M a x w e l l T o d a y a n d T o m o r r o w
Economist John L. Palmer became the seventh dean of Maxwell in March 1988, arriving in Syracuse after working for the federal government and think tanks in Washington, D.C. Palmer was a senior fellow with The Brookings Institution from 1975 to 1979, and with The Urban Institute from 1981 to 1988. He served as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation for the Department of Health and Human Services from 1979 to 1981. "It's interesting to me that I'm only the seventh dean of Maxwell," he says. "It was more common 70 years ago for people to stay in these positions for long periods of time. It's a tribute to the quality of the schoolI know I'm honored to be dean and I've found it to be a rewarding job. I imagine my predecessors felt the same way and that's why there wasn't a rapid turnover here. It's something worth dedicating my time and energy to, because of the quality of the institution and the people I've had the privilege of working with."
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During his tenure, Palmer has overseen the school's continued growth. "The wisdom of the founding mission of this school probably seems even more appropriate and prescient today than it did 25 or 50 years ago," Palmer says. "It positions us well to deal with the contemporary and emerging realities of society and higher education."
Construction of Eggers Hall was completed in 1993. The new social sciences complex was built around a renovated Maxwell Hall and featured the high-tech International Exploratorium (now the Global Collaboratory), which allows students to simulate geopolitical events and interact with scholars and students around the world. During the complex's dedication on January 10, 1994, Palmer noted that all of Maxwell's professional and academic programs were housed under one roof for the first time in nearly 50 years.
In the nineties, Maxwell continued the globalization begun under Dean Harlan Cleveland, who from 1956 to 1961 established international programs in Italy and Kenya and a master's program of study abroad in foreign consulates. In April 1993, Maxwell signed an educational agreement with the China National School of Administration in Beijing to help develop a new curriculum in public affairs and public administration. In 1995, the school began to revamp and expand its undergraduate and graduate programs in international relations.
Palmer says Maxwell continues to increase its international orientation in both the student body and curriculum. "The undergraduate degree in economics relates more to international economics now," he says. "If you're a history student, you'll have much more expertise in non-western cultures compared to a decade ago. This holds true across the departments." The school now is adding faculty members whose interests and expertise lie within international concerns, he says.
More than half of Maxwell's present faculty have been hired during the last decade, Palmer says. "We're at a point in history where the world around us is changing rapidly. It's putting more demands on institutions of higher education to adapt and change to meet new challenges. That's easier to do when you have some ability to bring in new people and combine them with a wonderful group of senior faculty members."
Political science professor Rogan T. Kersh, who joined the faculty in 1996, says several things attracted him to Maxwell. "One was the reputation of the school, which is certainly sterling. Another was the genuine interdisciplinary nature of the school. A lot of places talk about that, but it really is lived at Maxwell. My office sits between those of an economist and a historian. It's a great opportunity to exchange ideas with people in different disciplines. That makes a big difference at all stages, but certainly to people starting their careers, feeling their way through different fields, paradigms, and ideas."
Palmer says the Maxwell School has seen many new initiatives in recent years, emphasizing quality, new program activities, and further strengthening the education the school provides, while also advancing along more traditional academic and scholarly lines. "My hope for 25 years from now is that we can look back and say the school is continuing to improve on those critical dimensions," he says. "I hope our various programs and departments are even stronger and help meet the challenges of the next century by preparing students well for them, and that we still are in the forefront of schools in public and international affairs. There are certain traditions here at Maxwellthe blending of the theoretical, practical, and professional, the strong interdisciplinary orientationthat will stand it in good stead in the future."
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