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Kathryn Stoner

Kathryn Stoner Appointed Deputy Director of FSI

Dr. Kathryn Stoner, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) has been named Deputy Director of FSI, a new position in which she will assist Director Michael McFaul in the oversight and administration of the Institute.

The growth that’s happening here is exciting and inspiring, and I’m honored to take a greater leadership role in that.
Dr. Kathryn Stoner
Senior Fellow and Deputy Director (as of 7/1), Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

New Possibilities and Growth at FSI

Dr. Kathryn Stoner, senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) has been named Deputy Director of FSI, a new position in which she will assist Director Michael McFaul in the oversight and administration of the Institute. 

“FSI is doing a lot of exciting things right now,” says Stoner, “from expanding its research areas to taking on formal responsibility for the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies (IPS). Much of my academic writing has been on the  mechanics of making and implementing policy, and I enjoy working closely with students, so I’m very excited about the possibilities we’re creating by housing the IPS master's degree program in the Freeman Spogli Institute.”

Stoner came to Stanford in 2004 from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, where her scholarship focused on state capacity, democratization and political economy in Russia. She is the author of two books (Local Heroes: The Political Economy of Russian Regional Governance and Resisting the State: Reform and Retrenchment in Post-Communist Russia) and is working on a third, due out with Oxford University Press in 2018, titled Resurrected? The Domestic Roots of Russia’s Return to Global Politics. She has also co-edited three books with FSI director Michael McFaul, including Transitions to Democracy: A Comparative Perspective.

“Kathryn has made phenomenal contributions to  the Center on Democracy , Development, and Rule of Law (CDDRL), IPS, and FSI as a whole since her arrival here at Stanford," says FSI director Michael McFaul. "I look forward to collaborating closely with her in this new position as we work together to expand FSI’s research, teaching, and policy outreach.”

In this new position, Stoner will assume a leadership role in all dimensions of FSI’s activities, but continue to play a central role in International Policy Studies at FSI. Ambitious improvements in the program are underway, from an expansion of specialization tracks and joint degree programs to an increased focus on technology and policy. “Distance from DC doesn’t matter anymore,” says Stoner on the topic of policy engagement and student career development. “Yes, there’s a train that goes up and down the East Coast, but the Internet goes all way around the world. We have at Stanford a group of people with incredible policy experience – former ambassadors, cabinet members and federal officials. Silicon Valley finds itself with an increasing need for effective government and international relations. Our location is one of the many strengths that IPS can offer to a future policy professional.”

Stoner will take on her new duties effective July 1. Read her full Q&A below.

What led you to accept the new position as Deputy Director of FSI?

We’re doing a lot of exciting things right now: bringing the Cyber Initiative back to its original home at FSI, running highly active research programs like the European Security Initiative and the China Program, inaugurating new projects like the Middle East Program, and of course taking on formal responsibility for the Ford Dorsey Program in International Policy Studies. We’re also bringing in a lot of great new people. It seems like a particularly exciting time to come on and help manage these new things. On a personal level, I’m really eager to take on greater involvement with FSI; I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to work with the team. I enjoy learning new things and figuring out how to solve problems, and I’m sure I’ll be able to do both in this role.

How has your past scholarship and experience brought you to this point?

I came to Stanford in 2004 from Princeton’s Wilson School, where I taught one of their core classes in politics and public policy. I've long had an interest in the mechanics of making and implementing policy, which makes FSI and IPS both a natural fit for me. My own scholarship on Russia has been concerned with state capacity and the state's ability to implement policy. Two of my books are about that; others are on democracy and failed democratization. I was originally hired at Princeton as a comparativist working on policy and the state, not just as a Russia specialist.

When the opportunity came to run IPS, I jumped on it. I really enjoy working with students, and I like having the opportunity to create and develop new programs. I take an applied focus in my own scholarship - I'm a policy wonk in many ways – so IPS was a good fit for me, after serving for a few years as deputy director at the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

How has IPS evolved over the seven years of your leadership?

