By Elsa Barron
Vice Chair of the Board at the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), Dr. Marcus King, has taken a new position at Georgetown University, where he is now a Professor of the Practice in Environment and International Affairs at its Walsh School of Foreign Service and Earth Commons Institute. Formerly, he was the John O. Rankin Associate Professor of International Affairs and Director of the International Affairs Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
At CSR, Dr. King also serves as an Advisory Board Member at the Center for Climate and Security (CCS). During his tenure at George Washington University, Dr. King coordinated the Elliot School’s co-sponsorship of the Climate and Security Working Group (CSWG) and the Climate and Security Advisory Group CSAG) alongside CCS. CSWG is Washington’s community of practice on climate and security issues. Following Dr. King’s transition, the CSWG and CSAG will also be moving into a partnership with Georgetown’s Science, Technology and International Affairs program.
I spoke with Dr. King to learn more about his career transition in addition to new opportunities arising within the climate and security field.
Elsa Barron: What are you looking forward to in your new interdisciplinary role at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS) and Institute for Environment & Sustainability?
Dr. Marcus King: First, I would mention that I am a graduate of SFS so I am especially excited to return and contribute to the development of my alma mater’s curriculum.
The accelerating pace of technological and scientific innovation has created new challenges related to environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, the amplified reach of radical ideologies, and modern warfare to name a few. I am looking forward to the opportunity to build upon the existing major in Science, Technology and International Affairs to develop new environmental security courses that address these challenges. New courses will bridge the gap between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and international relations. These connections often already exist in the real world but are rarely seen in higher educational settings. It is notable that International Relations (IR) is itself an interdisciplinary endeavor composed of history, economics, political science and other fields. Combining IR with STEM will provide students with a full toolkit to face emerging and complex ecological security problems such as the climate crisis.
Barron: What opportunities does the Georgetown Earth Commons provide for new thinking on topics like climate and ecological security?
Dr. King: There are so many opportunities. There are two initiatives I am particularly excited about that apply the Earth Common’s (ECo’s) vision. The first is the development of new degree programs. The Earth Commons along with the McDonough School of Business and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences created a Masters of Science Degree in Environment and Sustainability Management, with the first cohort of students just arriving on campus this fall. The degree reflects the understanding that science and business principles are both critical to achieving sustainability goals across the globe. In my new position, I will be instrumental in the development of joint degree programs between Earth Commons and the SFS.
Another exciting program is ECo’s unique Post-baccalaureate Fellows program. This program harnesses the burgeoning talents of a select group of Georgetown’s newest alumni. They have the opportunity to research and to work in cooperation with faculty to implement environmental and sustainability projects on campus and in our local and global communities. You can think of it as sort of a gap year experience. Fellowships have already been awarded for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Barron: As you depart from your role with George Washington University, what strikes you as some of the department’s greatest accomplishments under your leadership as director of the International Affairs M.A. (MAIA) Program?
Dr. King: The MAIA Program enrolls about 275 students across 17 concentrations. I am particularly proud of two that were created during my watch. The first was the concentration in Global Gender Policy. The concentration equips future international affairs professionals with the knowledge and skills to apply a gender lens to their work and advance gender equality in all areas of their professional careers.
The second is a concentration in Global Energy and Environmental Policy. This concentration includes classes that provide subject matter expertise along with proficiency in research methods and data analytics. This program was responsive to the demand signal from employers who were interested in hiring analysts or other professionals who had a built-in capacity to evaluate energy and environmental issues as they “hit the ground.” We also developed recruitment strategies that tripled the number of new Elliott School students hailing from underrepresented communities.
Barron: You were recently invited to attend Vice President Kamala Harris’s release of the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security. What was the significance of this strategy in building on your past work and guiding your future pursuits? In your new position, how will you continue to build bridges between academic and government institutions?
Dr. King: Achieving the goal of water security demands a “whole of society” approach. The White House Action Plan for Global Water Security was the culmination of the efforts of dedicated activists and policymakers from across sectors and the political spectrum (including academia) that have supported action on this issue for many years. Along with CCS, I have been engaged in convening a parallel and complementary process on the wider issue of climate security through the Climate and Security Working Group. Over the years, we have created a community of practice that can set agendas, testify before Congress and provide policy recommendations. As the oldest school of international relations, Georgetown has a long history of engaging and training policy practitioners. The Earth Commons provides additional support and innovative approaches to build on the conversation between academia and the U.S. government.
My own research seeks to understand how water insecurity in fragile states contributes to violence and political instability including in areas that are of national security concern to the U.S., which is something I explore in-depth in my latest book, Water and Conflict in the Middle East. I believe that water scarcity is one of the most immediate and visceral consequences of climate change, and I hope that my research will not only inform the scholarly debate but can also inform policymakers’ decisions to address this challenge.
We at CSR congratulate Dr. King on his new position and look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come.