Edward Rhodes Named Dean of the School of Public Policy

Posted: April 26, 2010 at 1:05 am, Last Updated: April 23, 2010 at 10:47 am

By Jocelyn Rappaport

Edward Rhodes. Photo courtesy of Edward Rhodes

Edward Rhodes has been named the new dean of the School of Public Policy (SPP), Provost Peter Stearns announced. Rhodes will become the dean of the school on July 1, when the founding dean, Kingsley Haynes, steps down.

Rhodes has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, and studied American national security policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he earned a master’s degree and a PhD.

His professional career has been at the intersection of research and public policy. After brief stints teaching at Cornell, Stanford and Harvard Universities, he joined the faculty at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He eventually became dean of social and behavioral sciences for the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers.

While on the Rutgers faculty, he had visiting faculty appointments at Princeton University and returned to Harvard to do research in international affairs and American history.

He was also an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fulbright Fellow overseas, and worked in the Pentagon on the chief of naval operations’ strategy and concepts staff. In addition, Rhodes has served on the State Department advisory committee overseeing the preparation of the official record of American foreign policy.

“It was a pleasure to meet with Ed Rhodes during the interview process and then work with him as we reached agreement,” says Stearns. “His sense of SPP’s many strengths and its potential for further development is well developed and articulate, and I’m enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with him and the faculty as we move forward.”

Prior to his arrival at Mason, Rhodes answered questions about his career and expectations as the incoming dean.

You will be stepping into a position only held by one other person. Many people might find this, along with the School of Public Policy’s broad focus and dynamic environment, daunting.  What about it attracts you?

The clarity of Kingsley Haynes’s strategic vision and the extraordinary skill with which he has constructed the school make his successor’s job easy, not difficult.  In part, it is precisely the superb condition in which Dean Haynes leaves the program that makes this such a special opportunity. But it is also the fact that the School of Public Policy possesses not simply a broad, strong and dynamic range of research activities and master’s program, but is at the cutting edge in a number of critically important public policy fields, that makes this an opportunity that is impossible to resist.

Would you share with us some aspects of your field of research and recent activity?

My current research explores the relationship between core American values, the political vision of the founding fathers and American foreign policy. The founders’ nuanced understanding of human nature, of the nature of political life and of the challenges facing a republic as it interacts with the larger world offers critical insights even now, more than 200 years later.

What have been major influences on your life and career?

Richard Nixon famously began his memoirs with the insight that he was “born in the house my father built.” I was very much born into the world of ideas that my parents created — a world where as children we listened to discussions of whether Hobbes or Rousseau better described humanity in its natural state, whether Keynes or Hayek better grasped the significance of state intervention in the economy and whether Jefferson or Hamilton better understood the challenges facing a democratic, republican people.

At every stage of my life, I’ve been blessed with extraordinary mentors and teachers. But it was my father and mother who first showed me the joy of listening carefully and respectfully, of reading critically, of reasoning, of wrestling with moral tradeoffs and of developing and expressing my ideas. As an attorney, my father also taught me, and showed me, the power and beauty of the law, of liberal democracy and of the American Constitution.

What are you most looking forward to in this phase of your career?

I am a firm believer that education, research and knowledge need to be placed at the nation’s and the world’s service. To take the helm of an institution that is so clearly dedicated to this purpose, and to work with its faculty, staff and students in moving it forward on this mission, is a wonderful pleasure.

Would you briefly describe the major opportunities you see at this point for the School of Public Policy?

Dean Haynes has positioned the school to seize opportunities in two very different dimensions. In the next five to 10 years, America and the larger global community will face a number of new policy challenges, reflecting the interconnected impact of technology, globalization and political alienation. The school is at the lead, and possesses the flexibility and dynamism that will permit it to stay at the lead, in addressing these challenges and in creating the intellectual and human capital that will be needed in the critical years ahead.

Equally exciting, given the school’s growing family of alumni and friends, the school is positioned to develop programs to meet its alumni’s continuing intellectual and professional needs, in every stage of career development and personal growth. With its completion this fall, the new Founders Hall [at the Arlington Campus] will serve as the intellectual home for this extended, multigenerational school family.

Is there anything we may not know about you that you would like to share with us?

My 102-year-old grandmother expresses satisfaction that I’ve accepted this appointment, but has reminded me that she still expects to see my next book in a timely fashion. She points to Provost Stearns as evidence that administrative duties are no excuse for failing to produce research.

This article originally appeared in a slightly different form in SPP Currents.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu