On September 10, the School of Diplomacy hosted its annual Dean's Welcome event in celebration of the new school year. Held on campus, the lunch event was a great opportunity for faculty members and students to socialize. The excitement was palpable during one of the first in-person events hosted by the Diplomacy School since the COVID-19 pandemic caused the University's in-person closure in March 2020.
Dean Courtney Smith, head of the School, delivered the opening address to faculty and students, stating that "last year was tough, but it was a very successful year for the School of Diplomacy." He emphasized how students successfully advanced their interests within the School during the pandemic, with all of the School's student organizations functioning during the 2020-2021 school year. He also congratulated the creation of the Black Diplomacy Student Organization and its recognition as the Best New Student Organization from Seton Hall's Student Government Organization.
He further acknowledged the success of the Diplomacy School's faculty both inside and outside of the classroom. Dean Smith praised the faculty members' extensive article publications and their policy-driven focus in research, especially about the recent developments in Afghanistan and the impact of COVID-19 throughout the world in the past year.
Dean Smith also announced the initiative of the School's students and faculty wanting to do more following the murder of George Floyd. The School of Diplomacy established committees dedicated to diversity, inclusion, and justice, with three new courses dedicated to race, gender, and religion in the field of international relations. Despite the "forces pulling us apart" in society, the country, and in the international community, Dean Smith closed his address by emphasizing the strength and success of the School of Diplomacy coming together as something "truly remarkable."
Following the address, various representatives from the School's student organizations had the opportunity to introduce themselves and encourage interested students in taking part of their work on campus. Faculty also introduced themselves and their specializations, eager to begin working alongside the new and returning students.
Freshman student Kaila Engle expressed how she was originally nervous about joining the School of Diplomacy, but the Dean's Welcome opened her eyes to the various organizations and opportunities available. "I'm so interested in learning the different aspects [of the School of Diplomacy], and I'm really excited to start the school year here."
Associate Dean of School of Diplomacy Elizabeth Halpin expressed her excitement in hosting the Dean's Welcome after this past year with COVID-19 restrictions. "Just being able to gather with this many people in person is such a relief." She greatly appreciates the interactions within such social events like the Dean's Welcome, finding them necessary to build the skills and connections with the school's community.
Dr. Joseph Huddleston had similar enthusiasm for the return of in-person classes and events at the School of Diplomacy. "Even with masks on, everyone is very excited to be in person, to have face to face interactions with each other as peers – that's visible to me, as an instructor." While there is some uncertainty in the future, Dr. Huddleston stated that there is a great chance for normal operation in the School of Diplomacy going forward. Dr. Huddleston is an assistant professor at the Diplomacy School, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses as well as being the founder of the DiploLab, the school's undergraduate research lab.
The Dean's Welcome event was an excellent opportunity for the School of Diplomacy's community to reconnect and to foster new connections with new and returning members. The eagerness of the faculty and the students demonstrates great promise for success in the new school year.