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IUPUI will help U.S. State Department develop policy solutions through Diplomacy Lab

July 14, 2015

The U.S. Department of State is turning to IUPUI and other university campuses to help it address a growing diplomatic to-do list.

The effort is part of the State Department’s Diplomacy Lab, a program in which faculty and students develop ideas and solutions to policy issues identified by the federal agency.

Gabriel Filippelli

Gabriel Filippelli

Launched by Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013, Diplomacy Lab is seeking additional university partners.  IUPUI’s application was recently approved.

“IUPUI’s participation in the Diplomacy Lab contributes to several strategic priorities, including goals for student success, innovation and discovery, and community engagement,” said Nasser Paydar, executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer. “Students working in teams to address complex, real-world challenges under the guidance of faculty experts will experience deeper learning as they help solve world problems as well as promote much needed academic diplomacy".”

A senior State Department advisor said there was a simple reason the department turned to universities for help: “The State Department’s diplomatic to-do list is getting bigger and bigger, but our team is not," said Tomicah Tillemann, who served from 2010 to 2014 as the senior advisor to the secretary for civil society and emerging democracies.

In the fall semester, one or more teams of IUPUI graduate students and students in their final year of undergraduate degrees will focus on State Department-assigned policy issues in a semester-long class led by faculty, said Gabriel Filippelli, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at IUPUI.

Filippelli led IUPUI’s efforts to apply for the Diplomacy Lab partnership. He had served for a year in a science advisory position at the State Department after he was named a JeffersoScience Fellow in 2013.

Filippelli said the State Department has identified 44 policy issues that reflect the wide array of challenges it faces, including climate change, human rights, counterterrorism, legal and judicial reform and women’s issues.

Working with other faculty, Filippelli said IUPUI would identify specific issues it wants to study. The State Department will review IUPUI’s request, along with those from other universities, and then assign the policy research work, matching the issues with the strengths and interests of the universities participating in Diplomacy Lab.

Over the course of a semester, faculty will guide students in developing a final product that accomplishes the goals outlined by the State Department. Students will have opportunities throughout the semester to discuss their research with State Department officials.

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