Vali Nasr to step down as dean of Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies

Foreign policy scholar, who has led SAIS for past seven years, plans to devote more time to external engagement; Eliot A. Cohen appointed dean through June 2021

Vali Nasr, a highly respected foreign policy expert, scholar, and adviser who has led Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies for the past seven years, will step down from his role as dean of the Washington, D.C., school in order to devote more time and attention to external professional and academic opportunities.

Vali Nasr

Image caption: Vali Nasr

In light of the foreign policy challenges currently facing the U.S., and with the 2020 presidential election cycle beginning to rev up, Nasr decided now is the time to step away, he said.

"Each year at Commencement," Nasr wrote in a message to the SAIS community, "I tell our graduates that 'every day, the news headlines remind us of the ever-present clarion call to those seeking a safer, more equitable, and just global order. It is now time for you to respond.' That time has come for me, and I do so with immense gratitude and appreciation for the hard-working Johns Hopkins SAIS family."

During his SAIS tenure, Nasr has remained a sought-after commentator on international relations and global trends, especially in regard to the Middle East and the Islamic world, a pundit valued both for his informed insights and for his innate ability to comfortably and capably communicate with any audience.

He has contributed to The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, and Foreign Policy, among other publications, and is a frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC, and other networks.

"In me, Johns Hopkins SAIS will always have an ally, a friend, and a promoter of its best interests," wrote Nasr, whose last day at SAIS will be June 30. "And that is simply because it's a special place, full of people who truly care about the students and the mission."

Eliot A. Cohen, executive vice dean at SAIS, has been appointed dean through June 2021. Cohen is the Robert E. Osgood Professor and until recently was the director of The Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies.

Eliot Cohen

Image caption: Eliot Cohen

A long-standing member of the SAIS community who has extensive experience in executive education, Cohen is himself a distinguished political scientist. He is a military historian and former adviser for the Department of Defense and presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Cohen served as State Department counselor under Condoleezza Rice and received the Air Force's decoration for exceptional civilian service. He is a prolific author of commentary on domestic and foreign policy issues and serves as a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He has written five books, including Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime (Free Press, 2002).

"We are delighted to have such an accomplished scholar and professor lead the school as SAIS celebrates its 75th anniversary this year," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and Provost Sunil Kumar wrote in a message to the university community today.

Nasr joined SAIS in 2012, becoming the school's eighth dean, and has played a central role in raising the school's profile as a premier institution for the study of international affairs and as a source of thought leadership on global issues.

Under his guidance, the school has significantly expanded its faculty, increased and refined its academic program offerings, and launched the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs. Earlier this year, SAIS announced the creation of a new doctoral program designed to equip experienced professionals with the practical skills and experience needed to become the next generation of senior-level policy experts, national security analysts, development strategists, and senior officials in government, nonprofit, and private sectors.

"We are enormously grateful to Vali for his trusted leadership and dedication to the success of the SAIS community," Daniels and Kumar wrote, "and know he will bring extraordinary value to the current debates surrounding some of the most pressing policy issues facing our nation."

Nasr has advised senior American policymakers, world leaders, and celebrities, including Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, senior members of Congress, and one-time Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. (He advised the former on her humanitarian work and the latter on a movie script.). From 2009 to 2011, he served as an adviser to the late Richard Holbrooke when Holbrooke was President Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Born in Tehran, Iran, Nasr received a doctorate in political science in 1991 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of three books, most recently Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat (Doubleday, 2013).