August 2015 Faculty Spotlight
August Faculty Spotlight with Clinical Professor, Carla Robbins
As a journalist with a background in global focused reporting on matters such as foreign policy and finance, Clinical Professor, Carla Robbins is an ideal fit for the international initiative-focused School of Public Affairs. We speak to her about her career in journalism, upcoming classes, and what she learns from her own students.
You have a long career in journalism, with positions at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report and Business Week. What led you to higher education, and more specifically to the School of Public Affairs?
I actually started out in academia. I was a child of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and I was always fascinated by international affairs. I got a PhD from UC Berkeley in political science and was prepared for an academic career. Then I discovered journalism. I loved being a reporter and editor. I love the adrenaline. I love asking the people who make policy why they do what they do—even though the truth is often in short supply. But I always imagined that some day I would return to the university and teaching. When I left The Times, President Wallerstein and Dean Birdsell offered me a chance to come to the School and I was thrilled. My mother is a Baruch graduate and I grew up hearing about how it transformed her life.
What classes will you teach in the fall?
Capstone; it is a challenging course, and as a long-time editor I do push hard on writing.
But it is not as terrifying as students may think. It is great for me to watch as they master a wide range of policy issues and come up with rigorous analysis and creative solutions. And by the end pretty much everyone feels it was worth all the effort. I’m also teaching a course called “Who Makes Policy?” in the Washington Semester program. I spent 16 years in DC covering national security and diplomacy, and I love how the students get hooked on the policy process, while helping them (I hope) make sense of it all. The Washington Semester is a fabulous opportunity, and I urge my best students to apply for the program.
What have you learned from your students?
I love their commitment to public service. I am hugely impressed by the way so many of them balance jobs, families and school. I also love the diversity of experiences. We talk a lot about U.S. global standing and global responsibilities in my classes and students born abroad bring particular insights as do those with extensive work experience. I think the best discussions take place when I can throw out a few questions, offer a bit of context and then let the conversation flow. I learn a lot about the world and about the United States just by listening.