Don't Worry, Campus Policy Wonks. Funders Haven't Forgotten You

Amid an endless stream of big campus gifts for medical and scientific research, or for business schools and engineering centers, it can be tempting to imagine that support for social sciences is withering on the vine, to say nothing of the humanities.

But that's not exactly right, and we've lately reported on funders who've been seeking a broad-based approach to higher education. 


One area that funders definitely haven't forgotten is public policy. In the past six months, we've written about the Hewlett Foundation's big give to support cyber-security research at top universities, MacArthur's support for nuclear security work at Stanford, and some other notable foundation policy grants. 

As well, we've reported on how individual donors often get pretty excited about policy work. A case in point: Georgetown University pulled in a $100 million gift for its public policy school in 2013, and another $10 million to the same school last year. 


Donors aren't ignoring International affairs, either. While some donors are doubling down on, say, STEM education so that Americans don't get left behind by more math- and science-savvy competitors abroad, others are recognizing that competing in a globalized world starts with understanding how to navigate a changing landscape.

One donor who thinks this way is former U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Steven J. Green, who, along with his wife Dorothea and daughter Kimberly, recently gave $20 million to Florida International University's international and public affairs program to support academic, research and public affairs initiatives focused on "transnational studies, international institutions and security policy in the Americas." The gift will also fund a new building. 

As Green says, "Unless people have a knowledge of other cultures and other political systems, we're never going to have a peaceful world... to make a political difference, to make a social difference, you have to integrate many factors of lifestyle — health, safety, governance and laws."

These are certainly good thoughts, and indeed, some of the nation's top international and public affairs schools were established with similar aims. Columbia's SIPA, for instance, was founded in 1946 after World War II, and a few years before the Marshall Plan. Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School, meanwhile, was founded in 1930.

Of course, outside of the Ivy Leagues, there are many other schools that have entered the international and public affairs game over the years, which brings us back to Florida International University and this $20 million gift by the Greens to FIU's School of International and Public Affairs.

The gift will rename the school in Green's honor. FIU also notes that the gift could be a boon for the school’s pursuit of membership in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). With only 34 APSIA-member schools in the world, including SIPA and Woodrow Wilson, as well as the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po, the Greens' gift could make a big difference on this front. 

The Greens have been involved with FIU for nearly 25 years, and though Green himself is not an alum, he received an honorary law degree from FIU in 2009. Some FIU outfits the family has supported over the years include the Steven and Dorothea Green Library and the Frost Art Museum, as well as Green Family Foundation's NeighborhoodHELP program at FIU's Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, where students work with medically under-served families throughout Miami-Dade County. Additionally, Dorothea is a former member of FIU’s Foundation board, and is the founder of FIU’s Steven and Dorothea Green Critics’ Lecture Series.

I should also briefly address the Green Family Foundation, which was established in 1991, and supports programs in education, youth arts, community empowerment, and global health and development. True to Green's diplomatic past (though he was also a former chief executive of Samsonite), the foundation is infused with an international perspective. Recent grants have gone to the Clinton Global Initiative, Americans for Immigrant Justice, the Peter London Global Dance Company, and a very unique scholarly association at UC Santa Barbara called KOSANBA, which studies Haitian voodoo. 

Related - Can Harvard's JFK School Help Solve Africa's Biggest Problem? One Big Donor Hopes So