Center Spotlight | In the Weeds of Criminal Justice

SMU Tower Center Associate Jenia Turner is a law professor at SMU’s Dedman School of Law. For this month’s Center Spotlight we decided to get to know Jenia and ask her about her research and goals.

A lot of your research focuses around plea bargaining. Why did you decide to focus in on this aspect of the criminal justice system?

Center Spotlight Jenia Turner

Jenia Turner teaches a class at SMU Dedman School of Law.

My first law review article argued that the jury should be more involved in sentencing than it currently is in most U.S. states. I believed that because of its deliberative democratic character, the jury is often better positioned than judges to decide questions of punishment. One of the questions people asked when I presented the paper was, why should we even care about jury sentencing when the vast majority of our cases are plea bargained? And indeed, over 95% of convictions in state and federal cases are the product of guilty pleas, not jury trials. So this led me to focus on plea bargaining and whether there are aspects of that process that can be improved to make it fairer and more accurate.

What has been your biggest takeaway so far?

I strongly believe that our plea bargaining process needs to be better regulated. Courts and legislatures should enact reforms to make the practice more transparent and more likely to produce accurate and just results. Some of the necessary reforms are relatively minor and quite feasible, like requiring that plea bargains be in writing. Others are more ambitious and more difficult, but important—for example, regulating the sentencing discounts that defendants receive for pleading guilty or requiring that prosecutors disclose all relevant evidence before a guilty plea.

Do you have a favorite case you have studied or that you teach? What makes it interesting?

Currently, my favorite case to teach is United States v. Jones. In it, the Supreme Court addressed the question of whether a month-long GPS tracking of an individual’s car, while traveling on public roads, is a search requiring a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. The court held that the GPS tracking was a search, but three groups of justices offered three different rationales for the holding. These three rationales have different implications for how we regulate law enforcement’s use of new technologies, and these are fascinating to explore with students. I am increasingly interested in these types of questions—how the law weighs privacy interests against law enforcement interests in the context of emerging technologies and mass surveillance. Next semester, I will be teaching a new seminar on that topic, entitled Criminal Procedure in the Digital Age.

You have also focused your scholarship on comparative law. What do you find most striking about US law? Is there something that stands out to you as different from most of the world?

One striking difference is how much more prominent democratic principles are in our criminal justice system. We use juries to decide guilt or innocence in criminal cases, and our judges and prosecutors are often elected.  In most other countries, this is not the case. This has important implications for how our criminal justice system functions.

What do you think the most effective avenue is for changing the criminal justice system? What changes would you like to see as a result of your research?

I would say that currently, state legislatures are where the most significant, comprehensive criminal justice reform can happen. For example, in Texas we have taken important steps to expand the kind of evidence that prosecutors must disclose to the defense, to regulate eyewitness identification procedures, and to limit the use of testimony given by jailhouse informants. But more needs to be done, particularly in the areas of sentencing and plea bargaining.

What advice would you give to young academics, and specifically young women, who want to follow in your footsteps?

I would encourage them to reach out to people in their field whom they admire and ask them for advice and mentorship. I know that I owe so much of what I accomplished in academia to scores of mentors, who read my drafts, collaborated with me on research projects, invited me to take part in conferences, and helped me with teaching advice. So, I would encourage young academics to look for such mentors, reach out to them, and learn from them.

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Event Recap | Why Russia interfered in the 2016 Presidential Election

Why Russia interfered

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, Russia.

A year later, the intelligence community has no doubt Russia did everything it could to interfere with the 2016 United States presidential election. Andrew Kuchins, senior fellow at the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, visited the SMU Tower Center to explain Russia’s motives and explore how successful its campaign was.

