A Note from Annelise Riles

During a recent trip to Berlin, I heard something that crystallized why we do all that we do at the Buffett Institute.

I was accepting a lifetime achievement award from the German government along with six other humanists and social scientists from around the world. In the course of the ceremony, the secretary of education gave an impassioned speech in which he explained why the German government commits such large funds for research, and even awards those funds to “foreigners” like me: As Germany reflects on its history and its responsibility to ensure that the tragedies of the past do not repeat themselves, knowledge and research—especially international scholarly partnerships—are crucial, he argued. This is the contribution the Buffett Institute is making and must make at this moment.


It’s truly an honor to serve as executive director at such a critical juncture. The Buffett Institute is one of the most significant hubs for thinking about global issues in the United States and the world, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be engaged in its future direction.

I also want to thank Bruce Carruthers for his stewardship of the Institute over the past years. Bruce’s scholarly commitment to a deep and broad view of global studies and his generosity of spirit encapsulates what is most needed today in global affairs. His important legacy at the Institute inspires us all.

I am so grateful for the warm welcome I and my family have received from the Buffett Institute and Northwestern communities since arriving. I am truly energized by this community’s commitment to its mission. Even in my short time here, it’s apparent that there is broad enthusiasm across the University for an expansive and transformational approach to what global studies can be.

We at the Buffett Institute are taking advantage of my arrival to pause and reflect collectively on the Institute’s mission and what the next stage of its ambitious growth will look like. As we do this, I want to share with you three top priorities for me:

  • First, that we create a truly global university—with a global audience, a global constituency, and global students—for which the Buffett Institute can serve as a catalyst.
  • Second, that we break down barriers between the university and the world in every way we can, facilitating a two-way conversation between campus and society and incubating ideas that result in actionable research for next users.
  • Third, that we catalyze radical, intensive collaboration—across disciplines, schools, national, cultural, linguistic, political and professional boundaries. 

I plan to spend as much time listening as I can in the coming weeks. As I do this, I need your ideas and suggestions.  Please reach out to me at buffettdirector@northwestern.edu.

Thank you for all you do to make the Buffett Institute such a special, impactful place.  I look forward to adventures to come.

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