Philanthropist and UW-Madison join to develop new-generation leaders

Aug. 3, 2009

What do American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan do in their "spare" time?

This summer, 22 Army, Navy and Air Force officers took an online course through UW-Madison.

The course, part of the Grand Strategy Program, was taught by history professor Jeremi Suri, who also directs the program. The course was made possible by a lead gift from the Hertog Foundation.

The Grand Strategy Program is a new multi-course curriculum that traces U.S. foreign policy since 1901 to provide a foundation for interdisciplinary study, strategic problem-solving and leadership in a changing global landscape.

Roger Hertog, president of the Hertog Foundation, is a founder of Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. and vice-chairman emeritus of the AllianceBernstein investment-management firm.

Hertog is also a philanthropist and New York City arts and cultural organization leader. Suri is a dynamic teacher, researcher and author.

What brought them together is a passion for history, for political thought and dialog, for applying the lessons of the past to the issues of today and for advancing a core understanding of history among students and young people who will become leaders.

The Grand Strategy Program is a new multi-course curriculum that traces U.S. foreign policy since 1901 to provide a foundation for interdisciplinary study, strategic problem-solving and leadership in a changing global landscape.

The eight-week summer graduate-level Grand Strategy course was targeted to active duty military officers and graduate students from different backgrounds. The students brought a range of experiences, perspectives and opinions that encouraged the debate and exchange of ideas Hertog envisioned.

"What appeals to me about Grand Strategy," said Hertog at a Yale University conference in September 2008, "is that these programs build a certain intellectual discipline rather than create an ideological partnership."

This fall, the Grand Strategy course will be a senior seminar for the most talented undergraduates. In November, students from the summer and fall courses will participate in a weekend-long session of discussion and policy-making simulation.

The ultimate objective of the Grand Strategy Program, Suri says, is to serve as a model for the education of future leaders.

"We need to better train effective leaders regardless of where they lead," Suri says. "The idea of the course this summer was to give military officers a firmer historical grounding in the kinds of issues they are confronting every day — cultural differences, counterinsurgency, nation-building."

Suri adds: "I discovered that the closer a student was to real combat, the more involved he or she was in this course and to applying historical knowledge to an immediate situation. We want to continue expanding our Grand Strategy Program with the support and counsel of people like Roger Hertog from across the political spectrum. We expect students to draw on lessons in policy successes and failures whether their challenges are on the battlefield, at the ballot box or in the boardroom."

Chancellor Biddy Martin says the course helped teach students to think critically and integrate different kinds of knowledge.

"We are grateful to Roger Hertog for his support in this exciting course and to professor Suri for expanding the audience for his expertise," Martin says.

Suri emphasized the course's real-world application.

When post-election demonstrations broke out in Iran, Suri asked his students to prepare a briefing paper in a short time frame suitable for submission to the White House.

"The quality of these papers was equal to that of professional national foreign policy advisors," said Suri.

Scott Mobley, course coordinator and graduate assistant, helped design the course and recruit military personnel.

He commanded a Navy ship in the Persian Gulf during the opening days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. As a retired U.S. Navy captain and surface warfare officer, Mobley saw the course as a complement to traditional military education.

"These students are being asked to think about things they probably never thought about before," he says.

Mobley explained that continuing education is a requirement for all military officers.

To date, the UW-Madison has not been able to provide the courses officers need and for which officers would receive federal financial assistance. This pilot program will help gauge interest in an expanded program that will meet professional military standards.

"Without Roger Hertog's support, we would not have been able to bring in these military officers," Mobley says.

Gary Sandefur, dean of the College of Letters and Science, says the course expanded students' global perspectives.

"We have an opportunity at the UW-Madison to be the center of a coming together of worlds that may have not communicated very well before," Sandefur says. "At the same time, we are erasing boundaries among our department disciplines in order to give students a 'big picture' view of actions, interactions and reactions. If anyone has demonstrated leadership in this greater collaboration it is Roger Hertog and we are truly grateful."

Suri is the E. Gordon Fox Professor of History and director of the European Union Center of Excellence at the UW-Madison. He has authored three books and numerous articles on contemporary politics and foreign policy. His most recent book is "Henry Kissinger and the American Century."

Hertog, a graduate of City College of New York, is chair of the New York Historical Society, chair emeritus of the Manhattan Institute, a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the New York Public Library, the New York Philharmonic and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. He also is vice-chair Emeritus of Alliance Bernstein L.P. and member of the executive committee. In 2007, he received the National Humanities Medal.