What did Russia hope to gain from its efforts? Russian President Vladimir Putin has hated Hillary Clinton since she was secretary of state under President Obama. From watching Trump on the campaign trail, it was easy to conclude Trump, who went as far as to praise Putin for his strong leadership, would be a softer opponent than Clinton. The Russians wanted to do more than help Donald Trump; they wanted to disrupt. Hackers backed by Russia targeted various election systems, and even though the intelligence community concluded that no votes were affected, Russia had succeeded in their real goal: decreasing Americans’ trust in the democratic process. According to Kuchins, Putin thought even if Clinton won, at least people would question the legitimacy of her election.

US-Russian Relations: A History Lesson

Why Russia interfered

Andrew Kuchins, research professor at Georgetown University, gives a lecture at the Tower Center on Russian motives to interfere with the election.

The United States and Russia are fundamentally different in every aspect. The U.S. is a classic sea power, while Russia is a continental power concerned with border security. “Centralized power is in Russian DNA,” Kuchins said. Russia values and promotes stability abroad, while the U.S. has decentralized power and believes in and promotes democracy abroad.

To understand why Russia launched this campaign in the first place, Kuchins went all the way back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Overnight Russia was no longer a super power; it was bankrupt, and forced to accept humanitarian aid. Putin still looks back on this as humiliating.  The Soviet Union believed if it disbanded, it was implicitly agreed that the U.S. would not take advantage of its geopolitical weakness. The United States, on the other hand, thought a victory  in the Cold War would mean a democratic, Westernized Russia. Both sides were unrealistic, Kuchins says, and both were disappointed. This mutual disappointment set the stage for sour contemporary American-Russian relations.

NATO Expands

Kuchins argues several moments gradually led to the ice-cold relations the U.S. now has with the Kremlin. The first, and maybe most notable, was the expansion of NATO in 1999 (Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic) and then again under George W. Bush in 2004 (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). Even though the former Warsaw Pact countries were the ones to initiate and push for NATO membership, Kuchins argued the U.S. underestimated the consequences.

Libya: 2011

Putin was furious with the U.S.’s involvement in Libya and with the death of Muammar el-Qaddafi. In his view, the NATO airstrikes on the convoy of loyalists that eventually led to Qaddafi’s murder violated the UN security council resolutions. Putin saw that Qaddafi gave up his weapons of mass destruction and was then punished for it. He was further infuriated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nonchalance in regard to the disaster in Libya, as she famously said “We came, we saw, he died!” after Qaddafi’s death was announced. Putin promised he would not let Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad meet the same fate. “Putin drew a red line,” Kuchins said.

Ukraine: 2014

Ukraine holds historic and strategic significance to Russia. In 2014, protesters filled the streets to voice grievances against Ukraine’s pro-Russia Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was overthrown by the uprising and fled to Russia. It looked bad that Putin’s candidate was forced out, and Putin still believes the U.S. was behind the coup. Putin responded by annexing the “least Ukrainian part of Ukraine,” the Crimea, Kuchins said. This move was widely supported by Russians. Kuchins even described it as “cathartic” for them.

All of these turning points, and more, led to today’s state of American-Russian relations. Russia interfered in the election with the hope of gaining a strategic advantage and compromising the United States’ status in the geopolitical sphere.

Did Russia get what it wanted?

According to Kuchins, yes and no. Yes, President Trump won. But, he is unpredictable, which goes against the stability Putin is known to favor. As Kuchins put it, only Putin is allowed to be spontaneous and unpredictable. Yes, the Russians were successful in creating disruption and mistrust in both mainstream media and mainstream politics.  However, there was a backlash to the election of Trump in Europe. Kuchins argues French President Emmanuel Macron and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel both would most likely have been less successful if it weren’t for a vehement European rejection of Trumpism and alt-right politics.

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Scholar Spotlight | Connecting communities in Texas

bringing Japan's high speed rail to Texas

Fairooz Adams asks a question at an SMU Tower Center lecture.

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Fairooz Adams believes in using local politics to shape a community. Adams ran for local office when he was 20 years old, and is now carrying out his senior practicum with Texas Central Partners to bring high-speed rail to Texas and revolutionize the way cities are connected in America. The SMU Tower Center sat down with him to discuss his experiences and his goals.

