Global Mission Poses Challenge

When John H. Coatsworth, director of Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS), arrives in foreign countries to meet and greet scholars from the local university, he usually discovers that another group from Harvard has just left.

And while Harvard may be in the midst of leaving its footprints all over the world, Coatsworth calls this experience of instant globalization “very confusing.”

In addition to the individual research conducted by Harvard professors, the University maintains 42 active research centers outside the United States and around the globe, from the Harvard Medical School (HMS) center in Dubai to the Davis Center for Russian Studies in Moscow to the School of Public Health laboratory for AIDS research in Botswana.

But upon witnessing the increased specialization of international centers—and the lack of coordination among them—Harvard administrators commissioned a task force this fall to investigate University-wide collaboration and integration in the area of international study and research.

Currently, only one of the 42 international research centers—the DRCLAS center in Santiago, Chile—furnishes resources for a wide variety of groups, including undergraduates, graduates and faculty.


The task force on international study, chaired by Director of the Weatherhead Center Jorge I. Dominguez and commonly referred to as the “Dominguez Task Force,” will seek to centralize Harvard’s global initiatives and to ensure that Coatsworth and other professors no longer find themselves in the dark regarding Harvard’s other international programs.

According to Coatsworth, who serves as a member of task force, the group will try to ensure that members of the community are aware of Harvard’s international activities.

Dominguez declined to comment on the details of the task force, but says that it remains undecided when the group will submit its final report detailing how Harvard should coordinate its international presence.

Assistant Provost Sean T. Buffington ’91 says the Provost’s Office eagerly awaits a completed report from Dominguez and his task force. He says Provost Steven E. Hyman and President Lawrence H. Summers will consider the task force’s recommendations and findings after it releases the report.

Coatsworth says the task force will likely recommend the creation of a new administrative post to centralize Harvard’s global centers and programs. Such a position could follow two distinct models, Coatwsorth adds. Either the new staff person could organize and share existing information about international study and research, or he or she could serve as a “deputy provost,” working to develop new international strategy and programs, following in the tradition of other universities with deputy provosts, such as Georgetown and Columbia.


Currently, the only center that embodies the multi-purpose function that the task force aims to achieve with all centers is The Santiago Center in Chile.

Coatsworth, who has worked extensively at the center, calls the collaboration a “pilot project.”

“The mission of the Santiago office,” he says, “is to provide services to any Harvard faculty member or student with a research interest in Chile and its four surrounding countries.”

The Santiago Center is the only University organization that formally orchestrates an organized study abroad program for undergraduates, including housing and registration at three local Chilean universities. The Center’s office in Santiago also functions as a vital resource for students studying abroad there.