Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Diplomat will teach a political seminar

Phyllis Oakley’s weekly commute from her Washington, D.C., home to Evanston next quarter will be nothing compared to her 42 years of globetrotting as a veteran U.S. diplomat.

Oakley, 67, the former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research, will teach the Spring Quarter political science course Current Problems of American Foreign Policy.

Political science majors filled all 20 spots of the seminar during the first two days of pre-registration, leaving 15 students on the waiting list.

“It’s an opportunity for students to study with somebody who has a more practical, a more inside perspective on U.S. foreign policy,” said Yael Wolinsky, associate chairman of the political science department.

The course will cover the past decade’s foreign policy problems, including humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping and nation-building. Students also will study American aid policies in Somalia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Haiti.

Other coursework will examine the rise of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network in Afghanistan. Increased education about international terrorism will help keep Americans informed on foreign policy debates, Oakley said.

“I think it’s going to help the general conduct of American foreign policy,” she said. “People want to understand what’s going on so it doesn’t happen in the future. I think all Americans are wondering what happened – why did they hate us?”

Foreign resentment of American arrogance and wealth might subside if Americans are more sensitive to international issues, Oakley said.

“In the 1990s, we got too fat in our unquestioned position as the sole superstar,” she said. “We simply weren’t aware of some of the current events that were going on in the world.”

Oakley, Weinberg ’56, earned her master’s degree from Tufts University. At age 40, she started working for the State Department as an assistant cultural affairs officer. Her work brought her to Zaire, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Oakley was appointed as the first female deputy spokeswoman of the State Department in 1986 and served in many posts in the department.

“I had always had this idea of working in the foreign service,” Oakley said. “It’s just that for me, geography and foreign countries and history and current events and people were the most interesting things in the world. What I liked best was always moving around and having a new challenge every few years.”

Oakley taught international relations at Mt. Holyoke College after retiring from the State Department in 1999. In 2000 she taught a course at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.

Weinberg junior Joseph Bubman registered for Oakley’s class while studying abroad in Scotland.

“Right when I saw it, I thought, ‘Wow, I have to get into this class,'” Bubman said. “There’s so much to learn about things that are important that maybe we didn’t pay attention to before.”

Wolinsky said she has seen increased political science interest at NU. The department has reached an all-time high of more than 400 majors, she said.

“Student demand is very high for foreign policy courses,” Wolinsky said. “We were very grateful to have (Phyllis Oakley) come here.”

Speech and Weinberg junior Jason Warren said he is looking forward to learning from someone with extensive foreign policy experience.

“Northwestern doesn’t offer that many foreign policy courses, so when they pop up on CAESAR you go for them,” Warren said. “I’m expecting a really, really good seminar. I hope she brings an insight beyond what a normal professor would.”

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Diplomat will teach a political seminar