Welcome back from SFS Dean Joel Hellman

Dear SFS Community,

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a restful, fulfilling summer. The season ended with displays of the awesome power of nature – the wonder of the eclipse and the devastation of the floods in Texas. We start the school year in deepest sympathy for those impacted by this latest horrible tragedy. And we remember the ongoing crises both natural and man-made that have forced more than 65 million people around the world from their homes in search of security.

Our school was forged in response to tragedy – the devastation of a world war – and reflected a deep yearning for peace. As Father Walsh said at our inauguration nearly 100 years ago: “History, with all its volumes, has one clear lesson … that no nation can long endure which bases its habitual policy on contempt of fundamental human rights and disregard of human relationships. The … realization that the peoples of the world constitute one huge family, whose interests are common and whose members are interdependent, has proved to be one of the most valuable byproducts of the world tragedy, now happily ended.”

This summer, we saw such contempt and disregard in Charlottesville. The images were frightening. The hateful words and slogans were piercing. They reminded us that for “all its volumes” we still have not fully absorbed the lessons of our own difficult history.

Georgetown is united in rejecting hatred. President DeGioia condemned the events in Charlottesville as “a painful reminder of the enduring legacies of slavery and segregation in our nation, and of our obligation to reject hatred, racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all ideologies and manifestations of white nationalism and white supremacy.” Provost Groves called on our faculty to incorporate dialogue about Charlottesville in our opening classes this year and provided an array of resources to support this dialogue. Our own SFS faculty adopted a far-reaching statement at the very start of the year in which: “We condemn discrimination in all forms; intolerance is incompatible with our values and work as scholars and fully engaged members of society. And we join together in opposition to those who would ignore, reject, or recast as debatable the principles of equality and justice that are the foundation of our work as educators.” Last year, students came together in spontaneous discussion groups and faculty-led seminars to support those feeling vulnerable and to better understand the changes in our nation and the world that impact our core values. We are ready to respond again, when needed, to ensure that our community lives those values.

But though the summer ended on a painful and, indeed, tragic note, the annual return to campus once again presents an opportunity for hope and renewal. A new class of undergraduates and graduates enters our community, motivated as much by the commitment to our founding values as by the prestige of our curriculum.  At the new student convocation, we heard moving words from SFS Senior and McTighe Prize winner Tomás Álvarez Belón about his own harrowing experience with the forces of nature, and from SFS Professor Gwendolyn Mikell about her remarkable journey from the South Side of Chicago to academic prominence on the Hilltop and beyond. They were powerful statements about personal struggle and hope that should inspire us as individuals and as a community.

We also have a lot to look forward to this year. Exciting new faculty are joining our community.  We have new leadership with Nancy McEldowney joining us as the Director of the MSFS program and Rochelle Davis becoming the new Director of CCAS. We will soon announce a list of Centennial Fellows — high profile practitioners who will bring their global experience to our campus. We are expanding a range of mentored Global Experiences for undergraduates to apply what they have been learning in real contexts abroad, and we have brought on Jamie Welling, our new Global Experiences Program Director, to lead these efforts.  Building from the experience with the India Innovation Studio, Trade Lab, and Diplomacy Lab, we are working on a new set of experiential learning opportunities that are geared toward solving real world problems. And we are committed, through our awesome array of speakers, lectures, conferences and small group “coffee chats,” to making our campus in this capital city the essential forum for debating key issues that will shape the global order in these uncertain times. That is both our opportunity and our obligation as the oldest and most prominent school of international affairs in the country.

As I reflect on recent events and the year ahead, I keep thinking about a concept that has been central to the history of our school since its founding, but which sadly seems to be falling out of favor these days – diplomacy. Of course, our curriculum is steeped in the study of diplomacy – the art, skill and profession of managing international relations. But equally important is our commitment to behaving with diplomacy in what Father Walsh referred to as our “human relations.” Diplomacy is also defined as the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way without arousing hostility. Tact, subtlety, thoughtfulness, discretion, prudence – these are the traits that should help us ensure that as we debate the core issues that will shape the future global order, we do so in a way that encourages difference while strengthening our unity as a community.** As I told the entering students this year: We teach diplomacy as a subject. We expect diplomacy as a community.

I wish everyone an exciting start to what will certainly be an important year. Welcome back to the Hilltop!


Joel S. Hellman
Dean, Walsh School of Foreign Service

**I’d like to refer you to the University’s Free Speech Policy as well as some on-campus resources.

  • For campus security, Georgetown University Police Department can provide enhanced security to anyone who requests it (202-687-4343). Safety planning and security advice is also available by contacting Deputy Chief of Police Joseph Smith (Joseph.Smith@georgetown.edu).
  • For social media, the Office of Communications (gucomm@georgetown.edu) has excellent advice on managing social media accounts to ensure privacy.
  • To schedule an appointment with CAPS (Counseling and Psychiatric Services), students may call (202) 687-6985 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.MondayFriday. In the event of an urgent need after hours, call (202) 444-7243 and ask for the CAPS clinician on call.
  • The Office of Campus Ministry is available to all students during business hours by calling (202) 687-5259. In addition, chaplains in residence may be reached after hours by calling (202) 677-0361.