You ran for local office in Lewisville, Texas, as a sophomore at SMU. Tell us about your experience.

I’ve been involved in local politics around Lewisville, where I’m from, since I was 15 years old. I launched a petition to stop my high school class from being split into two different classes, and we were successful — since then I’ve worked on four campaigns. When I was 20 years old, I thought that if I wanted to do something meaningful then I could go back to the community and run, so that’s exactly what I did. I was worried people wouldn’t take me seriously, but I was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case. Many people were enthused about my campaign and were supportive; we out-fundraised our opponent and that was a big success. In the end we came up short, but it was a good learning experience.

What did you take away from your campaign?

It’s very important to involve people in the local community in your campaign because it gives them a stake in your success, and it’s also very important to connect with people on a gut level. At the end of the day people vote with their guts, and you need to know whether people believe in you or not. You also have to genuinely care about your community. Our campaign wouldn’t have been as successful if I hadn’t been consistently involved since I was 15.

Let’s switch gears to what you’re doing now. Your research project for the Tower Scholars Program is focused on bringing high-speed rail to Texas. What have you found so far?

I’m looking at whether high-speed rail would be able to connect different communities so that places with high economic activity can be connected to places with a surplus of labor. The idea came to me when I read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. He makes the argument that opportunity has left these communities behind and now they’re impoverished. The people there can’t afford to move and don’t want to. So what if you could connect these places to economic centers?

Dr. Hiroki Takeuchi and I interviewed people from several industries while we were in Japan (through the SMU-in-Japan study abroad program) — Central Japan Railway Company, Japan Airlines, J-Air, Toyota — to look at how those companies compete against each other and how they function. I learned there is a substantial degree of competition between the industries and not a lot of cooperation.

What was it like to ride the shinkansen in Japan?

I rode the train from Osaka to Tokyo. It was the smoothest train I’ve ever been on. I’ve taken DART, and it just does not compare in any way. It’s like being in an airplane, but without the noise – it’s so smooth. I couldn’t tell we were going 220 miles per hour. It accelerates and decelerates so smoothly, it’s amazing.

How has being an HCM Tower Scholar affected your college experience?

I’m very happy with the Tower Scholars Program. I don’t think I would be interning at Texas Central Partners if it weren’t for the Program and Texas Central Partners is an amazing place because it has a Silicon Valley feel to it, like a startup, but at the same time it’s a big project with a lot of funding behind it. It’s the best of both worlds because you’re doing something real that’s already big and important, but at the same time it’s still kind of a startup.

I’ve also met incredible people through this program, people who really care about America and our politics and making our country better.

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The Crackdown in Saudi Arabia: Former Amb. Robert Jordan weighs in

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman arrested as many as 500 people Monday in what he said was an action to rid the country of corruption. Today, Saudi Arabia accused Iran of an act of war.

Tower Center Senior Fellow and Diplomat-in Residence, Robert Jordan, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has weighed in on the newly aggressive crown prince. Read and listen to his interviews in:

 

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Student blog | Jerome Powell as Fed Chair Means More of the Same

All eyes have been on the Federal Reserve this year; investors and economists have been awaiting decisions on the direction the bank is going to take as the U.S. economy continues to recover. Wednesday, the Fed took center stage again when the White House announced that President Trump will indeed be nominating a new chairman, opting to replace Janet Yellen when her first term expires in February. White House officials reportedly notified Federal Reserve Governor Jerome Powell that he would be Trump’s choice. This is unprecedented, seeing as every chair has been reappointed to a second term since World War II.

So, who is Jerome Powell?

The 64-year old was appointed to the board of governors by President Obama in 2012. He spent time as a lawyer and investment banker before joining President George H.W. Bush’s administration to serve as Assistant Secretary and Undersecretary of the Treasury. He later became a partner at a New York-based private equity firm, The Carlyle Group, and a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center, all before joining the board of governors. Powell is expected to continue Yellen’s slow and cautious approach to monetary policy and financial regulations, though some on Wall Street are confident he can be an ally in the push to deregulate.

