University at Albany

Q & A with Robert Mauro, PhD '09

If you had to condense your job description into an elevator pitch, how would it read?

Robert: I create opportunities for Boston College to engage the world and for the world to interact with Boston College in mutually productive ways. As the director of both the Irish Institute and the Global Leadership Institute (GLI) at Boston College I design, promote, and administer professional education programing for leaders from around the world. The programs that I create both help these leaders develop their skills, improve their communities, and realize their potential and at the same time bring Boston College—its faculty, staff, students, and alumni—closer to the world. This role is special at Boston College. First, as director of the Irish Institute my programing helps to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. With over 150 professional students a year from Ireland and Northern Ireland, the Irish Institute seeks to bridge sectarian divides that manifest in the professional world. When we are able to cross a sectarian divide between professionals there is a positive, immediate, and tangible impact to the quality of life in Northern Ireland and Ireland. Second, as director of the GLI I am uniquely placed to connect a wide diversity of interest into and with Boston College. In the past year we have worked in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Kuwait, Jordan, Dubai, and Austria. And it is an exciting privilege to work in such a diversity of places on a great number of interesting and engaging topics that are of vital importance to the social, economic, and political conditions of each nation.

What about your job inspires/excites you every day?

Robert: The immense challenge of directing two fully engaged institutes drives me to fully embrace my work. This year we anticipate close to 500 students and a total operating budget of $5 million dollars. This would be enough to inspire my work. But as a student of 'theory in politics' I am captivated by the ways people both make and sustain—or fail to sustain—political arguments. My role allows me to connect to institutions from around the world and provides an opportunity to study their conceptual structures. It would take a seriously dull person to not be fascinated by the ways Argentinian politicians talk about their economy.

How did Rockefeller College prepare you for your career?

Robert: Rockefeller was a great place to prepare for my current roles at Boston College. The unique mix of faculty with academic and practical heritages allowed me to engage two things that I love: political theory and politics. There are too many faculty in political science and public administration that played a critical role for me to mention all of them fairly. There were three courses, however, in particular that were vital to my career success. First, Professor Gunnell taught a course on Wittgenstein and Winch that was much more than about the texts we read. The course provided me with a set of tools to understand and engage with political arguments. The genius of the course was in the flexibility of the tools. I return to the material almost daily as a result. And the more I consider this course I think I move to the conclusion that it was about the way Professor Gunnell taught and the respect for intellectual freedom that he had rather than the material itself. I worked with Professor Breiner on a number of occasions but there were two courses that were immense—one on Machiavelli and one Weber. The rigor that Professor Breiner maintained in standards for reading, analysis, and presentation are the most valuable skills any graduate of a liberal arts and social science program could want. If you want to learn how to read, think, and communicate, then Professor Breiner is a mentor with whom you need to work.

What is one piece of advice you would share with a current Rockefeller student wishing to pursue a similar path?

Robert: Having studied The Prince on separate occasions with both Professor Breiner and Professor Tarlton I am reluctant to dispense instrumental advice. And my experience since leaving Rockefeller has only reinforced what I took from those courses. The best thing a current student can do is to complete their degree, challenge themselves at Rockefeller everyday, focus on reading, analysis, and writing, and then take ever single opportunity the emerges. I did not engineer my way to Boston College. Instead while at University College Dublin's Institute for British Irish Studies, I took what I deemed a very long shot at a position that would help me bridge the academic and political worlds.

When you're not on the job, where can you be found?

Robert: When I'm not working or traveling for work I can be found in my yard. We have the immense privilege of living in a very small town that values land conservation. As a result we have a large yard with wonderful tree coverage embedded in a neighborhood of the same. And when I have free time I prefer to get into the yard and work it with the reward of a barbeque at some point.