GUEST CONTRIBUTOR AT SAIS WASHINGTON
A small group of MA and MIPP students joined Dean of Academic Affairs John Harrington for a coffee chat organized by the student government on March 26. The forum allowed the early risers to share their academic experience at SAIS, from bidding and concentration requirements to languages and lecture formats. Harrington took the opportunity to solicit input and to provide a candid evaluation of academic matters at the school.
Harrington started by giving the group an appreciation for some of the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining top professors. The more than 100 academics, lecturers and adjuncts that make up the faculty at SAIS are some of the most celebrated in the policy world, but Harrington continually focuses on attracting new academic talent to the school, he said.
The conversation quickly moved to the subject of bidding. While some students pointed out deficiencies in the current system, others expressed their satisfaction with things as they are. Several suggestions were bandied about, but none of the proposed changes withstood rigorous scrutiny by Harrington or the assembled students. Harrington issued an invitation and a challenge to students: to propose a better bidding system that increases equity while incorporating the reality of resource constraints.
Throughout the morning’s discussion, Harrington shared his vision for SAIS. He hopes to focus students more intensely on the academic experience, and he generally advises students to avoid the distraction of internships during the school year. In a similar vein, he also hopes to bolster the language program and integrate it more tightly into the rest of the program by increasing the proficiency requirements.