The announcement comes at an important time for the Fed, which just concluded its monthly meeting and elected not to raise interest rates yet. The bank began raising rates in December 2015, having kept them low since the recession to stimulate economic growth. Since then, there have been four rate increases and another is likely on the way in December. Powell is expected to stay the course, keeping an eye on inflation, which has been growing more slowly than anticipated, in addition to other indicators that may suggest the economy is ready for changes in policy.

He is also expected to continue with the plans to normalize the Fed’s balance sheet, which were announced earlier this year. These plans will take over at a consequential time, for they will test the central bank’s true power over the economy. Many institutions around the world, including the European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, will be watching closely to see if the U.S. succeeds in its attempt to be the first major economy to unwind the drastic measures taken during the recession.


Brian O’Donnell is a senior from Fairfield, Connecticut. He is triple major in Finance, Economics, and Public Policy with a minor in Public Policy and International Affairs. Along with being an HCM Tower Scholar, Brian is a Hilltop New Century Scholar and Francis Ouimet Scholar. Brian’s areas of interest include fiscal and monetary policy as well as globalization and international trade.

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Event Recap | How China Escaped the Poverty Trap

China's rapid economic development

Yuen Yuen Ang presents findings from her new book “How China Escaped the Poverty Trap.”

China’s rapid economic development has stunned theorists everywhere. After all, economic success isn’t supposed to be possible under a dictatorship, and yet over the past 30 years China has managed to pull 800 million people out of poverty through national development alone, while still maintaining its autocratic regime. In 1980, China was an impoverished country, with a GDP lower than traditionally poor countries like Chad and Malawi. Today, its global prowess has Americans worried about losing their number-one slot.

Yuen Yuen Ang, associate professor of political science at the University of Michigan, gave a lecture at the Tower Center to explain China’s success. In her new book “How China Escaped the Poverty Trap,” Ang credits China’s rapid rise to its use of “directed improvisation,” which she defines as the combination of top-down direction and bottom-up improvisation within the party state. Central authorities direct, while local authorities improvise local solutions to local problems. Within this environment, she explained that China’s development process unfolded in three steps.

Step one: Use weak institutions to build markets

China harnessed weak (by traditional Western standards) institutions to build markets at the local level.  For example, China had collective property rights instead of private property rights, partial regulation instead of impartial regulation, incentives for extraction, etc. Normally, all of these elements would usually be considered an awful start. But instead of importing best practices from abroad or attempting to modernize in one step, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) encouraged local officials to use their existing institutions, even if normatively weak, such as personal relations, to kick-start markets.

Step two: Emerging markets stimulate strong institutions

Once markets emerged, the goals of development evolved: from rapid, coarse growth to higher-quality development. Available resources change too. Ang argues that efforts to copy strong institutions found in developed economies without a sufficient level of economic development are typically fruitless. China pragmatically focused on adapting its existing institutions, including communist features and personalist networks, to build markets first.

Step three: Strong institutions preserve markets

This third step, Ang argues, is the widely accepted argument in “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. Acemoglu and Robinson concluded that economic success is driven by the presence of “inclusive and non-extractive” institutions. Ang agrees with this development theory, but points out that this is a theory that applies to advanced market economies. It took China 30 years to get close to this step. In the West and in the United States, it took centuries.

China’s ruthless pursuit for economic growth, however, has negative consequences. The environment is in ruin and not everyone benefited equally from economic growth. Ang argues that the CCP was aware of these shortcomings, but in the beginning, desired economic growth at all costs.

Ang concluded her talk arguing that this three-step development process is not unique to China. Nigeria, for example, built Nollywood, the world’s third largest movie industry, without established intellectual property rights, by using piracy to their advantage. Other weak states like Afghanistan, Ang believes, can also learn from the Chinese example by adapting their existing institutions, even religion and tribalism, to serve developmental goals.

