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Frazer draws upon experiences in Bush administration, Africa

Frazer draws on her vast experience to teach Heinz and SDS students. (credit: Courtesy of Philip Pavely (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) ) Frazer draws on her vast experience to teach Heinz and SDS students. (credit: Courtesy of Philip Pavely (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) ) Frazer was the first female United States Ambassador to South Africa. (credit: Courtesy of Jendayi Frazer) Frazer was the first female United States Ambassador to South Africa. (credit: Courtesy of Jendayi Frazer)

There are few professors who have both national and international experiences combined with a drive and ability to teach like Jendayi Frazer, a distinguished service professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College and the department of social and decision sciences.

Frazer’s interest in both teaching and international relations experience originate from her relationship with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in college. During her junior year at Stanford University, Frazer met Rice when she took a class that Rice was teaching on the Soviet Union. “I always went to all of her office hours,” said Frazer. “She became my adviser during [my] undergraduate and graduate years .… I entered the university planning on becoming a lawyer, but [Rice] eventually told me that I should go into teaching.” After receiving her doctorate in 1994, Frazer joined the faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

Frazer’s relationship with Rice would eventually lead to Frazer’s role in shaping the Bush administration’s foreign policy in Africa. In 2001, Rice hired Frazer as a special assistant to President George W. Bush for African affairs. In 2004, Frazer was sworn in as the first woman United States ambassador to South Africa, and in 2005, Frazer became assistant secretary of state for African Affairs. “It was great working in the Bush administration,” remarked Frazer. “I had a lot of close contact with Condi and the other ambassadors.”

While many students may have mixed feelings about the Bush administration, even Democrats will have a hard time criticizing Frazer’s work in government. In no small part due to Frazer, the Bush administration extended a record $6.7 billion of assistance to Africa during her years of government service. Frazer is also credited for designing the administration’s policies for ending the wars in The Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Burundi. At the end of her term, Rice presented Frazer with a Distinguished Service Award.

In January 2009, after the Obama administration assumed office, Frazer joined Carnegie Mellon’s faculty as a distinguished service professor and as the director of Carnegie Mellon’s newly created Center for International Policy and Innovation (CIPI) at The Heinz College, located in Washington, D.C., and in Pittsburgh. “Carnegie Mellon is very strong in the technologies… [and] has many interdisciplinary programs,” said Frazer, in regard to her reasons for accepting the position. “We are working with engineering… to see how we can use this technology in developing nations.”

“It’s great to work with Dr. Frazer. She is extremely knowledgeable about a range of international affairs issues and she is very generous with her expertise. I have learned a great deal as a result,” said CIPI’s executive director, Kendra Gaither. Gaither also worked with Frazer in the Bureau of African Affairs.

By the same token, there is a great benefit to Carnegie Mellon students as well.

“Dr. Frazer’s classes are unlike most classes at CMU,” remarked Jess Martin, a master’s student in public policy and management who also currently works as Frazer’s teaching assistant for her Diplomacy and Statecraft course.

“Although she has been involved in high-level meetings and discussions with foreign leaders, she is able to lecture in a very relatable and practical manner understood by all.”

In particular, the private classroom setting enables Frazer to use personal experiences to illustrate classroom concepts. “She provides amazing insights into some of the most complex issues facing the international political arena with real-world examples,” Martin said.

Being politically savvy themselves, Frazer’s students recognize the privilege they are receiving to hear these stories and respect the risk she takes by sharing these stories. “She always tells us that everything she says is off the record,” said Travis Mecum, a master’s student in public policy. “She’s very up-front and earnest.”

However, for Frazer, the payoff outweighs the risk in teaching her students: “These students will have an impact on government,” she said.