New life for the globalization center

At the globalization center, there is indeed “life after Strobe,” and now we’re starting to see what it looks like.

Eight months after the sudden departure of Director Strobe Talbott ’68 called into question the future of Yale’s Center for the Study of Globalization, new leadership has breathed enthusiasm back into the University’s most prized venture in the international realm.

Yale President Richard Levin quickly replaced Talbott with Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81 — if you lose a deputy secretary of state, why not get a president –instantly regaining any prestige the center lost with Talbott’s departure.

Seeming comfortable in his new role, Zedillo hasn’t taken long to build the center’s momentum to an all-time high.

The former Mexican president has carried out several plans inherited from Talbott, including one for a forum on Central Asian security that will take place this week. The conference, officially called “The Silk Road in the 21st Century,” represents just the kind of intersection between academia and politics that Levin and Talbott envisioned when they founded the center. Talbott will even return from Washington this weekend for the event, which will feature teleconference addresses by the presidents of three Central Asian nations.

Zedillo hasn’t done too badly on his own, either. He sat on a Sept. 11 geopolitics panel with John Gaddis and Donald Kagan and quickly showed his deep commitment to multilateral diplomacy. Zedillo’s views didn’t seem to be the most popular with the mostly American, apparently conservative, audience, but he laid out and defended a pragmatic internationalist position in the face of numerous objections and questions.

Levin’s original vision for the globalization center called for an institution that would both increase the University’s global recognition and broaden student exposure to international ideas. As the center moves forward both physically — the freshly renovated Betts House opens in two weeks –and figuratively, the challenge will be to fulfill both missions.

Zedillo took a major step in increasing the prestige of the center by bringing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to deliver a speech in Battell Chapel on Oct. 2. And the center will now expand its publishing presence — established when Talbott and colleague Nayan Chanda edited a collection of essays about Sept. 11 — by launching an online journal next month.

The looming question for the globalization center has been whether it will find a way to include Yale undergraduates in its worldly reach. Talbott and Zedillo have both made an effort to provide access to guests through undergraduate policy lunches, and this year several of the center’s leaders are teaching a Yale College course. Both the student body and the center stand to benefit from the interaction.

Levin and Zedillo deserve credit for the remarkably quick turnaround. Eight months ago, many questioned whether the globalization center would live on, let alone fill the important role Levin carved for it in the University’s global mission. But now it seems it won’t be long before the Betts House will seem like, as Chanda put it, “a mini-United Nations.”

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