What’s in a (Re) Name?

Dean Peter Cowhey (center) says change is “in the DNA” of the School of Global Policy and Strategy.

This July, the acronym formerly known as IR/PS became GPS — the School of Global Policy and Strategy. But the difference goes deeper than letters. Here the school’s dean, Peter Cowhey, explains.

The new name is representative of a much larger strategic vision for the school; can you tell us about that?

The name change responds to the ever-evolving nature of this dynamic educational institution. The school was created in 1986 on the correct prediction that the intersection of Asia and the Americas would be fundamental to global dynamics of the coming decades.

We were ahead of the curve in our focus and that made us unique. Now, everyone claims to be expert on the Pacific. Our goal is to emphasize that we have linked our expertise on the Pacific to forging global solutions.

The world of global universities has dramatically changed over the years, from how they are funded to organizational infrastructure. There is a sense that the next great challenge will be to break out of the silos of individual strengths and pillars of excellence and combine expertise into integrated, comprehensive problem solving for society’s grand challenges.

GPS focuses on the ability to find solutions to global challenges. The Pacific remains the core of our regional identity, but we are building on that to strengthen analytic training and analysis, and capitalize on the evolution that has occurred naturally with our faculty research interests.

We remain steadfast to train students in strategic thinking and analytic skills so that they can apply practical solutions in any part of the globe.

(L to R) Joyce Kang, M.P.I.A. ’15; Leila Ahlstrom, M.P.I.A. ’15; Elizabeth Batty, M.P.I.A. ’16; and Parul Agarwal, M.P.I.A.’15, attend the GPS launch.
(L to R) Joyce Kang, M.P.I.A. ’15; Leila Ahlstrom, M.P.I.A. ’15; Elizabeth Batty, M.P.I.A. ’16; and Parul Agarwal, M.P.I.A.’15, attend the GPS launch.

Chancellor Khosla has called the school the place for policy-making on campus. What does that mean to you?

UC San Diego’s campus plan calls for greater collaboration across the schools and disciplines, and specifically highlights the need to create bridges between the STEMM fields [science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine] and policy. GPS stands ready to accept this challenge. It is indicative not only of our campus initiatives, but also of the leadership role that we will play in connecting UC San Diego to the world.

Our faculty have natural ties to other units on campus, and as dean, I intend to provide as much support as I can to strengthen and deepen those collaborations. Examples of new cross-campus collaboration currently being pursued include a joint institute with the Jacobs School of Engineering on global production and innovation, and two initiatives with Scripps Institution of Oceanography—including one on climate and other environmental issues.

Some alumni took a bit of convincing that the name change was the right direction. What was the process for bringing them on board?

We brought our alumni into the process immediately as part of the focus group used to determine what makes us unique and sets us apart from our peer programs. They were included as we determined brand attributes that guided the new name. Of course, that was only a small representation of the alumni, and clear communication was key to bringing everyone else on board.

We held town halls, virtual and in person, to explain the evolution of the school and why GPS was our choice for the future. We had our senior staff reaching out directly to our alumni leadership, making sure that they understood the rationale for the change and had all their questions answered. This group became a resource for all alumni and were some of our first brand ambassadors.

And while, as you point out, some alumni took a bit of convincing, the overwhelming majority were supportive of the change and applauded the school for staying competitive and current. The teaching and research conducted have been keeping pace with market demands, and this name change signals the schools’ responsiveness. GPS is on the forefront—and that’s what you want in an alma mater.

And lastly, why “GPS”? Is the School of Global Policy and Strategy ready to guide the world?

We have built a solid foundation on both qualitative and quantitative excellence. We are renowned for our expertise in the Pacific region. Adopting GPS allows us to position the school as it continues to move forward, broadening its scope to include a wider global focus and creating room for new degrees. Solution driven. Pacific focused. Global results.

Philanthropy Supports New GPS Trajectory

Joan and Irwin Jacobs designated $4 million through their Dunaway Foundation to expand GPS’s Center on Emerging and Pacific Economies into the Center for Global Transformation. The center focuses on understanding the consequences of global economic changes and technological growth.

GPS’s Japan Forum for Innovation and Technology—made possible by a $300,000 pledge from Japanese IT company Broadband Tower, Inc.—will serve as a hub for cross-disciplinary research on contemporary business, science and technology in Japan, including associated policies.