For a detailed summary of Ang’s book, see Duncan Green’s review at the Oxfam blog.

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Tower Center Fellow Conducts Interviews in Norway

Tower Center Fellow Conducts Interviews in Norway with former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik

SMU Tower Center Fellow LaiYee Leong met with former Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik for a project at the SMU Center for Presidential History.

Tower Center Fellow Dr. LaiYee Leong is conducting interviews in Oslo, Norway, as part of an oral history project for the SMU Center for Presidential History. The project focuses on transatlantic relations during the George W. Bush administration. This past month, she recorded conversations with Norway’s former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and former defense minister Kristin Krohn Devold.

What was your biggest takeaway from your interviews?

Perhaps the main takeaway is that it is not easy being a small country caught up in big power politics! The post-Cold War international structure had not yet stabilized in the early 2000s. The US operated as the lone superpower but the EU was doing well and leaders there expressed a new confidence, notably in the opposition to the Iraq war. Some of the rhetoric that the Bush administration embraced rubbed Europeans the wrong way. It was a challenging time for smaller countries to ensure the tensions did not undermine shared security goals.

What role did the two individuals play in transatlantic relations in the early 2000s?

Norway had a profound interest in staying friendly with all parties. Norwegian leaders saw their role as continuing to engage the US and to demonstrate the importance of transatlantic alliances. Norway supported the war in Afghanistan from the start. And even though it opposed the invasion of Iraq, it later offered critical material support for reconstruction and played a big role in development aid. Norway was (and is) not an EU member, but as a NATO member, Norway worked to build common ground. It coordinated closely with other North Sea countries to reform its command structure and update its capabilities to align it with new strategic goals.

Did the interviews alter your perspective of the time period?

Scholars of US-European relations often characterize the early 2000s as a period of “transatlantic drift” after decades of close alignment. Secretary Rumsfeld famously referred to the emergence of an “old Europe” and a “new Europe.”

My conversations with Norwegian leaders show that those broad strokes do not capture the complexity of ties across the ocean. It is insightful to hear leaders talk about their interactions with US and European counterparts as well as their experiences of historical events. It makes one appreciate the role of personality in diplomatic relations and the importance of personal chemistry among world leaders. Ms. Krohn Devold, for example, offered specific recollections of how she learned to work well with Secretary Rumsfeld.

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Center Spotlight | Lessons from Bush 41

As a result of a massive 10-year declassification project at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, Jeffrey A. Engel wrote his new book, “When the World Seemed New: George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War.” The Tower Center sat down with Engel, our Senior Fellow and Director of the SMU Center for Presidential History, to discuss his latest project.

Tell us how this book project came about.

Oh my goodness. That is a good story actually. So, my first tenure track job was at the Bush School of Government at Texas A&M, which of course is where the Bush Presidential Library is located. My department chair walked into my office and said “You know there’s a diary over at the library they just released. You might find it interesting.”  It was George Bush’s diary from when he was de facto U.S. ambassador to China in the early 1970s, and it was fascinating. He was much more interesting as a person who was thinking hard about the nature of the international system than I had anticipated, to be honest, and he also seemed like a fun guy. This led first and foremost to publication of the diary, which the president and I did together, and then subsequently and more importantly, it led to a deep interest in the end of the Cold War, which of course produced this book.

What did you find most interesting while researching this book?

The most fascinating part for me is that we think back on the Cold War in many ways as inevitable. We think that the capitalists will win, but also, that it was a period of joy and happiness and excitement. The truth is I think that we’re actually, as a globe, remarkably lucky to have survived. It is extremely rare in history for a great power to collapse without an ensuing great power war. It’s just the nature of the international system going all the way back to Athens and Sparta.

That didn’t happen at the end of the Cold War, and I contend that it didn’t just not happen, it was actually the active result of prudent and thoughtful and quiet diplomacy on the part of all the great powers, but in particular on the part of President Bush.

