Geographer Entrikin Steps into Top Role at International Institute

Geographer Entrikin Steps into Top Role at International Institute

Photo by Reed Hutchinson

In more than three decades at UCLA, Nicholas Entrikin has led his department, the review of faculty promotions across campus, and the Institute's Global Studies IDP. Now he's taking on two jobs in one: overseeing the growth of UCLA's global relationships and building bridges among multidisciplinary programs on campus. He and Ron Rogowski, the outgoing vice provost and dean, talk about where the Institute is heading.

We can talk about these processes of globalization intellectually, but there should be a way to make the experience of being a student fit into that.

At the University of Pau in southwestern France, Nick Entrikin once gave a talk in his second language on "the ecology of fire [feu]." Everything seemed to go smoothly until he'd left the podium and a puzzled colleague asked him a question. Had he indeed meant to lecture on l'écologie de fou, the ecology of madness?

"My pronunciation slipped," explains Entrikin. "The students thought it was perfectly appropriate in a lecture about Los Angeles."

On June 1, 2007, Entrikin becomes acting vice provost and dean of the UCLA International Institute, taking charge of much of what could get lost in translation between the university and the world beyond the United States. One-half of the job (the dean's role) is to oversee an academic unit that, while emphatically not a department, plays an important role in teaching and advising undergraduate and graduate students through its interdepartmental degree programs, including the Global Studies major and minor that he recently chaired, and overseas study. It brings permanent and visiting faculty members to campus and coordinates interdisciplinary projects across both area-studies and globally oriented UCLA centers. It presides over a hectic calendar of events on and off campus, as well as outreach efforts aimed at K-12 teachers, visitors, business and media, and the public at large.

Outgoing leader: Professor of Political Science Ron Rogowski will take up a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. (Photo by Kevin Matthews)

Entrikin and Ron Rogowski, the outgoing vice provost and dean, sat down earlier this month to talk about the job and leadership transition.

Since January, when the two began to prepare together for the change, Entrikin has observed that many on campus aren't aware of the fast-growing vice provost's role. In that capacity, he will be responsible for vetting, for the campus as a whole, cooperative teaching and research arrangements between UCLA and foreign universities.

This isn't the study of globalization, in other words; it's the globalization of study.

"We can talk about these processes of globalization intellectually," Entrikin says, "but there should be a way to make the experience of being a student fit into that." Already, he adds, "actual cooperation and give-and-take across borders has become a basic part of science education."

Rogowski observes that U.S. universities' need for outside cooperation is sometimes acute, citing the example of applied particle physics and the accelerator at CERN. As this country becomes a backwater for stem cell research because of political concerns, he says, some graduate students are forced to go "somewhere else: Israel, Europe, China, whatever. And that means we have to have collaborative relationships with those folks."

Internationalizing UCLA also means ensuring that foreign students continue to have access to it.

Although it's been happening for years, says Entrikin, "the internationalization of the university is coming into focus now as something not only that just happens, but something that has to be planned for, has to be coordinated, and has to be overseen." Over the past two years Rogowski has looked at agreements involving the library and various UCLA schools: engineering, natural sciences, education, and more.

Rogowski has begun implementing a process in which area experts at International Institute become, in Entrikin's phrase, "the important resource of information, the reservoir for helping to direct this internationalization."

Where To?

A cultural geographer who joined UCLA straight out of graduate school in 1975, Entrikin is well known for work on Europe and on philosophical conceptions of place. He says he was attracted to his discipline because of its breadth and has sought out venues for multidisciplinary exchange throughout his professional life.

One example was his supporting role in the creation of the UCLA Institute of the Environment, a process that involved years of consultations with physical scientists and specialists in water systems, among other experts. He says he'd like to see more frequent and intense engagement with natural scientists at the International Institute, which has generally functioned as a point of coordination for faculty in the humanities and social sciences.

"We want to make what we do here attractive enough to draw people out of their departments and to want to work together on issues that maybe they aren't able to do well within a departmental structure," he says. "We always have to keep that very distinctive mission in mind."

To the suggestion that global warming might provide one such focus, Entrikin responds that global environmental issues "certainly fit the mission of the Institute," but that deciding where researchers will focus their energies is not a primary concern for him as dean.

"The best way to function in that job is to work with the people you have, and to build on the interests that they have, and to help them work together, rather than dictating the direction of the Institute," he says.

Rogowski and Entrikin have been seeking ways to strengthen interdepartmental degree programs, which lack a permanent source of funding, and the international bent of teaching across the university.

"Developing our relationships and developing better relationships with our professional schools is an important part of the next five-year period at the Institute," Entrikin says. He suggests that "a certificate or some form of international training for many of the students currently enrolled in the professional schools" would benefit all parties.

As a five-month period of transition to new leadership draws to a close, Rogowski is preparing to take up a research fellowship in Berlin, the city he regards as a second home. He will be returning to UCLA in the 2007–08 academic year as managing editor of the American Political Science Review, which is coming to UCLA for the first time.

During a two-year tenure in which he also served as interim director of the Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations, Rogowski presided over significant changes at the International Institute. The largest of the units under it, the Asia Institute, added a new Center for India and South Asia on the day he began work. Now, with the restructuring of Latin American studies at UCLA, a second Institute-within-an-Institute has been established. Rogowski also saw a nascent Israel Studies Program ramp up its activities and welcomed the Burkle Center's first senior fellow, the former NATO commander and presidential candidate Gen. Wesley K. Clark (ret.). A reorganized Center for World Languages won a multi-year Education Department grant, making UCLA the national resource for heritage language education at all levels.

Rogowski says he'll have especially fond memories of the challenging multidisciplinary environment of Global Fellows meetings, which have "the funnest kinds of intellectual conversations around on a good day."

Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2007