April 28, 2003

Hochman provides link between center, Emory

Allyson Menacker is an intern in the Carter Center Office of Public Information.

His titles at the Carter Center are director of research and assistant to former President Jimmy Carter, but they only serve as an introduction to the multifaceted career of Steven Hochman. They don’t reveal his role in helping bridge the gap between Emory and the center as coordinator of Carter’s academic program (the former president is a University Distinguished Professor at the University) and as teacher of a Carter Center-inspired course on public policy and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Hochman came to Emory with Carter in 1982. While a graduate student at the University of Virginia, Hochman assisted Dumas Malone with his Pulitzer Prize-winning, six-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson. After the final volume of the biography was published in 1981, Hochman joined Carter in his hometown of Plains to help research and edit Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President. During this time, Carter was looking into forming a partnership with a university to build his presidential library and to teach.

“President Carter was exploring different relationships with different schools,” Hochman said. “He received offers from other states, but I think he always leaned toward locating in Atlanta because it is a transportation and communications center. Also, Emory was a school on the rise with a leader, [then-President] James Laney, he admired.”

After completing his memoirs, Carter asked Hochman to accompany him to Emory. Through the years, Carter has visited every part of the University, including religion and medical classes, and, according to Hochman, the former president is a natural teacher.

“He really enjoys teaching a variety of subjects,” said Hochman, adding that Carter also meets with students, faculty and staff for special forums and events and for nonacademic activities.

Carter’s time at Emory lessened after 1991, when he accepted a proposition from Laney to lead what became the Atlanta Project, a campaign against the devastating social problems associated with urban poverty.

“At that point, President Carter withdrew from active teaching, except for the annual Town Hall Meeting and an international students forum,” Hochman said. Since then, at the request of President Bill Chace, Carter has resumed a reduced monthly teaching schedule.

The Carter Center was changing, too. Hochman observed that the center “was becoming a more active institution, from which we sent out people to work in countries all over the world.”

During this period Marion Creekmore, then-vice provost for international affairs (a role he currently is filling again in an interim capacity) and director of programs for the Carter Center, suggested that the center needed a new way to support Emory’s educational mission. Creekmore asked Hochman and Carter Center fellow Robert Pastor to put together a course to be titled “Public Policy and Nongovernmental Organizations.”

“We had come to the conclusion that the Carter Center was best described as an NGO rather than an ‘academic think tank,’” Hochman said. “And we worked in a number of areas—democratization, human rights, global development and global health—in which Emory undergraduates previously received little exposure to policy issues.”

Hochman and Pastor designed the course and invited Emory faculty, as well as Carter and other Carter Center personnel, to assist in giving students a well-rounded perspective. After a year, Pastor stepped down, but Creekmore and Hochman have continued to lead the class ever since.

The class is broken into teams of four or five students who are given a current policy issue and asked to put together an action memo for an NGO—such as the Carter Center, Amnesty International or CARE, which provide staff to advise the students—outlining whether the issue could be pursued and, if so, how to pursue it.

“It’s been an extremely popular class,” Hochman said. “We always have to turn away lots of students.”

Hochman said he believes his class inspires students in their professional pursuits. “Part of the significance of the NGO class,” he said, “is providing models for students of what they can do with their lives.

“I always ask our guests to talk about their personal career paths—how they came to do what they are doing,” Hochman continued. “None of them planned when they were in college to work for an NGO. Students need to be flexible in their plans and keep their minds open.”