Past Projects

Diplomacy Lab


The University of Virginia and the State Department are partners in a national pilot program to help address what State has called “the extraordinary proliferation of complex challenges” facing U.S. diplomats in the 21st century.  The goal of Diplomacy Lab is to create opportunities for faculty and globally-minded students to participate together on research projects with the potential for immediate impact on foreign-policy thinking and decision-making.

With impulse from Open Grounds and the Presidential Precinct, UVA began its association with Diplomacy Lab only weeks after the State Department’s launch of the concept in 2013.  Secretary of State John Kerry publicly announced the initiative at a University Town Hall meeting in Washington, D.C. on March 19, 2014.  Currently, Diplomacy Lab is a partnership of the Center for Global Inquiry + Innovation, Open Grounds and the Presidential Precinct.

Each semester, the State Department issues a list of projects requested by its various offices and UVA project coordinators choose a topic.  Each project results in a report or other concrete product for the State Department.


Spring 2015

Getting Past the CSI Factor in International Forensics and a Global Survey of Aging Prison Populations

Two groups of students in Chloe Gibbs and Eric Patashnik’s Introduction to Policy Analysis course in the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will participate in projects this term. One will study policy options for the development of forensic laboratories in emerging democracies as well as the inclusion of forensic science in criminal justice systems. The second will study policy options for addressing aging prison populations. Participants in both project groups will employ a policy analytic approach to examining cases and shall identify options based on best practices, feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and impact, in addition to offering recommendations.

J-Term 2015

ANTH 3559: Diplomacy and the Academy; The UVA-US State Department Diplomacy Lab
Instructor: Patricia Wattenmaker, Anthropology

This J-term course facilitates the completion of proposals, policy briefs, or papers in response to questions posed by the State Department. It provides the support structure for students to refine and polish Diplomacy Lab projects initiated in previous semesters. Students who have conducted relevant research in other courses or independent studies and wish to develop proposals may also enroll (with the permission of the instructor). Class meetings will include workshops on the diplomatic process, conducting library research, and writing research papers. Students will also have time to work collaboratively and provide one another with feedback on paper drafts.  Finally, we will discuss a growing body of literature that takes an anthropological perspective on the diplomatic process towards the aim of improving the effectiveness of cross-cultural collaborations and problem solving.

Fall 2014 projects included:

Hidden Water Wars: A Guide for Practitioners and Policy-Makers on How to Avoid Today’s Conflicts Over Water

Tied to changing demographics, climate change, and land use, the shared resource of water represents an ever-greater potential source of contention amongst nations and persons. Under the direction of Brian Richter (Architecture) and in collaboration with Peter Debaere (Darden) and Paolo D’Odorico (Environmental Science), 20 students in the course “Water Sustainability, Project 51” will be working to compile a set of policy and strategic action recommendations from their semester-long process of developing understanding of the interrelationship between water and cooperation/conflict from a global perspective.

Economic Opportunities in the Azores

The present downsizing of the Lajes U.S. Air Force base on Portugal’s Azores will have significant consequences for the wider economy of the islands. Rae Blumberg (Sociology) will engage of group of 18 students in producing a report and presentation to explore, conceptualize, and analyze potential economic initiatives that may serve to minimize negative impacts upon local communities.

How Can Muslim-Majority Countries Ensure that Implementations of Islamic Law (Sharia) Uphold their International Human Rights Obligations?

Students in Patricia Wattenmaker’s (Anthropology) “Anthropology of the Middle East” senior seminar will be creating a comprehensive overview of the present state of human rights in nations constitutionally re-orienting towards Islamic law. Case studies and counterexamples will illuminate the range of contextual factors informing various outcomes in addition to providing the basis for students’ assessments of productive means to better foster co-integration of Sharia and human rights frameworks.

Industrial Wastewater Treatment and Water Quality Monitoring: Pakastani Textile and Iraqi Energy Industries and their Impact on Drinking Water

Textile manufacturing and energy production assume important roles in the respective economies of Pakistan and Iraq; however, the frequently untreated wastewater from such heavy industries expose humans and environments to toxic conditions. 11 Masters of Public Policy students in Molly Lipscomb’s (Batten) “Development Economics” course will be drafting reports to outline best practices and possible solutions for proper wastewater treatment that might be applied in each nation.

During Spring 2014, 51 students and seven faculty from four schools and six departments worked on projects.