What do a former secretary of state, Central Intelligence Agency director, national security advisor and president of Spain have in common? They are faculty members at Georgetown University, which in recent years has attracted its share of high-profile players from the worlds of politics and policy making.

In recent years, the university has added several celebrities in the political arena to its list of faculty members, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Senate ajority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), former CIA Director George Tenet (SFS ’76), former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith and political strategist Donna Brazile – and that’s not all of them. The university also currently employs two former heads of state – former President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski and former President of Spain Jose Maria Aznar – who are both distinguished scholars in the practice of global leadership at Georgetown. Most distinguished faculty teach in the School of Foreign Service, although students from other schools may enroll in their courses.

These impressive hires are not a new phenomenon – in 1977, the university hired Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under former President Richard Nixon.

While University Provost James O’Donnell declined to comment on specific plans for future faculty appointments, he noted that scores of government officials could soon be out of work.

“[The] end of next year a presidential administration is coming out of office,” he said.

Whether or not the university hires more celebrity professors in the upcoming years, the spate of hires has brought a buzz to the Hilltop – from some professors complaining that the university’s academic focus has become muddled in celebrity, to SFS students frantically signing up for Albright’s or Tenet’s latest seminar.

Do Celebrities Fit in the Classroom?

Some professors have expressed concern that Georgetown is sacrificing academic excellence in order to put celebrity names on its faculty listings.

David Goldfrank, a professor in the history department and a member of the Executive Faculty and Faculty Senate, said he has heard some faculty members “say [the hiring] shouldn’t be done unless [professors] are vetted.”

Goldfrank also said more eyebrows are raised when conservative policy-makers are hired. “But still when you’re thinking of making policy for university it makes sense to have balance,” he added.

Although there have been some controversies over the appointments of Tenet and Feith, the standard of hiring well-known policy-makers is “not only at Georgetown but at every place,” Goldfrank said.

Tenet and Feith drew opposition due to their political views and ties to President Bush’s administration.

Mark Lance, a professor in the philosophy department, voiced concerns in the spring of 2006 when Feith was hired, pushing for stricter controls on the faculty hiring process. “The primary grounds for faculty hires must always be teaching and research excellence in the relevant field,” Lance said in a recent interview.

“Sometimes, there is a reason to include in the faculty someone with a sort of practical experience that doesn’t fit the usual criteria of research and teaching, but those need to be rare and carefully considered cases,” he added. “Above all, that consideration must be carried out by faculty through clear procedures with clear criteria.”

Lance said that in principle, he is not opposed to so-called celebrity hires. “But I think these need to be given special scrutiny and should certainly be rare departures from efforts to hire the best scholars and teachers in their fields,” he said.

Goldfrank said it is necessary to have some government professors with hands-on experience. “That may include some people who favor policies that some might figure are crazy or immoral,” he said.

Albright, secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) and the inaugural Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy at Georgetown, said that hiring top politicians helps demonstrate the tie between the theoretical and practical aspects of education.

“The SFS and College make a good point of using people with government and diplomatic experience, [and the faculty] really show how academic studies and policy-making go together,” she said.

Victor Cha, former director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council and the director of the Asian studies program at Georgetown, said intellectual life on campus has greatly expanded in recent years with the recent hiring of celebrity professors. “The addition of new faculty in [the] SFS and [the government department] since 1995 has been a great benefit both to the students in terms of course offerings and to the faculty in terms of exchanging ideas on cutting edge research done by top scholars in the discipline.”

Drawn to the Hilltop

Many of Georgetown’s prominent professors cited the university’s strong government and foreign service programs, location in the nation’s capital, intellectually dedicated student body and the opportunity to work alongside other distinguished professors as the main reasons they chose to teach at Georgetown.

Cha said he liked the university’s feel when he visited.

“I chose Georgetown because of its location and because I found my campus visit with the [government] department and SFS very welcoming,” he said.

Anthony Lake, national security advisor in the Clinton administration and distinguished professor in practice of diplomacy in the SFS, said SFS Dean Robert Gallucci approached him in 1997 to teach at Georgetown.

“Dean Gallucci and I are old friends. And I am scared of him. So when he asked me to come, I had no choice,” Lake said jokingly.

Albright said one of the reasons Georgetown draws well-known professors is its location in the nation’s capital. Albright has not entirely left behind her policy-making career since beginning her second stint on the Hilltop in 2001. She is on Sen. Hillary Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) advising team for foreign policy for the 2008 presidential election. And Lake is advising Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on foreign policy.

Albright first taught at Georgetown in the 1980s.

O’Donnell said that Georgetown’s proximity to federal government edifices allows people to remain active in policy-making while teaching.

“Maybe we have a better chance of getting people because of where we are,” he said.

O’Donnell said that Georgetown looks for professors who wish to teach and who will be able to share past experiences with their students. “People when they’re leaving government really think that being with faculty and students will give them perspective about what they’ve done,” he said.

O’Donnell added that the university approaches either those whom administrators have been told are interested in coming to teach at Georgetown or those whom the university decided to pursue on its own.

O’Donnell noted that while distinguished professors come to Georgetown mostly to pass on their knowledge and experience, they also get paid.

“We pay them a good salary and expect them to work for their money,” he said.

Aznar and Kwasniewski are not earning full-time salaries, but they are still seen as complementary academic influences to the core faculty who spend most of their careers at and do research at Georgetown, O’Donnell said.

“Professor Aznar is only here a few weeks a year,” O’Donnell said, adding that he serves as a strong connection for Georgetown between Spain and Latin America.

Albright said she loves the atmosphere at Georgetown.

“There’s always something interesting going on, and in talking to my students, they are involved in a host of clubs and activities,” Albright said. “There are good deans and a good president.”

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