Eyes on the World

As the Institute for Global Leadership celebrates its 30th anniversary, alumni from the first year reflect on their careers and how the program shaped them
1986 panel discussion at Tufts
The Tufts symposium on terrorism in fall 1985, with, from left, Elizabeth Shapiro; Jack Rosenthal, New York Times deputy editorial page editor; Lucy Spiegel, CBS News Miami bureau chief; and Tim Russert, then a reporter in the NBC News Washington bureau.
May 3, 2016

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After a TWA flight from Athens to Rome was hijacked by Shiite Hezbollah terrorists in the summer of 1985, Tufts political science lecturer Sherman Teichman organized a symposium on campus that fall to examine international terrorism. That forum launched what is now the Institute for Global Leadership, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year with a series of lectures on May 7.

The symposium soon developed into Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC), a yearlong multidisciplinary course that tackles a different global political theme every year. The flagship program of the Institute of Global Leadership (IGL), it has a mission to prepare students to understand and engage with some of the difficult issues of our times. Teichman, who is stepping down as IGL director next month, has guided the program that began with a single event three decades ago into one that involves nearly 500 undergraduates as well as graduate students each year.

EPIIC students have gone on to work in their communities and on national and international stages as policymakers, journalists, activists and academics. Many of them will return for the anniversary celebration. To mark the occasion, Tufts Now spent a few minutes with five alumni of the very first EPIIC symposium.

AMIR SOLTANI, A90, F90

Major: History, Master’s in Law and Diplomacy
Residence: West Oakland, California
Occupation: Human rights activist, filmmaker

PUBLISHED IN 16 LANGUAGES: His New York Times bestselling graphic novel Zahra’s Paradise, about a mother’s search to find her son, a student who has vanished in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 presidential elections.

EARLY START TO ACTIVISM: “Sherman Teichman taught us that you can have an impact in the world right away. It was about exploring your instincts and emotions and connecting and creating knowledge, as much as it was about just passively accepting knowledge. Activism was a way to combine knowledge with love, and it was built into the structure of the seminar.”

PAST VENTURES: Director of operations at Omid for Iran, a nonprofit that promotes civil and human rights in Iran; U.S. coordinator for Afghans for Civil Society; and founder of the Blue Initiative, a human rights organization that protects Iranian students and scholars.

NEXT SEEN ON PBS: Dogtown Redemption, his 2015 documentary about poverty in America. Soltani spent seven years following three recyclers in West Oakland. “It’s a look at the underclass and the ways in which they find jobs, the ways in which they create jobs in order to survive.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY: The documentary focuses on a group of recyclers who rely on each other for survival. Similarly, for Soltani—who grew up in Iran—the EPIIC symposium brought together a number of students who had experienced political violence and built a sense of community.

 

ELIZABETH OGLESBY, J86

Major: Spanish and History
Home: Tucson, Arizona
Occupation: Associate professor of geography and Latin American studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson

A PUSH FORWARD: “The [EPIIC] program was especially intense for me because when the seminar started, I was already taking five classes. I couldn’t believe how much reading there was. It was possibly more reading than in my other classes combined. The intensity of the EPIIC seminar gave me the intellectual confidence to pursue graduate studies.”

EXPERT WITNESS: Oglesby, who has been involved with ethnographic fieldwork in Guatemala since the 1980s, testified in the 2013 trial of former Guatemalan leader General Efráin Ríos Montt, who was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity for presiding over the deaths of 1,700 Maya from 1982 to 1983.

HONORS: Received the 2014 Gilbert White Public Service Honors from the Association of American Geographers in recognition of her contributions to human rights research and practice.

RETURN TO TUFTS: Spoke at a 2002 alumni forum about her research on counterinsurgency and forced displacement in Guatemala in the late 1980s.

 

MOUIN RABBANI, A86

Major: International Relations and History
Residence: Amman, Jordan
Occupation: Political analysis and conflict resolution

HIGH-PROFILE JOB HE LEFT BEHIND: Head of political affairs for the Office of the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria. Disappointed by U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s “cronyism and incompetence,” Rabbani stepped down from his position after a few months and has since become one of the most vocal critics of his former boss.

WHAT HE’S DOING NOW: Independent consulting. He is a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies; an associate fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations; a researcher at the Arab Studies Institute; a contributor to Jadaliyya.com; a policy advisor to Al-Shabaka, a Palestinian policy network; and a contributing editor for the Middle East Report.

EPIIC TRAINING IN ACTION: Teaching the seminar course on Arab diplomacy for the Council on International Educational Exchange, hosting undergrads from American universities doing a semester or year abroad in Jordan. “I make it a point to ensure every student expresses an opinion at least twice in every session.”

FOND MEMORY: Delivering the closing remarks at the first symposium in 1986.

 

AMY RESNICK, J88
Major: International relations
Residence: New York City
Occupation: Editor of Pensions & Investments

HOW SHE ENDED UP IN FINANCE: “I always thought I would be a politics or urban affairs reporter. I got offered a job at a place called The Bond Buyer, which is about municipal finance, and I came to realize it was very much political in nature.”

STAGING A SYMPOSIUM IS LIKE ANY OTHER PERFORMANCE: Resnick also participated in musical theater, and she says she liked the idea of organizing a large-scale symposium like EPIIC, because “putting on an event felt familiar. We got people at the highest levels of government and academia to speak at an event that was completely organized by the students—it made you feel like anything was possible.”

QUOTE ME: “As a journalist, the thing that’s always been really important to me is the idea of hearing from the people directly involved. That was definitely what EPIIC was about. It wasn’t just people studying a topic; it was about hearing from the people closest to the ground.”

EPIIC’S LEGACY: “Rather than just reading history books, we were exposed to thinking about big things, and how one kind of action in the world affects so many others.”

 

LORETTA HARMS, J86

Major: History
Residence: New York City
Occupation: Artist and filmmaker

THE LOOK OF IT: After Tufts, Harms attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and worked as a visual artist, showing her work in Boston and internationally. She recently returned to visual art, curating installation photography shows about ’60s and ’70s rock and roll at Art Basel and the Sundance Film Festival.

THE GREATEST UNTOLD STORY IN ROCK: Harms' latest project, Lambert and Stamp, is a feature documentary about the creative relationship between the original managers of the band The Who.

CONNECTIVE THREAD BETWEEN PROJECTS: Looking at communities that are well known, but at stories that have never been told.

LOOKING OUTSIDE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE: “Producing documentaries has been a process of deep integration and understanding of a community, earning their trust and trying to bring out a story that reflects their experience,” she says.

FULL CIRCLE: Harms was part of the EPIIC symposium’s media group, spending much of her time combing through PBS archives to prepare multimedia presentations. As a documentary filmmaker, she is once again involved in massive archival research projects.

Divya Amladi can be reached at divya.amladi@tufts.edu.

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