Interview with new Director of International Studies at JHU


Interviewed by: Corey Payne '17

We sat down with Dr. Sydney Van Morgan, who was appointed Director of the International Studies Program and Johns Hopkins and comes to Baltimore from Cornell University. Here are some of her ideas on our program and its future.


FAS: First things first: welcome to Hopkins! What drew you here? What about Hopkins' program made you want to work here? 

SM: Well, of course, I’ve always known about Hopkins’ reputation as a first-rate research university, and that was a major attraction.  I also like the fact that working for a single unit of the institution, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, I could focus my attention more intensely on the humanities and social science disciplines most closely related to international studies. Finally, Hopkins students are known to be serious and smart, and my experience so far has really proven that to be true.  The students who I have met are truly terrific! 

FAS: What do you think we can improve on? How are you working to improve our program?

SM: It’s way too early in my career at Hopkins to start boasting about improving anything! After all, International studies has 325 enrolled majors—the third largest major at Krieger—so the program is already very robust.  But there is always room for improvement. Some of the things I’d like to achieve as director include expanding the number of funding opportunities available to IS majors and creating more career and professional development resources for students. I’d also like to capitalize better on the program’s greatest strength, the students! We have just announced a new leadership committee that will be led by IS and that will have major responsibility for planning and executing events.  The committee will also advise me on ways to improve the program so that we know we are meeting student needs. The type of feedback is really invaluable.

FAS: In your opinion, what is the value of a degree in International Studies, specifically here at Hopkins? Why choose this program as opposed to a single social science discipline?

SM: It’s a cliché, but we live in a global society and, these days, it’s hard to imagine a career path that doesn’t have an international dimension to it.  College graduates need to be prepared to understand the global society they inhabit and be prepared to work in an ever more cosmopolitan and dynamic labor force. Our core courses in international social sciences, coupled with training in economics, foreign languages and history, provide a very solid understanding of the world as well as practical analytical skills that can be applied to a wide range of careers.

FAS: What do you think is most important for any undergraduate student to experience here at JHU?

SM: Academics. I really like that Hopkins offers a full undergraduate experience for its students but still manages to keep the emphasis on learning.  JHU is one of the best universities in the world’s finest system of higher education, and tuition ain't cheap.  Take advantage of every academic and intellectual opportunity you have, especially those that are international, because in just a few short years, those opportunities won’t be so easy to access.  

FAS: What is your end goal for the program? Where would you like to see it in years to come?

SM: Again, I think I’m too new a have an “end” goal in mind already, but I do have a few things that I’d like to achieve over the next couple years.  As I mentioned before, increasing student engagement with the program along with offering more fellowship funding and better career training are a few of my short- to medium-term goals. More generally, my foremost objective is to provide all of the support and resources necessary to ensure that students thrive as IS majors at Hopkins. 

FAS: And anything else you'd like to share? 

SM: Go Orioles!