Professor Jeffrey A. Engel teaches class outside of Dallas Hall.

What insights are you hoping this book will offer in terms of the U.S.’ position in the current global sphere?

I did not anticipate Donald Trump when I began working on this book. I think even Trump supporters would concede that he is inexperienced on the international stage. He’s prone to shoot from the hip, rhetorically, and hopefully not otherwise.

“When the World Seemed New” is a book about a man who was as experienced as any president in the 20th century. He was particularly experienced internationally. He was calm and confident, and it’s that calm that was really the key to his success. So ultimately this is a book that tells us that what we want in the middle of a crisis is not a leader who is going to escalate the crisis, but a leader who’s going to deal with it quietly.

What could the United States’ current administration learn from your book and from watching Bush?

One of the things that’s really important about that is, and we know this from the declassification project, that throughout his administration, Bush was constantly criticized for not doing enough. Whether it be at Tiananmen Square, whether it be at the fall of the Berlin wall, or whether it be with the coup in the Soviet Union in 1991. At each point he was criticized for being too quiet, too cautious, too calm, not doing enough. We now know two things that are really important.

The first is that throughout that period in each of those crises he was actually working incredibly hard behind the scenes on the phone, with letters, with cables, trying to maintain international calm and international order at the highest possible level. That calming effect was really critical to keep things from going south.

The second thing that we know is that he was really aware that he was suffering in the polls, and he just didn’t give a damn. He said: “You know, saving the world is more important than my poll numbers.” And that is also something which I think the president of the United States today should consider.

Before President Trump took office, some people argued that the U.S. and Russia were entering a new Cold War. How do you think we got to this point?

That’s actually a big aspect of the book. There are two key reasons that Vladimir Putin and other Russian nationalists are upset with the West. The first is they felt they didn’t get enough aid after the end of Cold War and that therefore Russia went through a period of economic upheaval, which was terrible. And the second is that Gorbachev believed he had a promise that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would not expand (and then it did). So, if you want to understand why the Russians are upset today, you really have to go back to this cold war zone.

However, I don’t think we’re necessarily in a new Cold War because I don’t think Russia is that intimidating. But they are increasingly an annoyance.

What would you consider to be George H.W. Bush’s biggest accomplishments?

The first is keeping us all alive. I really can’t stress that enough; how incredibly rare it is historically for that type of event to happen (the collapse of the Soviet Union), without a war, and this is the first time we had to deal with this kind of problem with nuclear weapons in the mix. Bush can really be considered the father of modern Germany and therefore the father of modern Europe, and consequently in many ways, the father of the modern international system. Because without his leadership there is no conceivable way that Germany would have gotten unified as quickly as it did and as peacefully as it did. And within NATO, which is really crucial. So if you like the Germans on your side, you have George H.W. Bush to thank.

“When the World Seemed New” is available for advanced purchase here and will be widely released Nov. 7.

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New scholarship for SMU students studying in Japan honors Dr. H Neill McFarland

Former SMU student Matthew Reitz during his SMU-in-Japan term in the summer of 2016.

The ORIX Americas Miyauchi Charitable Foundation has agreed to fund a scholarship for SMU students who participate in the SMU-in-Japan study abroad program at Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU). The grant will be $20,000 per year, beginning in 2018, for five years. The scholarship, founded in the SMU Tower Center Sun & Star Program on Japan and East Asia, intends to commemorate Dr. H Neill McFarland’s contribution to U.S.-Japan relations by building ties between SMU and KGU.

“Through the ORIX scholarship, Dr. H. Neill McFarland will be honored for his contributions to expanding U.S- Japan relations over many decades,” said Hideto Nishitani, Chairman, President and CEO of Dallas-based ORIX USA Corporation. “ORIX is making an investment in developing young leaders that can shape the future of international relations and business. Through this exchange, students will experience a new culture and environment that will enhance their abilities, challenge their world perspective, and prove invaluable in our increasingly interconnected world.”

