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A Gift for Strategic Alliances

The New Aronson Center for International Studies Will Strengthen Johns Hopkins’ Capacity for Solving World Problems, Training Future Leaders
Posted June 2, 2015
Jeff and Shari Aronson Jeff and Shari Aronson

From Jeff and Shari Aronson's perspective as volunteer leaders at Johns Hopkins University, bringing the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences together in closer collaboration would enhance both schools' capacities to develop new solutions for intractable world problems and train new generations of global experts. At the same time, closer collaboration would advance Hopkins' One University initiative, which the Aronsons hold dear.

All that was missing was a structure to encourage that collaboration. And so they established the $10 million Aronson Center for International Studies.

"Our goal is to build a stronger bridge between two great Hopkins schools," says Jeff Aronson, A&S ’80, Parent ’13 and ’15, and chair of the university's Board of Trustees. "At the faculty level, the Aronson Center will bring together a greater variety of experts to collaborate on thorny problems in international studies and make the world a more just and peaceful place. At the student level, the center will provide even greater opportunities for young people to learn from and work with the very best thinkers — and doers — in the field."

Adds Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels, "Jeff and Shari's visionary gift reflects their unwavering dedication to Johns Hopkins, their perceptive evaluation of a key area for our growth, and their support for One University, our initiative for creating greater connections among our campuses. Through SAIS and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins already maintains an extensive presence around the world; the Aronson Center will bring new resources and attention to our work in international studies and increase the global impact of our faculty and students."

A New Basis for Collaboration

The highly ranked Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences in Baltimore offers a respected and popular undergraduate international studies program that draws on diverse strengths in political science, history, economics, anthropology, sociology, and languages to produce leaders for business, academia, diplomacy, finance, and the foreign service.

SAIS, with its locations in Washington, D.C., Bologna, Italy, and Nanjing, China, is a world-renowned graduate school that produces leaders like Nobel laureate and landmine-banning activist Jody Williams, former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, and CNN "Situation Room" host and journalist Wolf Blitzer.

At present, the primary connection between the two is that Krieger international studies majors have the option to pursue a five-year BA/MA degree through SAIS. The Aronson gift will bring the schools closer together, providing three components that will greatly increase collaboration across the two schools:

The Aronson Distinguished Professorship will support a senior academic leader and highly regarded scholar who will have a dual appointment in the Krieger School and SAIS, guide cross-disciplinary efforts and oversee appropriate projects at both, and pursue an academic focus on topics related to the Middle East. 

The Aronson Professorship will support an expert in international relations and comparative politics, international economics and social development, or conflict resolution, have a dual appointment in the two schools, and partner with the distinguished professor to develop new and innovative approaches to the theory and practice of international relations. Both new Aronson Center professors will teach one undergraduate course per semester.

The Aronson Center Endowed Fund will support new undergraduate intersession and summer experiential learning trips, enhance undergraduate experiences in Bologna, Nanjing, or other destinations, and provide funds for symposia, for Krieger School undergraduate students to study at SAIS, and for shared scholarly projects and other endeavors of principal benefit to undergraduates.

The Aronsons' insights on more closely linking the two divisions come from decades of volunteering in service to the university and contributing in support of professorships, scholarships, internships, and capital enhancements, and from enjoying the academic successes of their two daughters, Marni, A&S ’13, and Nicole, A&S ’15.

In addition to serving as chair of the university's Board of Trustees, Jeff Aronson is a Johns Hopkins Medicine trustee and a member of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board. Shari Aronson is a member of the Advisory Board of the Washington-Baltimore Program in Social Policy at the Krieger School.

Benefits for Both Schools

"With the Aronsons' generous support, SAIS will benefit from two new faculty appointments, new opportunities to interact as partners with Krieger School colleagues, and improved capacity for evidence-based research," says SAIS Dean Vali Nasr. "The Aronson Center will add greatly to the reputation and academic excellence of SAIS and Krieger and firmly establish Johns Hopkins as the destination institution for the study of international relations at all levels."

"Beyond the immediate advantages of two professorships and an endowment," notes James B. Knapp Dean of the Krieger School Beverly Wendland, "the Aronsons' insightful gift will allow the Krieger School and SAIS to leverage a Bloomberg Distinguished Professorship, thereby strengthening the partnership between the two divisions even further.  The Aronsons' gift is a remarkable one in that it opens the door to so many possibilities."