Message from the Director

Image of Michele LamontThe fall has been an exciting time at the Weatherhead Center. We welcomed our first cohort of Weatherhead Scholars, a wonderfully dynamic group of postdoctoral scholars, visiting faculty, and practitioners who, on a regular basis, exchange ideas on projects, participate in our various research clusters and initiatives, publish in Epicenter, and work side-by-side at their desks at 61 Kirkland. Many of our faculty and graduate students benefit from their presence and engage with them in various research contexts, including in our Weatherhead Forum, our new biweekly lunchtime series. In this setting, we all have learned about the work conducted by various Center research groups. This forum has been a great success, with upward of fifty people attending each session.  

The walls of the WCFIA are also bustling with activities thanks to greater interaction between our various communities. This is especially the case with our new research clusters, which provide avenues of shared interest for faculty, graduate students, and visitors. The new Weatherhead Research Cluster on Comparative Inequality and Inclusion began by regularly bringing together visiting scholars from the SCANCOR-Weatherhead Partnership, the Canada Program, the Weatherhead Scholars Program, former GSAs and others, and will ramp up its activities in the spring by reaching out to faculty. The Weatherhead Research Cluster on Global Populism organized several successful events, bringing together experts whose research helps us make sense of the current political climate in the United States, Europe, and beyond. This cluster also provides opportunities for busy Harvard professors to connect, which is often a real challenge on our campus. The Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, whose objective was field building, has transmuted into the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Global Transformations, with a research focus on specific questions aiming at understanding great transformations. A fourth research cluster on diplomacy and international security, led by Iain Johnston, Josh Kertzer, and Stephen Rosen, all from the Government Department, was approved by the executive committee in November and will start its activities in 2018. 

A general principle made salient from our 2016 external review is a clear desire among our faculty to see the WCFIA play an even more active role in empowering research. This is the leitmotiv of our activities, which is highlighted in our new mission statement

As the walls of the WCFIA are increasingly buzzing with activity, we are encouraging leaders of the dozens of seminars sponsored by our Center to make every effort to meet within the walls of the Knafel building—and in the Bowie-Vernon Room if possible—to reinforce their connection to the WCFIA community. 

As these post-review changes become institutionalized, new projects are taking shape. We are beginning to collaborate with the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics to jointly host visiting scholars next September, thanks to financial support of the Berggruen Institute. We are also re-engineering our annual Talloires conference, which has been held by the WCFIA for the last twenty-nine years. Faculty will now lead the conference, and there will be a different focus every year.  

There is much to look forward to, in large part thanks to the active involvement of the devoted members of our steering and executive committees, and our excellent staff. Stay tuned to learn about future developments!

Michèle Lamont
Center Director

Photo Credit: Martha Stewart