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October 2020 Newsletter

Greetings from Williamsburg, where fall is in the air and we are in the home stretch of a condensed semester.

I enjoyed connecting with many of you virtually during Homecoming (although I can't wait until we can welcome you to a proper barbecue in the front yard of our Scotland St. house!); thanks to the hundreds of you who joined our students Matt Crittenden '21 and Nitya Labh '22 in conversation with Chancellor Robert Gates last week. If you missed the event with the Chancellor, it will be available here until Saturday. If you're interested in more ways to engage with foreign affairs, I encourage you to join the Reves Center and the W&M Alumni Association for "An Evening at the Embassy," tonight at 6pm, where three former Ambassadors discuss "the future of U.S. diplomacy." 

The Center for African Development's speaker series this semester provided another way for students, alumni, and colleagues around the world to gather virtually. If you missed their panel on "Managing COVID-19 in West Africa," you can watch public health experts from Ghana and Nigeria in discussion with CAD Co-Director Iyabo Obasanjo here.

In this issue of our newsletter, you’ll find news of a new AidData partnership with the Ford Foundation, media coverage of our research in the Washington Post and Foreign Policy, and stories about students continuing their research in the face of COVID-19.

I'm also pleased to share GRI's new strategic plan, in which we detail our approach and outline initiatives that will have the greatest impact. In particular, I want to call your attention to a Director's Initiative related to diversity, equity, and inclusion and our specific action plan posted online. In June, I promised to listen and to develop concrete actions for GRI; this action plan is our initial effort. We will continue to report back to hold ourselves accountable for making progress towards a creative research environment where diverse backgrounds, experiences, and thoughts are welcomed and supported to develop insights to tackle global problems.



Chancellor Gates '65 :.H.D. '98 in Conversation with GRI Students

[NOTE: VIDEO IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE] A recording of our conversation with Chancellor Robert M. Gates '65 L.H.D. '98 is available until 10/31. Watch now to hear the former Secretary of Defense answer questions about the "entire arsenal of U.S. power," allies and adversaries, areas for bipartisan progress, and more.


TRIP in Foreign Policy

In Foreign Policy, the TRIP Project breaks down results from their latest expert survey, finding that experts are generally pessimistic about global trends over the next five years, predicting dramatic increases in civil wars, human rights abuses, and collapsing state institutions.


Book Talk with Co-Authors of Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide in International Relations

Tune in to an October book talk on Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide in International Relations, with book co-authors Mike Tierney and Ryan Powers ‘08. The book is a first-of-its-kind across the academic-policy divide; scholars and practitioners use 15 years of TRIP data.


Experts Weigh in with Foreign Policy Predictions

A TRIP Project Snap Poll reveals that a staggering 92% of experts believe foreign governments will be more likely to cooperate with the United States if Biden wins the election than if Trump wins; these experts also predict radically different foreign policy agendas.


AidData Receives New Award from the Ford Foundation

AidData has received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to close the evidence gap on Chinese development finance. A research team led by Samantha Custer will examine how China’s Belt and Road Initiative has shaped the volume, direction, and terms of its overseas development finance portfolio.


IJL Director's Research on Truth Commissions Featured in the Washington Post

In the Washington Post, International Justice Lab Director Kelebogile Zvobgo and Claire Crawford discuss the strengths and weaknesses of truth commissions in light of recent proposals for U.S. truth commissions to address racial injustice.


AidData Working Paper Examines the Effects of Chinese Infrastructure

A new version of one of AidData's most-read working papers hones in on the effects of Chinese-funded transportation and infrastructure projects in particular, finding that they reduce spatial inequality within regions of developing countries, as economic activity moves from city centers to peripheries.


Blogs from the Blockchain Lab

Gabrielle Hibbert '17 and Olivia Staub '20 reflect on their experiences working for the Blockchain Lab, where they employed "sleuthing" to create a novel dataset on the blockchain environment in Latin America and examined the decentralization movement.


CAD Research on Spatial Inequality in Africa is Featured on a VOX-EU Podcast

The Center for African Development is producing path-breaking research on the origins and consequences of spatial inequality in Africa. Listen to CAD Co-Director Phil Roessler's collaborator Valeria Rueda explain their latest findings that account for contemporary patterns of ethnic politics and social exclusion on a VOX EU podcast.


Four W&M Student Teams Participate in State Department Diplomacy Lab Program

Through the State Department's Diplomacy Lab program and with the support of GRI and the Reves Center for International Studies, four W&M student teams worked with faculty and staff mentors to provide solutions to foreign policy challenges in areas ranging from blockchain for human rights to mitigation of wildlife conflict.


Emma Schmidt '21 Gains a New Lens for Colonialism

GRI Summer Fellow Emma Schmidt '21 worked with Center for African Development Co-Director Phil Roessler to understand how cash crop farming impacted different ethnic groups. In a blog post, she describes how this work helps to understand the long-term effects of colonialism and how she's bringing her new knowledge into the classroom this year.


ABC Project Students Publish New Working Paper

American Bosnian Collaboration Project students completed a working paper evaluating their use of literature-based activities to promote intercultural communicative competence among Bosnian students. The W&M team, led by Paula Pickering, worked with their University of Sarajevo counterparts and found that children’s literature is an effective teaching tool.


Bilen Zerie '23 Reflects on Summer Research with IJL

GRI Summer Fellow Bilen Zerie '23 worked with International Justice Lab Director Kelebogile Zvobgo to develop a novel dataset of NGO activism related to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Despite not being able to conduct fieldwork as a team, their virtual efforts provided critical inputs to Kelebogile Zvobgo’s forthcoming book.