IGL facilitates student discussion and involvement in global issues

The director for the Institute for Global Leadership Abi Williams poses for a portrait on the President's Lawn in 2016. Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Institute of Global Leadership (IGL) traces its roots to 1985, when the entire program was a one-day symposium led by Tufts political science lecturer Sherman Teichman, and has fostered discussion of complex global issues ever since. IGL Associate Director Heather Barry said that Teichman created the program to stimulate more dialogue about international terrorism. The institution that formed in the following decades expanded on this event, creating programs like the Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC) course and helping students seek research and internship opportunities.

Barry mentioned that the IGL’s aim is to present students with a broad range of perspectives from people in different disciplines through its 15 programs.

“The overarching goal is to immerse students in big ideas through EPIIC and then allow them to put theory into practice,” she said.

In addition to EPIIC, some of the programs offered by the IGL include Inquiry and Alliance Linking Leaders in Education and the Services (ALLIES), as well as global research and various internships. According to Barry, ALLIES provides Tufts students a forum for collaboration and discussion with the military community regarding global issues.

“After Iraq and Afghanistan, students wanted more open dialogue about the military’s role in public policy, prompting the creation of this program,” Barry said.

ALLIES includes a Civil-Military Relations Conference on Veterans Day and a joint research project between Tufts students and the military community in a different country each year.

Inquiry allows high school students to discuss contemporary issues through a mentorship program with Tufts students. The program culminates in a weekend-long simulation that involves role-play and discussion regarding a different contemporary issue each year, according to Barry. Inquiry typically includes a trip to the area being discussed in order to further immerse its participants in the topic.

Other programs offered by the IGL include Tufts International Development, Amnesty International and BUILD: India.

The IGL is currently led by Dr. Abi Williams, who took over for Teichman in April 2017. According to Barry, Williams’ experience prepared him to serve this role well. In addition to his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School, Williams served as the Director of Strategic Planning for United Nations Secretaries General Ban Ki-Moon and Kofi Annan and as the President of the Hague Institute of Global Justice.

“He was a [teaching assistant] for Teichman,” Barry added. “This enabled him to provide input to the program while he worked for Annan later in his career.”

She said that Williams’ philosophy is similar to Teichman’s, and that like the former director, he has a strong connection with Tufts’ student body. Having adjusted to the leadership of the program in the past year, Barry believes that Williams will now begin implementing his own ideas for the IGL.

“He has started to think about what he brings to the table,” she said. “[Teichman] left a huge impression on the program, so now it’s [Williams’] turn to leave his.”

Many Tufts students conducted research and participated in global internships through the IGL this summer. Two such students were Uzair Sattar and Atrey Bhargava. Bhargava is a sophomore majoring in international relations and economics, and Sattar is a sophomore majoring in international relations.

This summer, Bhargava and Sattar spent two weeks in Pakistan studying India’s role in the Pakistani water crisis. They studied the Indus Waters Treaty, signed in 1960, which decided the rivers that were to be controlled by each nation.

“Getting funding for our research was a long process, as we had to first apply for a visa, and then work with [Barry] and the IGL,” Sattar said.

In addition to their initial application to the IGL, Bhargava and Sattar had to submit a proposal for the approval of Tufts’ Social, Behavioral & Educational Research Institutional Review Board.

In order to conduct their research, the two students traveled from city to city and interviewed various officials associated with water policies in Pakistan.

“We were in Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Lahore, where we interviewed academics, professors, lawyers and bureaucrats — anyone with any connection to the crisis,” Bhargava said.

The entire project lasted two weeks and will culminate in a paper written by the students. Sattar and Bhargava both stated that their research, as well as their general involvement with the IGL, was worthwhile.

“We both did EPIIC last semester and played an active role in the symposium at the end of last year. I was involved in creating a panel on nuclear security and was able to interact with many professionals in the process,” Bhargava said.

Prior to his research with Sattar, Bhargava took part in the IGL’s Oslo Scholars program, which places students in internships with international human rights activism organizations. Bhargava was involved with the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in Belgrade, Serbia, and he said that the internship was immensely impactful for him.

“This is an organization that deals with nonviolent protest globally. I was able to work with amazing activists from Togo, Venezuela, Poland and the Maldives,” Bhargava said.

Through this experience, Bhargava met current and former students from institutions like Wellesley College, Harvard and Northeastern, who served as mentors for him.

Sattar noted that he, too, learned a lot from EPIIC and his summer research, sharing that the IGL’s leadership was immensely helpful.

“People like [Williams], who has had experience in the Hague and the UN, have been very helpful in shaping my experience,” Sattar said.

He also said that EPIIC has a diverse mix of students, from seniors considering job prospects to first-years taking advantage of the opportunity to learn the world of international relations.

In terms of his research, Sattar said that he wanted to study the Indus Waters Treaty specifically because of its longevity.

“It has stood the test of time,” he said. “In the age of nationalism and the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, I wanted to see how multinational treaties still function.”

He also said that the experience fueled his desire for a career in law.

According to Barry, most of the funding for the IGL’s programs, research and internships comes from fundraising and aid from its board. However, the IGL also received a generous contribution from the Carnegie Corporation of New York last year.

“They rarely support undergraduate work, so obtaining this help from them was a major success,” she said.

By funding research and internship opportunities like those of Sattar and Bhargava, and through its extensive programming, Barry noted that the IGL is continually furthering Teichman’s original goal for the program.

“It’s still all about challenging students’ perspectives,” Barry said.