Students in the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy will take part in seminars to discuss topics of statecraft, foreign policy and social movements alongside three Yale-affiliated practitioners with decades of experience in these fields.
Policy advisor Jake Sullivan ’98 LAW ’03, diplomat Victoria Nuland and gay rights advocate Evan Wolfson ’78 are each leading a six-week module on a select aspect of strategy. Unlike Grand Strategy’s previous spring-semester structure, this year — the program’s first under the leadership of history professor Beverly Gage — students will spend the first half of their semester learning just one module, as opposed to trying all three. This way, Gage said, students can become more grounded in a particular area while learning from experts specializing in fields ranging from international relations to domestic social movements.
“I’m incredibly excited that the practitioners are here,” Gage said. “One of the pieces that is exciting for me, as a historian, is to be able to have conversations with people who have been trying to make history in the world.”
As part of their second semester of the yearlong Grand Strategy program, groups of about a dozen students will meet together for five consecutive Mondays and come together to learn from the others during the sixth week. They will spend the latter half of the semester working on briefings and a crisis simulation, according to Gage.
Outgoing director Elizabeth Bradley had formulated the new model and begun the work of recruiting practitioners before departing Yale to become the president of Vassar, Gage said. Gage added that although it is important that the core of the program — deep engagement with big-picture questions of policy and strategy — remains the same, she hopes the class examines these questions in a more expansive way than in the past.
Sullivan, a policymaker who has served as director of policy planning at the State Department and most recently as senior policy advisor to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s LAW ’73 2016 campaign, will lead a module that focuses on great powers and examines the relationships between key global players, with a specific emphasis on Russia and China. The module will also evaluate common threats to all great powers and practical policy implications for American strategy towards world powers, Sullivan said.
As a visiting lecturer at the Law School who has also addressed Grand Strategy students in the past, Sullivan told the News that he already feels like “part of the family,” even though he has not previously taught in the program.
Sullivan, a key player in the Iran nuclear negotiations who has engaged with world leaders such as Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China, said his experiences dealing with issues related to the great powers “in living color” provide perspective that will supplement the theory and history Grand Strategy students have been learning.
“In preparing for classes, in thinking about how to convey the material, I have to challenge myself on what worked and what didn’t in terms of my own practice of foreign policy,” said Sullivan, a former editor in chief of the News. “It’s an opportunity for me to really gain a great deal in terms of perspective and fresh thinking on some of these problems, which I have grappled with and will grapple with again.”
Victoria Nuland, former assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, will be leading a module on liberal democracy and populist autocracy. She said the module will explore the two forms of governance and their different approaches to problem-solving, with case studies of Ukraine and Syria.
A career diplomat who served in China, Russia, Mongolia and twice at NATO in Belgium, Nuland said she is excited to “bring stories from the front” to her Grand Strategy students. Among the highlights of her career, Nuland cited her time in Moscow’s embassy during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and her role in the two-person team that opened the first U.S. embassy in Ulaanbaator, Mongolia.
The module will also examine speeches of world leaders and touch on current events, Nuland said. She added that in this complex political climate, she is excited to see the next generation of young people who want to change the world for the better and welcomes the opportunity to “rub brains” with these students.
“We have a president who doesn’t feel bound by a lot of the orthodoxies that have governed his predecessors,” Nuland said. “I hope we get to wrestle with that in the classroom and in a nonpartisan, or bipartisan or multipartisan way.”
Nuland is no stranger to Yale, as she grew up in New Haven and many members of her family have either attended or taught at the University. While she chose to matriculate at Brown, she spent the first semester of her junior year enrolled at Yale, studying international relations and history with a focus on Russia.
Nuland and Sullivan will be joined by Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, the campaign that led the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. Wolfson’s module will focus on social and political movements.
Wolfson said Freedom to Marry provides a template for some of the key elements of success he believes can be adapted to other movements. In addition to his experiences spearheading the movement, he will discuss other historical case studies such as efforts to achieve workers’ rights before the New Deal and the formation of the NAACP.
“One of the things I work hard to underscore is the importance of clarity of strategy,” Wolfson said. “To have the opportunity to kick that around with Yale students, help share that importance and help them bring that clarity to the goals and work they consider important in the years ahead is very exciting.”
After spending 32 years driving forward the campaign and broader LGBT activism — and as he ponders what his next decades-long battle will be — Wolfson said he looks forward to bringing his insights and experiences to other issues he cares about.
The Grand Strategy program was founded in 2000 and inaugurated in 2006.
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