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Bosworth marks two years balancing diplomacy, deanship

Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 08:02


Meredith Klein / Tufts Daily

Fletcher School Dean Stephen Bosworth has served for two years as of this week as U.S. special envoy to North Korea.

As students at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy sat down for exams in December, their dean had other things on his mind: how to prevent war on the Korean peninsula.

For Stephen Bosworth, the dean of The Fletcher School and the Obama administration's special envoy on North Korea, balancing the demands of a full-time deanship with the mitigation of rising tensions in the North has become the norm.

Since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced his appointment as special envoy two years ago this week, Bosworth has played an instrumental role in U.S. policy toward North Korea, making numerous trips to Washington and northeast Asia to discuss with officials on both sides of the globe the secretive nation's nuclear program and humanitarian record.

All the while, he has managed the affairs of and fundraised for The Fletcher School, fulfilling his academic responsibilities to a degree that he says has not diminished.

Bosworth has instead used his civic service position to enrich the educational experience at the graduate school, holding half-a-dozen off-the-record briefings for members of the Fletcher community and updating colleagues during monthly faculty meetings, he said.

Seth Leighton, a first-year Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate, said that through attending two of the off-the-record talks, he has learned how uninformed U.S. officials really are when it comes to on-goings in North Korea.

"I've become aware of … the extent to which there's a lack of information and how much that constrains the ability to negotiate and look at policy choices," he said.

A number of smaller-scale, informal events like guest lectures have also brought Bosworth's expertise to the classroom, according to both Bosworth and Ian Davis, assistant director for media relations at The Fletcher School.

Bosworth said his return to civil service represented the ideals of the university and The Fletcher School. Prior to coming to Tufts, he served as U.S. ambassador to South Korea for four years and had earlier been ambassador to Tunisia and to the Philippines.

"It's an illustration of the kinds of things that we are educating our students to be able to do," Bosworth said of his current role.

While he conceded that the increased demands on his time over the past two years have added stress to his private life, Bosworth said that his academic work "keeps [him] sane." He estimated that about 20 to 25 percent of his time is spent on his State Department position, and he devotes the rest to Fletcher.

"My life here at Tufts and at Fletcher adds an element of balance, gives me a sense of perspective," he said. "It's been a healthy balance in dealing with the frustrations of the North Korean problem."

Depending on "the tenor" of events in northeast Asia, the dean travels to the region once every two or three months and spends one or two days in Washington every couple of weeks. Next week, he is scheduled to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Constant travel has taken a toll on Bosworth, who travels on Fletcher business in addition to his work on North Korea policy. In the fall, he visited London, Spain, India, Dubai and Brazil for The Fletcher School in addition to two trips to northeast Asia this academic year, according to the State Department's website.

"Steve is a remarkable guy," University President Lawrence Bacow said in an e-mail. "Beyond being a terrific dean and a distinguished public servant, he has amazing energy and stamina. I don't know how he does it. From my perspective, he is performing public service at the highest possible level so he has my full support."

Bosworth's dual role, Bacow said, has "provided great visibility for Fletcher on the world stage."

A State Department official in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs was unaware of any other official in the current administration at Bosworth's level of seniority simultaneously holding an academic position of the same stature.

Leighton, who concentrates on law and development in Pacific Asia, said he has appreciated Bosworth's openness when speaking with students.

"I think he certainly is as knowledgeable as anyone else, perhaps in the world, on the Korean peninsula," Leighton said.

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