New Aronson Center Will Address World Problems, Train Future Leaders

By Jim McMenamin

From Jeff and Shari Aronson’s perspective as volunteer leaders at Hopkins, bringing the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and SAIS (JHU’s School of Advanced International Studies) together in closer collaboration would enhance both schools’ capacities to develop solutions for intractable world problems and train new generations of global experts.

All that was missing was a structure to encourage that collaboration, so they established the $10 million Aronson Center for International Studies.

“Our goal is to build a stronger bridge between two great Hopkins schools,” says Jeff Aronson ’80 and chair of the university’s board of trustees. “The Aronson Center will bring together a greater variety of faculty experts to collaborate on thorny problems in international studies and make the world a more just and peaceful place. At the student level, the center will provide even greater opportunities for young people to learn from and work with the very best thinkers—and doers—in the field.”

In announcing the gift, Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels said, “Jeff and Shari’s visionary gift reflects their unwavering dedication to Johns Hopkins, their perceptive evaluation of a key area for our growth, and their support for One University, our initiative for creating greater connections among our campuses. The Aronson Center will bring new resources and attention to our work in international studies and increase the global impact of our faculty and students.”

The primary connection between the Krieger School and SAIS today is that undergraduate international studies majors have the option to pursue a five-year BA/MA degree through SAIS, ranked as one of the top schools of international relations. With campuses in Washington, D.C., Bologna, Italy, and Nanjing, China, SAIS draws students from around the world and provides them with a global perspective during their graduate experience.

The new center will bring the schools closer together, providing three components:

The Aronson Distinguished Professorship will support a senior academic scholar with a dual appointment in both schools, who will guide cross-disciplinary efforts and pursue a focus on topics related to the Middle East.

The Aronson Professorship will support an expert in international relations and comparative politics, international economics and social development, or conflict resolution; have a dual appointment in both schools;  and partner with the distinguished professor to develop new approaches to the theory and practice of international relations. Both new Aronson professors will teach one undergraduate course per semester.

The Aronson Center Endowed Fund will support new undergraduate intersession and summer experiential learning trips; enhance undergraduate experiences in Bologna, Nanjing, or other destinations; and provide funds for symposia, for Krieger School undergraduates to study at SAIS, and for shared projects.

“Beyond the immediate advantages of two professorships and an endowment, the Aronsons’ insightful gift will allow the Krieger School and SAIS to leverage a Bloomberg Distinguished Professorship, thereby strengthening the partnership between the two divisions even further,” says Krieger School Dean Beverly Wendland.  “The Aronsons’ gift is a remarkable one in that it opens the door to so many possibilities.”

“With the Aronsons’ generous support, SAIS will benefit from two new faculty appointments, new opportunities to interact as partners with Krieger School colleagues, and improved capacity for evidence-based research,” says SAIS Dean Vali Nasr. “The Aronson Center will add greatly to the reputation and academic excellence of SAIS and Krieger and firmly establish Johns Hopkins as the destination institution for the study of international relations at all levels.”

The Aronsons’ insights on more closely linking the two divisions come from decades of volunteering in service to the university; contributing in support of professorships, scholarships, internships, and capital enhancements; and enjoying the academic successes of their two daughters, Marni ’13 and Nicole ’15. In addition to serving as chair of the university’s board of trustees, Jeff Aronson is a Johns Hopkins Medicine trustee and a member of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences advisory board. Shari Aronson is a member of the advisory board of the Washington-Baltimore Program in Social Policy at the Krieger School.