Making Government Work

This Pioneering Program Solicits College Students for Answers to Global Problems

April 2, 2014
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This Pioneering Program Solicits College Students for Answers to Global Problems
John Kerry announces Diplomacy Lab program YouTube
Secretary of State John Kerry's Diplomacy Lab connects universities with the State Department.

Just like many other professions, training the future diplomats starts from the bottom up. Hands-on experiences, coupled with classroom education and debate, can give future statesmen and women the firm foundation to aspire to be, say, Secretary of State John Kerry.

Thankfully, this is something Secretary Kerry knows full well: He announced Diplomacy Lab, a new program that will help the U.S. State Department partner with America’s best universities to solve the world’s toughest challenges during a town hall with college students and congressional interns on March 19.

As Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, explained in a video and article, the idea stemmed from the question, “What would would happen if we could get America’s best students to help solve some of the biggest challenges?” The answer rested in a symbiotic relationship between the State Department and college students.

Under the program, the State Department will identify a pressing issue and enlist a specific class or group of students to develop new ideas and solutions. They’ll then pass them back to their source, who will channel the ideas directly into policy. This process of reaching out beyond government to bring people into world of foreign policy will diversify opinions and perspectives.

It also helps the students. The idea for Diplomacy Lab grew out of conversations with university leaders who told Tillemann and his team that today’s students want to do more than write papers for the sake of writing papers.  With an ever-growing to-do list and a stagnant budget, the lab allows the State Department to rely on just more than diplomats, while enabling students to get real-world experience. Just like Model UN helps high school students see the world through a geopolitical lens, this will shape college students’ diplomatic point of view.

Tillemann provided a list of research and innovation projects already “course-sourced” by him and his team. A semester’s worth of work generated these ideas:

With the program in full swing, that list is only going to get longer.

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