On 13 February, the 3rd edition of the Luiss Diplomatic Forum took place. This is an established event that brings together foreign and Italian diplomats, institutions, and Italian companies operating internationally to discuss important topics. This year’s forum focused on “Growth Diplomacy and the Future of Transatlantic Relations” in light of the complexity of international events such as the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and the increase in raw material prices. The debate aimed to shed light on the current geopolitical scenarios and international relations. What can we expect from this year’s discussion?
This year’s theme for the Luiss Diplomatic Forum was transatlantic relations, which is particularly timely as we are currently experiencing a renewal in relations between Europe and the United States, as well as between Italy and the United States. Luiss focuses on internationalization and recognizes the important role that the United States plays in this process. With the ongoing repolarization, relations within the Western bloc have become even more critical, making it appropriate to dedicate a moment of reflection, such as the Diplomatic Forum, to this issue. This event aims to bring together various stakeholders involved in the internationalization of Italy, including diplomats, scholars, analysts, and international politicians, as well as representatives from the business world.
Luiss is committed to providing its students with a global education and has signed agreements with China and the United States to establish a triple degree in Business Administration, as well as launching the Luiss US Foundation on 29 October. What projects are in the pipeline?
The repolarization process and current changes in political, economic, and security alliances have caused Luiss to reflect on its international approach. The Russian-Ukrainian crisis has strengthened relations within the European Union and NATO, while tension with Russia and China is leading to a rethink of the economic model and global value chains. This has sparked discussions on several fronts, including political, economic, and military security, regarding the transatlantic discourse. Regarding the projects of Luiss, we prioritize building relationships with European partners in our efforts to internationalize our University. However, we also recognize the importance of North America and have developed relationships with prestigious universities there. We also expanded our reach to Asia and China. We are growing rapidly in terms of international visibility and reputation, ranking among the top 100 universities and even better in certain areas like political science. For example, we ranked 14th in the world for political science and 1st in Italy. Although we achieved sudden growth, we need to continue consolidating our visibility beyond Europe. It is important to make ourselves known because we offer quality education competitive with many American universities at a lower cost. We must grasp the opportunities that the American context presents to recruit students, as we already have several Americans studying with us. Luiss also focuses on recruiting candidates from the subset of Italian American communities since the United States has a significant presence of people with Italian roots, ranking 3rd after Brazil and Argentina. This group includes over 20 million people who identify with their Italian heritage, but who have often been overlooked by Italy in the past.
We aim to revitalize the Italian American community that we are targeting as it presents an opportunity for many to return to Italy for education and forge a stronger connection between Italy and the United States. South America also has significant Italian American communities where we plan to expand our reach. The next step after the recruitment is to build partnerships with American institutions. We have already established agreements with well-known universities on the east coast, Central America, and California. Our primary and strategic partner is George Washington University in Washington D.C., which holds a similar reputation to ours. We tend to prioritize relationships in capital cities. With them, we made significant agreements, including the triple degree program in business administration, launched last year. This program allows students to obtain three degrees by spending a year each in Rome, Beijing, and Washington D.C. Luiss has made other agreements, including one with Fulbright to bring American students and lecturers to Luiss with the assistance of scholarships, as well as other universities. Currently, Luiss is working on another triple degree program in politics that will span in three of the world’s top cities: Rome, London, and Washington. King’s College in London will be Luiss partner for this program; both universities ranked among the world’s top 30. This program will be the world’s first triple degree in politics and aims to connect the world’s top three capital cities. Whereas, something already existed in business administration, although it did not connect the world’s top three capital cities. To make this program a reality, Luiss has established a Foundation in Washington that will help raise funds and promote the university’s transatlantic projects. We are also working on another exciting project, the first executive course in transatlantic business. This is a very ambitious project that brings together the six most important transatlantic economies: the United States, Canada, France, England, Germany, and Italy. Each of these six economies will be represented by a top university in their respective capital cities, along with their national industry associations. This course will provide exceptional training and networking opportunities for individuals who do business in Europe and North America on a transatlantic level. It will be a multistakeholder platform that includes universities and Confindustrie. This type of transatlantic course has never existed before. It will strengthen transatlantic ties at the business level.
Luiss Guido Carli has a strong reputation for training successful diplomats. Recently, 12 out of 35 competition winners at MAECI were Luiss alumni, including the winner, Francesco Robustelli. What is the secret to their success?
The University made targeted investments in human resources. We started to recruit in a more targeted way. When the University decided to prioritize internationalization, an investment was made. They invested in hiring international lecturers, transforming teaching to make most courses bilingual and taught in English, hiring foreign staff for administration, seeking more international agreements, and creating the role of a Deputy Rector for internationalization. The University has also taken various initiatives to improve its ranking, recognizing the importance of understanding the game to play it well. We invested in hiring more international lecturers and administrative staff, improving our teaching and research, and increasing our international agreements. This has led to positive results. We welcomed more visiting professors and joined international networks. We also promoted international networks of universities ourselves. In the past, Luiss was focused on a national perspective, but we now prioritize internationalization. We shifted our mindset to recognize that internationalization is not just about sending students abroad.
The next step is to become a university that attracts students from all over the world, rather than just sending our students abroad. It is no longer just the agreement to send students six months to Paris or London, which is also important. Our goal is to be a global university with an international outlook, while still being rooted in Italy. This has required a change of mindset, and we have taken many steps to make Luiss more international. For example, we created a dual-language menu in the canteen. All documents are available in both languages; the campus is now bilingual. In order to attract international students, we need to provide an English-speaking environment. It is not realistic to expect international students to invest in learning Italian just to attend Luiss. This shift has been essential to compete in the global education market where English is the main language.
Within today’s complex world, we are witnessing the changing role of diplomats, who are playing an increasingly central role, even in businesses. Can you tell us about how the role of diplomats is evolving?
Italy is a civil power, meaning that it has significant international influence due to its economic strength. Italian diplomacy needs to promote the country as a whole, including its economic and cultural aspects. Traditional diplomatic skills are important, but bilateral and multilateral relations within international institutions are crucial. Recently, the MAECI created a new division focused on cultural diplomacy and soft power to promote Italy’s cultural heritage through language and cultural products. The Ministry also created a special division for economic promotion, led by Ambassador Terracciano, recognizing the importance of leveraging economic instruments in foreign policy. Bringing ICE into the Farnesina reflects this recognition. Italian diplomats must hold important positions in international institutions, as we are currently mainly present at mid-level positions.
In today’s globalized world, diplomacy plays an increasingly central role, especially for a country like Italy, where exports are a key element of the national economy. What challenges will Italy face in the coming years?
One of the challenges Italy faces is the gap between Italians living in Italy and those living abroad. About six million Italians have passports, which is only one-tenth of the number of Italians living abroad. These individuals are important as they vote and cast their votes from abroad. Many second and third-generation Italians are living in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, the United States, France, Germany, and Belgium, and some of them have reached important positions in the USA, such as Mike Pompeo, Nancy Pelosi, and Di Blasio, the Major of New York, among others. However, Italy has not been able to fully utilize its heritage of Italians living abroad. In the early 1900s, Italy was almost ashamed of its immigrants, but now we have a valuable asset that we can invest in. There are more people of Italian origin living outside the country than inside the country. This is an issue that must be addressed. I hope it will be the focus of future projects.
Interview by Chiara Rinaldi, member of the Executive Board of the LUISS Alumni Association.