First launched by the U.S. Department of State in 2013, Diplomacy Lab is a partnership between the State Department and U.S. colleges and universities. Diplomacy Lab schools are given the opportunity to research topics of interest to the State Department. Topics include real-world challenges such as climate change, weapons nonproliferation, democracy and human rights, counterterrorism, global health, gender equality, economic policy, human trafficking, and food security. Faculty members with expertise in the topic area will guide teams of students to research and carry out a project which meets the goals outlined by the State Department. The project can be conducted through a course, seminar, or an independent study.
Recently, St. Catherine University has officially become a Diplomacy Lab Partner Institution, the first in Minnesota. The current team of Diplomacy Lab Partners includes Yale University, University of Notre Dame, Columbia University, and many other higher education institutions across the nation. The project to become a Diplomacy Lab Partner was spearheaded by assistant professor of political science Nawojka Lesinski, PhD. She is looking forward to the opportunity for St. Kate’s students to lead and influence research while collaborating with the State Department. Not only will this partnership be an unforgettable opportunity for students to gain practical research skills, but it will also create change in relevant and real policymaking.
Professor Lesinski was already able to take on a Diplomacy Lab Project through her Interrogating Human Rights topics course this past semester. Through the course, students explored what constitutes human rights and have been learning about contemporary human rights issues. After laying the academic framework, students began the Diplomacy Lab project where they have been creating formal recommendations for the U.S. State Department on best practices in protecting human rights defenders and advancing human rights using case studies from the extractive sector in Latin America.
Other faculty at St. Kate’s will be able to begin State Department projects in fall 2020, as they are currently in the “Project Bidding” process, during which professors will work with the Diplomacy Lab coordinator, Lesinski, and the State Department to select and plan a project.