Carter Center partnership exemplifies `learning by doing'

"A whole greater than the sum of its parts" describes the unique relationship between The Carter Center and Emory. It is a dynamic partnership defined by a simple far-reaching cause and effect: the relationship between learning and doing.

Provost Billy Frye recently said, "The Carter Center provides unique opportunities to apply knowledge and the skills of scholarship to help ameliorate the most intractable problems of humankind. At the same time, it opens up to our faculty and students the most rigorous laboratory there is for developing and testing ideas-the real world, where theory only matters if it `works.'"

President Carter has said many times that the value of nongovernmental organizations such as The Carter Center is that we don't just have meetings; we have an action plan. An African leader echoed this sentiment recently when he told President Carter that, "One action is worth 1,000 conferences." We focus on results and attempt to give individuals the tools they need to change their own lives -whether they live in Atlanta, Ethiopia or Nicaragua.

Because of this philosophy, The Carter Center is not a research facility or a think tank. It does, however, draw from the vast resources of one of the nation's greatest universities and applies academic principles to the real world.

The ties between the campus and The Carter Center grew even closer in September 1994 when Emory and the center finalized a formal partnership. This agreement allows the center unusual flexibility and self-governance, under the direction of a 22-member board of trustees chaired by President Carter including Emory President Bill Chace and nine members appointed by the University.

A lifelong student, Chace recently set an example of democracy in action when he joined the center's delegation that monitored the Palestinian elections in January. As part of the center's 40-member international monitoring team, he was able to experience, firsthand, The Carter Center's principles in action.

There are many other ways in which we have strengthened our relationship with the University, to the advantage of both institutions. Marion Creekmore, our director of programs, also serves as vice provost for international affairs at Emory. This winter, President Carter returned to the classroom after a four-year hiatus from teaching. And this year, Carter Center fellows and program directors are teaching an undergraduate course called "Public Policy and Nongovernmental Organizations."

Perhaps most important, Emory students-currently about 75 a year- are directly involved in our work, whether we are negotiating a cease-fire or peace agreement, immunizing children, eradicating Guinea worm disease and preventing river blindness, protecting human rights, or replacing despair with hope in urban America. The growing popularity of our internship program proves that students, when given the opportunity, are anxious to apply classroom learning to real-life situations.

For example, when The Carter Center recently sought a peaceful resolution to the horrendous problems in the Great Lakes region of Africa-particularly in Rwanda and Burundi-Emory students were an integral part of our team, researching particular issues and aspects of the conflicts, writing weekly reports and updates, and participating in strategic planning meetings.

As The Carter Center has continued to grow and develop, we have learned many important lessons from our affiliation with the University community. While pure learning will always have its place at universities and other educational institutions, we have come to understand that we learn the most by doing. Together, Emory and The Carter Center are impacting the lives of real people in the real world.

John Hardman is executive director of The Carter Center. This article originally appeared in The Carter Center News.

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