TBY talks to Fariz Ismailzade, Executive Dean of Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, on the aims of the institution, and its role in training the next generation of diplomats.
TBY The Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy opened its doors in 2007. What was the need that you saw in establishing such an institution?
FARIZ ISMAILZADE The Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy is a product of this country’s rapid development. As you know, the economy is developing very fast, and as a result of that the government’s budget is growing. The number of our embassies has doubled over the past 5 or 6 years, and that has expanded the need for young diplomats. President Ilham Aliyev established the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy with the purpose of cultivating and training a new diplomatic cadre. That was the main purpose of its establishment. Our initial focus was on the training of diplomats. Our initial attention was paid to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They were recruiting 25 to 30 young diplomats every year and we were training them in six-month courses. Of course later our mission has changed a bit. We’ve started paying attention to graduate and undergraduate education. However, our initial focus was to train young diplomats for the expanding diplomatic missions of Azerbaijan abroad.
What was the strategy for diversifying your portfolio of training programs?
We spoke to retired ambassadors and current deputy ministers and heads of department, and based on their input we developed a curriculum with six main diverse areas. Political, economic, and consular issues, public diplomacy, area studies, and protocol and leadership skills, like communications and image consulting. Our six-month course is based on these six areas. We spend an equal amount of time on each of these areas and discuss global political and economic trends, and teach students public diplomacy and media skills. The curriculum was based on the requirements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its day-to-day, practical needs.
How will the facilities of your new campus help convey the values in teaching?
We believe that learning should take place in an environment where students work in teams and exchange ideas. Our campus contains lots of public areas, like lounges, study rooms, and auditoriums with audiovisual equipment. We tried to decrease the number of classrooms and increase the amount of open, public space where students can get together and team up on projects. We ask our professors to give them assignments that are geared towards that end. The campus is a very good example of Azerbaijan’s commitment to education, because it is a big investment. The construction is covered entirely by the government. We tried to build the campus in a green and smart way. We believe that this campus will be the best environment for our students to live and study together. We want this campus to be a 24/7 learning environment.
What are the main foreign policy issues that you are preparing ADA students for in their future careers?
As our academy grows, we believe that our graduates are no longer limited to working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but can also work in international organizations, NGOs, and the public or private sector. We don’t necessarily teach them skills that are only applied in the Foreign Ministry only. But for those for whom that is the goal, we tell them first of all to understand Azerbaijan’s priorities and its conflicts with energy and its economic policies, and so on. We also try to teach them different perspectives by bringing professors from countries like Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Georgia. We try to teach our students how to think from multiple perspectives, and not only from narrow limits and see the other side of the picture. We also teach our students to be pro-active. Foreign policy is usually very reactive, so we try to teach them to anticipate trends and develop strategic visions for the future of Azerbaijan.
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