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Karl Eikenberry to Lead New Global Institute at Northwestern

He will play central role in transformation of global studies now underway at University
  • Former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan to advance global thinking at Buffett Institute
  • Will be inaugural institute executive director following game-changing gift for global studies
  • He brings ‘decades of experience on foreign policy issues with no easy answers’
  • Eikenberry’s leadership will affect University-wide global strategy 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Karl W. Eikenberry, formerly U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, has been named executive director of Northwestern University’s newly created Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

Currently a faculty member at Stanford University, he retired from the Army in 2009 as a lieutenant general after serving as the deputy chairman of the NATO Military Committee in Brussels and previously commanding the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan. Eikenberry will become executive director Sept. 1, 2016.

The Buffett Institute is central to the transformation of global studies underway at Northwestern, following the January announcement of a $100 million gift to the University from alumna Roberta Buffett Elliott.

“We are thrilled that Ambassador Eikenberry will be the inaugural leader of the Buffett Institute at such an important juncture in Northwestern’s history,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said.

“He has played a highly visible role on the world stage with his frank and insightful ideas about some of the most critical issues of our day and will play a central role in taking the scope and impact of our global programs to an entirely new level.”

Eikenberry currently teaches at Stanford, where he is the Oksenberg-Rohlen Distinguished Fellow and a faculty member of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. He also is affiliated with the Center for Democracy, Development and Rule of Law, the Center for International Security and Cooperation, and The Europe Center. As a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has also participated in academy commissions examining the study of the humanities and social sciences as well as foreign languages in the United States.

“The gift has made it possible for Karl Eikenberry to join the Northwestern team. He has extraordinary intellectual heft and deep experience as a diplomat and military leader in China, Central and South Asia and Europe,” Northwestern President Emeritus Henry S. Bienen said. “We are so fortunate to have Ambassador Eikenberry join us, and we have every confidence that he will make Northwestern’s ambitious plans for the new global institute a reality.”

As chair of the search committee, Bienen played a key role in finding the right person to lead the institute.

Before his arrival at Stanford, Eikenberry served from May 2009 to July 2011 as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan. As chief of mission in Kabul, he led the civilian “surge” directed by President Obama to reverse insurgent momentum and set the conditions for transition to full Afghan sovereignty.

“Ambassador Eikenberry will bring decades of experience analyzing and tackling foreign policy issues with no easy answers,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said. “We are so pleased that he will play a pivotal role in advancing thinking, research and learning on global issues at Northwestern -- top priorities of the Buffett Institute.”

The institute will play an essential role in facilitating and leading the development of a cohesive University-wide global strategy that will distinguish Northwestern among its peers.

“Karl Eikenberry’s leadership not only will benefit the Buffett Institute but also the University’s overall strategy to enhance international scholarship at Northwestern,” Linzer said.

More on the Buffett Institute for Global Studies

Through one organization, the Buffett Institute for Global Studies will combine world-class research with innovative student study and engagement programs. Building upon the University’s current research on international issues, the Buffett Institute will facilitate campus-wide discussions with visiting experts about pressing global issues, provide collaborative funding across the University for interdisciplinary studies and create new research and experiential learning opportunities for students in contexts that extend well beyond traditional study-abroad programs.

The rich assortment of learning experiences will prepare students for careers in academia, government service or corporate or nonprofit sectors. A significant part of the Buffett endowment also will be devoted to financial aid for international students, allowing the University to recruit the most talented international students.

More on Ambassador Eikenberry

Prior to joining Stanford, Eikenberry had a 35-year career in the U.S. Army, retiring in April 2009 with the rank of lieutenant general. He was commander of the American-led coalition force from 2005 to 2007, and his military operations posts included commander and staff officer with mechanized, light, airborne and ranger infantry units in the continental United States, Hawaii, Korea, Italy and Afghanistan.

Eikenberry has served in various policy and political-military positions, including as deputy chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium; director for strategic planning and policy for the U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii; U.S. security coordinator and chief of the Office of Military Cooperation in Kabul, Afghanistan; assistant army and later defense attaché with the U.S. embassy in Beijing, China; senior country director for China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; and deputy director for strategy, plans and policy on the Army staff.

Eikenberry serves as a trustee for the International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Asia Foundation and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, The American Academy of Diplomacy and the Council of American Ambassadors. He previously was the president of the Foreign Area Officers Association. His articles and essays on U.S. and international security issues have appeared in Foreign Affairs, The Washington Quarterly, American Foreign Policy Interests, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and the Financial Times.

Eikenberry is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and has master’s degrees from Harvard University and Stanford University, in East Asian studies and political science, respectively. He was a national security fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.