Over the years we've given students opportunities to fulfill requirements from other Stanford schools instead of taking just the traditional classes offered at most policy schools. This takes advantage of what [former Stanford president] John Hennessy really wanted students to do – not just to be multidisciplinary, but interdisciplinary. Different disciplines often look at the same problem and don't always come up with the best solution, because they're ignoring what another discipline can offer.

For example, many of our students take the “Design for Extreme Affordability” course at the d.school. They enjoy working with engineers to learn how they'd fix a structural problem – but they also enjoy educating the engineers about political or economic challenges to the use of certain technologies in developing countries. Our students have learned well how to cross those boundaries and provide added value.

What changes are on the way for IPS as it makes a new home at FSI?

Now is a natural time to make the program even stronger - to give it a firm institutional home, to take those interdisciplinary opportunities and make them even better. We've also changed the practicum over the years, ensuring that students experience applied policy exercises with real clients, and we will continue to improve this part of the program at FSI. We have a renewed faculty commitment to sourcing clients for students and working on the tools of policy implementation within a class devoted to policy engineering and implementation as part of the practicum.

Our key goal is to create an even stronger international policy studies program that puts us more on the map with Stanford’s peer institutions that have schools of public policy. That means raising the profile of the program by doing more active outreach outside of Stanford, getting our students better and better job opportunities, bringing in ever-stronger applicants and getting them the funding they need, having more regular faculty teaching in the program (especially FSI senior fellows), providing more policy exposure by enhancing the practicum, working more with government agencies, and enhancing our alumni network.

This is a particularly appropriate time to be setting these goals. About ten years ago, the IPS program expanded from one to two years; the applicant pool became more competitive and so the students naturally have higher expectations. We want to meet those expectations and compete even more effectively with peer institutions, on the East Coast in particular.

What networking and career opportunities can IPS offer to students?

We have as good or better people here as they do back east; I don't think distance from DC really makes a difference anymore. Yes, there's a train that goes up and down the Amtrak corridor, but the Internet goes all the way around the world. We have here at Stanford - and FSI especially - a group of people with incredible policy experience. At FSI alone, there are four former ambassadors. Stanford is home to former cabinet officials, policy makers from federal and state governments, and of course the Silicon Valley community. There's an increasing demand for tech companies to have effective government and international relations departments, so some of our students will inevitably go there. Our location in the Bay Area is a strength.

What differentiates IPS from other policy studies programs?

One of the program strengths is that students can take advantage of all that Stanford offers. They can fulfill program requirements at other Stanford professional schools, for example, including the GSB, the Law School, the School of Education, the Design School and even the Medical School. That just doesn’t happen at Harvard’s Kennedy School, or really at any other policy program in the United States. Many students in our program  will take computer science classes too - that's pretty unique. You wouldn't see that at a traditional policy school. Our students have told us that the fact they can fulfill degree requirements around the university is a  huge plus. We'll create more joint degree programs over the next few years to take even greater advantage of this. 

At FSI, we are developing strong faculty commitment to the International Policy Studies program – not only to teaching in their own areas of expertise but in the areas that the program most needs.

What will success look like for you, both with the IPS expansion and at the Freeman Spogli Institute more broadly?

Managing the integration and expansion of IPS will be a huge project, so it’s a key focus for me right away. The program needs more financial aid funding in order to draw top students; it’s so expensive to come here that we need to provide as much support as we can. Since most of our students go into public service as opposed to high paying jobs in business, we are acutely aware of the need for funding. We also need to ensure that we’re providing robust career development opportunities. Over time we may consider increasing the size of the program, which broadens the alumni network (a continually renewing benefit of the program). All of this is predicated on our having a new curriculum that we think is even stronger in terms of providing future public services professionals with the right tools for their careers. 

Beyond IPS, I look forward to working with undergraduate students in FSI’s Global Student Fellows program, and expanding those internship opportunities to master’s students as well. I’m also glad to support Director McFaul with the management of FSI. The growth that’s happening here is exciting and inspiring, and I’m honored to take a greater leadership role in that.