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Ian Johnstone named new Fletcher academic dean

Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 02:02

Ian Johnstone, professor of international law at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, will serve as The Fletcher School’s new academic dean beginning July 1, according to an annoucement released earlier this month.

Johnstone will replace current academic dean Peter Uvin, who has served in the position for six years before his November 2012 appointment as the new provost of Amherst College, where he will begin his new post next academic year.

Johnstone has only accepted the academic deanship for one year, after which time another professor will take his place as academic dean.

“Not everybody would necessarily want to do this, but I think if you believe in the institution, then not only do you have a sense of responsibility to the institution, but seeing the institution thrive can be exciting,” Johnstone said. “For that reason, I’m excited about it.”

Johnstone has been a faculty member at The Fletcher School since 2000. He worked for a total of seven years at the United Nations.

Johnstone said that this experience provides him with insight into complications that arise when sound theory meets practice.

“I’ve had some experience there, but then a good number of years as a full-time, full-fledged academic means I’m attuned to both dimensions of what the students need: the theoretical, academic, scholarly side of things, but also the significance for the real world and the policy world,” he said.

He said that he hopes to encourage interdisciplinary courses and research at The Fletcher School. Johnstone sees opportunities for students at The Fletcher School to conduct projects both with their peers and with Tufts undergraduates.

In the meantime, Johnstone said he plans to use his remaining time with Uvin as a learning period to understand the duties and challenges of the academic deanship before Uvin leaves for Amherst. Since the The Fletcher School is currently looking to replace Dean Stephen Bosworth, Johnstone explained he will need Uvin’s training and experience to help acclimate a new dean to the school.

Reflecting on his Tufts career, Uvin said he is pleased with his accomplishments and with the trajectory of The Fletcher School upon his exit.

Johnstone said that during his time at The Fletcher School, he focused on strengthening the Ph.D. program and improving gender diversity. Johnstone also championed a series of policy overhauls to create clear rules about capricious grading and the contracts of adjunct faculty, among other issues, he said.

According to Uvin, one of his primary challenges came two years into his tenure with the 2008 financial crisis, which he said eliminated about 10 percent of The Fletcher School’s budget. “Suddenly, the floor fell underneath us and there were enormously tough decisions that had to be made,” Uvin said. “How do you save 10 percent? That kept me up until late in the evening for months. We did it without letting anybody go, although we did stop some searches at the time, because obviously we couldn’t have hired new people under those circumstances.”

Uvin said Johnstone will face the same challenge throughout his time as academic dean, despite improving economic conditions. Competing schools are being established across the globe, increasing pressure on The Fletcher School to simultaneously improve its services and drive down costs, Uvin said.

“Cost is the number-one thing,” he said. “There’s a constant demand for new courses, improved technology and ways of delivering the content, for higher scholarships, and yet at the same time, we can simply not keep increasing the cost of the school. The competitive pressures from the outside are going to be amazing, and, to be honest, most of them are cheaper than we are.”

Johnstone said he feels prepared to meet these challenges and that he is willing to accept that the school has to do more with less. Part of his agenda in encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration is to avoid redundancies in research — if two students or professors work together, fewer resources are necessary to achieve the desired results, he said.


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