It started with a group of 40 young women. Plus a former secretary of state. And some of Wellesley’s leading scholars. And an idea.
“From my own experience of having climbed my way up the ladder in Washington, there were certain things that I wish I had learned better in terms of really understanding how people from various disciplines need to work together to get something done, the importance of being able to summarize things in a way that is understandable, to be able to give public presentations, and to work in teams,” Secretary Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 told a packed Alumnae Hall auditorium last fall. “And I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to build on the incredible education that people get at Wellesley and continue to get at Wellesley but prepare more women for global leadership?’”
Now the College is celebrating the milestone 10th anniversary of the Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 Institute for Global Affairs with events throughout the year, starting with several panels held this past October. Current and former fellows from across the country and around the world came together to speak about their experiences and to network. And Albright was part of it all, including opening an exhibit of memorabilia from her time at Wellesley to her days as secretary of state.
Albright remains a vital part of the Institute and its focus on fostering global leadership for women. Each year, the institute selects 40 student fellows from a variety of majors and disciplines. The fellows then meet for a three-week intensive during Wintersession, attending lectures given by Wellesley professors and visiting luminaries (including alumnae in a wide range of fields), and working in multidisciplinary groups on a pressing global issue. Each group then presents to a distinguished visiting professor, getting feedback and input on their work. This experience is followed by a summer internship to apply what they’ve learned.
This year’s program was built around the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, where Albright was head of the U.S. delegation as the United Nations ambassador at the time. Albright herself served as the distinguished visiting professor. In January, she heard presentations from the fellows on topics ranging from the gendered impact of climate change and drought in South Africa to women’s involvement in conflict resolution in Afghanistan.
“By bringing this theme in, we [were] trying to both have a moment that [allowed] us to reflect on the history of women’s leadership in global affairs and the secretary’s role, but also be able to cast it as this moment of thinking about unfinished business, what is left for us to do, as a way of celebrating and encouraging people to think about the next 10 years as well,” says the institute’s current faculty director, Professor of Political Science Stacie Goddard.
Although celebrating the past 10 successful years has been at the forefront this year, thinking about the next decade is already underway, according to Goddard, who took over as faculty director last July. “We now have a network of 400 fellows who have been through this experience. So on the one hand, I get to take the reins at this moment where I think we’ve proven ourselves as having a successful model, but what that also allows us to do is begin to think about how we can develop our programming even further,” Goddard says. The institute is looking at ways to expand its reach in the Wellesley community and outside it, with possibilities ranging from an annual symposium, to a global leadership lab, to working more closely with faculty and existing Wellesley courses.
To support this ongoing work, Secretary Albright announced her $1 million donation this past fall, the first major gift in a $5 million fund-raising campaign Wellesley has launched for the institute. These funds will help keep educating women for roles in global leadership, a critical part of the original vision for the institute. “We are developing these models to teach our students to engage in the world, to really become impassioned about these global challenges,” Goddard says.
And Albright knows a thing or two about global challenges. When last fall’s panel turned to the current state of global affairs and what the future might bring, she was forthright. “It’s tumultuous now, but it’s nothing like what it’s going to be,” she said. “I think that we need to be ready for that, and there’s no better group than Wellesley women to lead.”
Halimatou Hima Moussa Dioula ’10
Albright internship: United Nations Foundation
Currently: Ph.D. candidate and Cambridge-Africa Trust scholar at the University of Cambridge
Impact: “If there is one thing I took out of the Albright Institut —and there are many—it is that push to say what I think in moments where I feel maybe I shouldn’t. It’s so important that we speak up, especially when we feel uncomfortable, because that is probably when it matters the most.”
Hannah Harris ’16
Albright internship: Working with refugees in Greece
Currently: Project manager for the Inclusive Astronomy Program at the International Astronomical Union
Impact: “I’m not apologetic about not knowing something yet, and I won’t let people try to shame me. That was a lesson I learned the first day. My background in physics can be applied to issues in education and international relations, and I do bring something to the table and have a unique perspective that I might not have anticipated.”
Sandra Chung ’20
Albright internship: U.S. State Department internship at the U.S. Consulate General Shenyang in China
Future plans: “For now, I hope to be in the D.C. area, doing something related to U.S. foreign policy.”
Impact: “My experience with the institute broadened my thoughts and perspectives about my life. It definitely helped me understand my fervor for public service.”