former U.S. Special Envoy James Dobbins and former U.N. Assistant Secretary General Gillian Sorensen..

"My course and John's course have a natural home at Tufts," says Solomont, "because this is what Tufts is about."

Shattuck says that many of the speakers have been impressed by the students' papers and arguments.

"It's interesting for people of this kind, most of whom are not academics, to see in the academic setting what can happen and what kind of discussions can take place around really practical, immediate problems," he explains.

Solomont adds, "These are students who are already interested if not excited about politics. They come prepared and open to this."

Among Solomont's current students are interns in the offices of Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. One student worked for the campaign of U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), the first veteran of the war in Iraq to be elected to Congress.

Some of his former students are also making political waves. Sara Greenbaum (A'06) works at the Clinton Climate Initiative as chief of staff for Ira Magaziner, whom she met when he spoke to Solomont's class in 2005. Mitch Robinson (A'07), who was Solomont's teaching assistant, works on U.S. Rep. Edward Markey's (D-Mass.) select committee on energy and the environment.

"I remember seeing Congressman Markey and telling him what a star he had hired," says Solomont, who says that Tufts students are benefiting from both the course's unique format and exposure to people who have been on the political front lines.

One guest speaker, Democratic strategist James Carville, advised students to find a campaign they wanted to work on and camp out in front of the campaign office until the campaign manager came out, then offer to work free for three months in the hopes of getting hired.

"The next day," recalls Solomont. "I got an email from one of my students saying this was a great experience, and after he graduates he intends to go to Carville's office and camp out in front of it." That, to Solomont, is a lesson learned.

Profile written by Georgiana Cohen, Office of Web Communications

Related Stories
Related Links
Featured Profile


For More Information

Web Communications
T: 617.627.4282
F: 617.627.3549

Media Inquiries

Kim Thurler
T: 617.627.3175
F: 617.627.4907

Alexander Reid
T: 617.627.4173
F: 617.627.4907

Suzanne McInroy
T: 617.627.4703
F: 617.627.4907