Dr. McFarland, who started as a professor at SMU in 1954, began visiting KGU in 1956 as a visiting professor. He continued to travel between the U.S. and Japan for the rest of his life, and he founded the Japan-America Society of Dallas in 1970.

“Our family was so touched to learn about this scholarship,” said Anna McFarland, daughter of Neill McFarland. “It is a deeply meaningful way to remember our father and honor his work at SMU and KGU, both of which were dear to his heart. I know he would have felt greatly honored by this scholarship and excited about the life-changing opportunities it will offer SMU students.”

The grant is also made possible by Japan Airlines’ commitment to offer low-fare plane tickets for SMU students studying at KGU in Osaka, Japan.

“Japan Airlines is honored to participate in the Dr. Neill McFarland Memorial Scholarship for students who wish to immerse themselves in Japanese culture and study,” said Hiroshi Abe, senior vice president of Japan Airlines America. “We hope these students will come to love Japan and take back many fond memories from their time spent abroad. We salute the ORIX Americas Miyauchi Charitable Foundation for helping to make this journey possible for the SMU students.”

“I thank Nishitani-san for choosing SMU to be the recipient of this grant,” said Hiroki Takeuchi, director of the Sun & Star Program. “The SMU-in-Japan Program at KGU is rooted in SMU’s ties with KGU, which Dr. McFarland established and developed beginning in the 1950s.  Thanks to Dr. McFarland’s effort, the SMU-in-Japan Program has received tremendous support from many people at KGU, who remember him fondly.”

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Student Blog | 5 Take-aways from “Global Health Diplomacy”

Panelists discuss Global Health Diplomacy at the Tower Center Oct. 18.

The Tower Center hosted the panel discussion “Global Health Diplomacy” Oct. 18 featuring the former President of Nigeria H. E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, the founder and president of Vision Africa, Fiemu Nwarkiaku, associate dean at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Office of Global Health, and Eric Bing, professor of global health at SMU.

The panel, moderated by Frank Roby, a Gallagher Healthcare Practice Leader, discussed the state of Nigeria healthcare, past, present, and future, and how healthcare problems in developing nations can impact the rest of the world. They also spoke about the U.S.’s past interactions with developing healthcare in Africa, and how recent political choices, like the cutting of funding for various programs, will impact the African continent and the international community.

Here are my five take-aways from the panel:

1. Nigeria’s Success has Old Foundations

Healthcare and educational foundations built by missionaries combined with the country’s willingness to admit to health-related problems have helped Nigeria to lead Sub-Saharan Africa in healthcare.

2. The Importance of Interfaith

Interfaith approaches are of paramount importance for successful African healthcare; in communities where religious institutions are one of the greatest ways to positively impact the community, building a healthcare solution with only the input of one segment of the religious society can lead to disaster for everyone.

3. Technology Brings Hope

Improving technology is one of the greatest causes for hope. Machines that allow for more mobility, like drones, and tech that makes medical professionals more efficient are helping to increase not only the level of care that can be provided, but also the speed at which it can be administered.

4. Helping Africa Helps Everyone

Assistance from the international community is not only incredibly helpful, it is in the best interest of those countries that send the help. Diseases that start epidemics in Africa don’t care about the nationality of whom they infect, so it makes sense for countries to help solve healthcare problems in Africa as soon as they’re an issue, instead of letting them spread to other regions.

5. How to Make Assistance Effective

International assistance is generally the most successful if it starts by focusing on one problem and then expands its focus as it becomes necessary to better provide for the community. Programs should be open to primary healthcare by any and all members of the community that can provide it, and should focus on the long-term goal of improving Nigeria’s facilities so that all Nigerian citizens can be comfortable staying in country for their health needs.


Destiny Rose Murphy is a junior at SMU triple majoring in political science, English, and philosophy, as well as minoring in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. She is a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar.

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