Dean Eric Schwartz's Letter to the Humphrey School Community
March 2, 2017—Dean Eric Schwartz announced today that he will step down from his position as dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the end of this academic year to become the president of Refugees International, an international advocacy organization that focuses on refugee issues. Following is the full text of his letter to faculty, staff, and students.
March 2, 2017
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I will be resigning from my position as dean of the Humphrey School in June to assume the presidency of Refugees International, the Washington, DC, organization that advocates on behalf of refugee protection and international humanitarian values.
This has been one of the most difficult professional decisions I've ever had to make. I love being at the Humphrey School and the University of Minnesota, institutions that reflect values I hold dear: educational access and excellence, public service, civility in public discourse, and a commitment to responsible and accountable governance. Moreover, I have been warmly supported within the Humphrey School and within our broader community. The students, the faculty and the staff, as well as so many friends in the broader community, have made this a truly remarkable experience for Cathy and for me.
But I was approached some weeks ago by the board leadership of Refugees International, and asked whether I'd be prepared to take on the presidency of the organization. Despite my deep regret at the prospect of leaving the deanship of the Humphrey School, I quickly concluded this was a challenge I had to take on.
Around the world and in the United States, in particular, we are confronting existential challenges to hard-won principles of humanitarianism—principles that I’ve spent most of my professional life seeking to strengthen and promote. Many millions are already at risk, and recent developments have only compounded the life-threatening obstacles confronted by the most vulnerable people in the world.
So I felt I needed to seize this opportunity to play a more direct role in the policy debates and advocacy efforts that are now underway in Washington, in communities around the country, and in countries around the world. And I do so with a sense of excitement, determination, and commitment.
I also do so knowing that I join an organization, Refugees International, with a rich history of advocacy for refugee protection, based on the principle that American values and interests are best served when the most vulnerable of the world’s citizens are at the center of national security policy-making.
Founded in 1979 as a movement of citizens to protect Indochinese refugees, Refugees International has played a key role in sustaining and strengthening protection for refugees for some 40 years. And I look forward to building on the critically important work of my friend Michel Gabaudan, the outgoing president of Refugees International who has done so much to sustain and strengthen the organization over the past many years.
Even after this transition, I will maintain a strong relationship with the Humphrey School and this remarkable University community. For example, I will be undertaking periodic teaching and mentoring projects for our students in both Washington, DC, and in the Twin Cities, related to experiences in international humanitarianism, foreign policy and advocacy. And I hope and expect that my presence in Washington, DC, will be an asset to our Humphrey and University community.
I depart the deanship secure in the knowledge that the School is genuinely thriving. Increases in enrollment; new degree, certificate and related programs that benefit our students; expanded engagement with external stakeholders in our community and around the world; sustained excellence in scholarship; a deep and enduring commitment to service; and greater efforts at diversity and inclusion have all played a role in strengthening this important institution significantly.
Of course, we were all very pleased last year when US News reported that the Humphrey School was judged by its peers to be the 8th ranked school of public affairs in the country. But as far as I’m concerned, there is simply no better place in the country to prepare for a career in public life.
Over the next few months, I will work closely with the faculty and with Provost Karen Hanson to ensure a smooth transition to a new dean. And you will hear more about that issue in the weeks to come.
Finally, let me express my deepest appreciation to the faculty, staff, and students of the Humphrey School for their collegiality and deep commitment to our mission. I also am very grateful to a broad array of external supporters, including our Humphrey School Dean’s Advisory Council. And a special word of sincere thanks to two stalwart supporters of our School and its mission: President Eric Kaler and Provost Karen Hanson.
Eric P. Schwartz
Dean, Humphrey School of Public Affairs