The Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology has developed an agreement with the Virginia Tech Diplomacy Lab to provide funding that supports faculty mentorship of Diplomacy Lab research projects and student travel costs to present research findings to senior state department officials in Washington, D.C.

Students participating on Diplomacy Lab teams analyze policies and solve real-world challenges while gaining research experience and three course credits in the political science department.

“The Hume Center is looking forward to this new relationship with the Diplomacy Lab as it aligns well with the Hume Center’s mission to help develop the next generation of national security leaders,” said Ehren Hill, associate director for education and outreach at the Hume Center.

Launched in 2013, the Diplomacy Lab is a public-private partnership that enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy challenges by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty experts at universities across the country. Virginia Tech is one of 39 universities in the country that partners with the U.S State Department program.

The Hume Center, organized under the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, has numerous research projects, experiential learning, and scholarship opportunities for students, including over $650,000 in scholarships annually from a combination of endowment and sponsored funds for students interested in national security careers across various colleges at Virginia Tech.

With this new partnership with the Diplomacy Lab the Hume Center will directly support students to participate in a U.S State Department program, enabling them to complete research for the government during their undergraduate career.

“Diplomacy Lab is like an undergraduate think tank for the U.S State Department. All the projects that are proposed to our students are projects that different bureaus and offices in the U.S State Department want more help with,” said Christopher Price, an adjunct professor of international studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and assistant director of the Diplomacy Lab. Part of the Hume Center’s funding contributes to supporting Price as a faculty mentor and guiding students in their research projects.

Every year the U.S. State Department issues a list of topics to participating universities that provide students the opportunity to collaborate in teams to develop short policy memos, research papers, statistical analyses, or data sets that answer high-level research questions.

Research topics that Virginia Tech students are currently working on in the 2020 fall semester include: increasing student mobility between the United States and United Kingdom, engaging the social work discipline in countering violent extremism, and ongoing research for the bureau of conflict and stabilization operations.

Yannis Stivachtis, associate chair of the Department of Political Science, serves as director of the Diplomacy Lab. He says students participating in lab projects have managed to obtain internships and jobs with the U.S Department of State. “Students gain the research, critical, analytical, synthesizing, writing, and presentation skills necessary to succeed in a highly competitive market,” said Stivachtis, who also serves as the Jean Monnet Chair and director of the International Studies Program.

Prior to this year, grants from the Department of Political Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences were able to fund only a few students’ travel to Washington, D.C., to present their findings directly to the U.S. State Department. Now, with additional funding from the Hume Center, nearly all Diplomacy Lab students will be able to meet with state officials and present their research when travel is safer in a post-COVID-19 setting.

“The chance to do think-tank style research for the U.S. Department of State is valuable in itself,” Price said. “But, sitting down at a conference table in the state department, presenting work, and responding directly to questions absolutely takes it up a notch, giving Diplomacy Lab students further opportunities to make an impression on the people they may one day be applying to work beside.”

— Written by Aubrey Medina