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Religion and Foreign Policy Course Visits State Department Bureau

Post by Taylor Brown, MPP 2014

Last week, a group of students in Professor Peter Ochs’ Religion and Foreign Policy Making Course visited Washington to meet with officials at the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO). Along with fellow students from the College of Arts and Sciences, Elena Weissman, your Batten Blog host, and Taylor Brown, long-time reader, first-time contributor, were there to discuss the Department’s new work promoting US government engagement with religious communities abroad. From Burma to Libya, CSO has been leading these efforts, working with the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives, training foreign service officers for appropriate cultural exchanges, and reducing outbursts of sectarian conflict in unstable states around the world. While there, Weissman and Brown had the opportunity to talk with Deputy Assistant Secretary (and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) Jerry White who leads CSO’s partnerships, learning, and training offices. White spoke brilliantly on the tools for policy engagement and the future of CSO’s work with religious communities.

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Elena Weissmann and Taylor Brown, both MPP 2014 accelerated students, visited the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO).

From Foggy Bottom, the class then traveled to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies to meet with officials from the International Peace and Security Institute (IPSI) along with other MPP and foreign policy students. Professor Ochs and the individuals from IPSI have been working with the Department of State to develop training for engaging foreign religious communities, and Weissman and Brown got to be the guinea pigs. This work, now in its first stages of implementation, will soon be reaching hundreds of foreign service officers as they prepare to enter the field. Following the IPSI presentation, the class sat down for a frank chat with UVA alum and CSO officer Abbie Bellows on opportunities for future work at the Department of State. It was a full but rewarding day.

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