Humphrey School dean to step down and lead advocacy organization

Humphrey School of Public Affairs dean to step down and lead international advocacy organization focused on refugee issues

Eric Schwartz, dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, will step down in June to assume the presidency of Refugees International, a global independent advocacy organization in Washington, DC, focused on refugee protection. Schwartz has served as dean of the Humphrey School for five and a half years, and will begin his new role on June 12.

“Dean Schwartz has served both the Humphrey School and the broader University with great distinction, advancing excellence in scholarship, expanding public engagement initiatives, and leading the development of new academic programs,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson in an announcement to the University community. “In assuming the leadership of Refugees International, he continues a lifetime of service reflecting his deep commitment to humanitarianism. His commitment to humanitarianism and public service is an inspiring example for our students and for us all.”

Prior to joining the Humphrey School in 2011, Schwartz served as U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, and over a 25-year career had held senior positions in government and in philanthropic and non-governmental organizations. He served as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s deputy special envoy for tsunami recovery, and in the Clinton administration was senior director and special assistant to the president for multilateral and humanitarian affairs for the National Security Council.

Schwartz said that despite his deep regret in leaving the Humphrey School and the University, he felt compelled to accept an invitation to lead Refugees International when it was offered.

“Around the world and in the United States, in particular, we are confronting existential challenges to hard-won principles of humanitarianism—principles that I’ve spent most of my professional life seeking to strengthen and promote,” said Schwartz.  “I felt I needed to seize this opportunity to play a more direct role in the policy debates and advocacy efforts that are now under way in Washington, in communities around the country, and in countries around the world.  And I do so with a sense of excitement, determination and commitment.”

Under Schwartz’s leadership, the Humphrey School launched a new Ph.D. program in public affairs, and a master of human rights degree program in partnership with the College of Liberal Arts. The Humphrey School increased support for student scholarships and gained national prominence for innovative initiatives to develop pipelines of diverse leaders, including serving as the host institution for the national Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program, sponsoring an undergraduate summer institute to prepare future leaders, and hosting leadership training for emerging African leaders as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The school also jumped in national rankings and is now situated among the country’s top 10 public affairs schools.

Schwartz will maintain a strong relationship with the University of Minnesota after beginning his new position, through periodic mentoring projects for the Humphrey School that expand student learning experiences in international humanitarianism, foreign policy, and advocacy. 

Media Contacts

Melanie Sommer Foy
Humphrey School
Public Relations
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities