It takes a strategy to get into Grand Strategy — but this year, it takes an especially grand one.
The year-long seminar, capped at 20 students,, received a record number of applications for 2010, according to Minh A. Luong, associate director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy. Since the course started in 2000, Luong said, the number of applications varied between 50 and a little over 100, though that number has been increasing steadily over the past three years to this year’s high of 128. Luong and the course’s professors attributed the increase to the addition of new faculty and to greater outreach efforts.
“It’s a surprise,” John Gaddis, one of the course’s professors and a member of the history and political science departments, said. “It’s the highest we’ve ever had.”
The program, open to graduate, professional and undergraduate students, received 88 undergraduate applications and 40 graduate applications this year, both increases over last year’s pool.
The seminar delves into canonical works on security policy and strategy from Thucydides to Kissinger in the spring semester, and the fall semester focuses on applications of strategy to real-world simulations. During the summer between the two semesters, students are required to pursue a relevant internship. Since its establishment, the program has been a launching pad for aspiring policy makers at Yale, both undergraduate and graduate students, to jobs in the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Luong attributed the rise in applications to the faculty who teach the seminar. Paul Solman, economics correspondent for the NewsHour on PBS, and John Negroponte ’60, a former ambassador and the nation’s first Director of National Intelligence, will join Walter Russell Mead, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the original professors of the course: Gaddis, Paul Kennedy, and Charles Hill.
“It’s possible that may have made a difference,” Gaddis said of Negroponte’s participation in particular.
Negroponte joined the Grand Strategy faculty team in September 2009 after more than 40 years in the foreign service. As director of national intelligence from 2005 to 2006, he briefed President George W. Bush ’68 every morning on intelligence matters.
Mead said he has also noticed greater outreach efforts by the program faculty, while Luong said current students and alumni of the program have encouraged students from across the campus community to apply. Levent Tuzun ’11, who applied for the 2010 seminar, said he has observed many sophomores applying, even though the program traditionally takes juniors.
Luong said he expects this broader appeal of Grand Strategy to be permanent.
“As long as the year-long Grand Strategy course continues as a forum where top students can interact with leading scholars and practitioners on both theoretical and pragmatic issues, then I think there will always be strong demand for the course,” Luong said. “Our six GS faculty members makes the course more compelling going forward.”
The increased applications have made the selection process “exponentially more difficult,” he said, adding that a faculty committee reads each application at least twice before the first cut. They then read the applications several more times to narrow the pool down to 30 or 40 applications. The final 20 selections are made by unanimous vote, as every admitted student must be approved by every member of a faculty committee.
Luong said the admissions committee does not seek students in any specific discipline.
“[We focus on] everything — literally,” Luong said. “There is not one ‘type’ we seek out. We are looking for all of the pieces of the puzzle to lock in place to form one great cohort of leaders.”
And this year’s applicant pool, Luong said, was also the most academically diverse ever, with applications from a broader range of departments and schools than in the past.
Two students interviewed said they applied to the course primarily out of academic interest.
“It’s a historical look at strategy, and it brings together multiple disciplines,” Tuzun said.
The current applicants for the 2010 Grand Strategy class will hear if they made the cut on Dec. 7.