Alumni Share Expertise with International Relations Class

During winter term, five distinguished alumni shared their expertise with Groton’s International Relations class, informing, engaging, and inspiring students with their deep knowledge of global affairs and their long and impressive careers of service.

Zooming into teacher Tommy Lamont’s International Relations classroom from as far away as Singapore were Sarah Sewall ’79, former Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights; U.S. Navy veteran Reed Simmons '09; Ben Pyne ‘77, formerly Disney’s president of global distribution; David Black ’80, longtime Groton environmental science teacher; and Ziad Haider ’99, head of geopolitical risk at McKinsey & Company and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

During a unit on humanitarianism, Dr. Sewall offered her perspective on the state of human rights around the world and challenged Ms. Lamont’s students to view the deepening of human rights as perhaps the most important goal of the global community. Besides her position in the State Department, she was a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights; she currently is executive vice president for policy at In-Q-Tel.

Mr. Simmons gave students a primer on the potential flashpoints in Sino-American relations, using a plethora of visual images, from maps to photographs. Currently earning a degree from Harvard's Kennedy School, he served for six years in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer specializing in Chinese activity in East Asia, and, when not at sea, was based in Japan before being recalled to work at the Pentagon. 

When the class was studying globalization, Mr. Pyne described for students the challenges of conducting international business. With characteristic humor, humility, and optimism, he recounted his efforts to promote Disney in China during the first two decades of the twenty-first century by helping Disney create content that appealed to Chinese consumers and not just Americans. 

Dr. Black helped students in Ms. Lamont’s class better understand the effects of global warming, and other changes to the world’s environment, on international relations. His stark analysis of the state of the planet’s physical health was sobering but important for students to hear. 

The last guest of the term was Ziad Haider ’99, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration. He outlined his unusual journey from Pakistan to Groton and the development of his interest in global affairs. He urged students to be engaged and informed global citizens and to enrich their lives by finding ways to serve their communities and the broader world. He and the other guest speakers provided Ms. Lamont’s students with valuable insights into the state of our world today and wonderfully modeled how one individual can make a difference in a world of 8 billion people.