IA Department Chair Announces Sudden Leave

A photo of former department chair, Heather Smith Cannoy.

Lewis & Clark international affairs students received a surprising email on March 14 announcing that Associate Professor and Chair of International Affairs Heather Smith-Cannoy will be leaving the college at the end of this semester. Serving 12 years in the Department of International Affairs (IA), Smith-Cannoy will depart Portland for Arizona State University (ASU) where she will lead the social justice and human rights program at ASU’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In this new teaching and administrative role, Smith-Cannoy will also assist in constructing a new human rights center on the ASU West Campus.

After joining the IA department in 2007, Smith-Cannoy earned tenure in 2013 and began serving as department chair in 2014. During her time at LC, Smith-Cannoy has published several books and articles on subjects such as human trafficking, the international judicial system and diplomatic intervention in foreign conflicts.

Smith-Cannoy acknowledges that her position at ASU will bring unique opportunities but also that her departure was unplanned. She noted that the administration’s failure to adequately address faculty and staff salaries within the greater budget crisis factored into her decision to leave.

“I’d be lying if I said that (my departure) is all about other opportunities,” Smith-Cannoy said. “I wasn’t looking for another job; (ASU) came to me. I believe there have been some poor priorities by the institution over the years that have not made faculty and staff salaries a priority. It’s unfortunate, but that is a part of why I’m going. It’s a bit of a protest.”

Though Smith-Cannoy is leaving LC, she wishes for the administration to craft a solution to the budget problem and fairly pay faculty and staff.

“I hope (the institution) figures this out,” Smith-Cannoy said. “I hope the budget crisis will end and the really amazing faculty across this campus and the really amazing staff across this campus will be taken care of in the way they should be.”

In an email statement, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Bruce Suttmeier commended Smith-Cannoy for her work at LC and expressed sorrow for her departure.

“(Smith-Cannoy) has mentored students, recruited and hired junior faculty and steered the (IA) department through all kinds of challenges big and small,” Suttmeier said. “I consider her a friend, as well as a colleague, and I will miss her.”

Suttmeier also commented on Smith-Cannoy’s criticism of faculty and staff pay, stating that the administration hopes to improve the existing payment strategy.

“In order to hire and retain the best faculty and staff, it is imperative that we provide competitive compensation,” Suttmeier said. “I take this very seriously and am working with all my colleagues across campus to create better compensation policies.”

When Smith-Cannoy first arrived at LC in 2007, several social science departments were staffed by a less-than-diverse group of faculty.

“When I got here, there were no women teaching in (the IA) department,” Smith-Cannoy said. “There were no women teaching in political science, there were no women teaching in economics. There has been a gender shift, which I think is great.”

Smith-Cannoy believes her hiring marked an important shift in academic priorities within the IA department. Her specialties in human rights and international law differed from the traditional approach to global relations historically taught by the IA faculty.

“When I arrived here, the department was really realpolitik, focusing on security and international political economy,” Smith-Cannoy said. “Hiring me, I think, was (the department’s) nod to the fact that the discipline was changing and it was time to start thinking about human rights, international law, international organizations, and social movements.”

At this time, the IA department is not planning to offer any of Smith-Cannoy’s specialized courses, such as Human Rights in International Relations and International Law, next academic year. Though this may change, the department has not yet requested that Smith-Cannoy’s position be filled. However, the department is waiting to hear whether Suttmeier and the Faculty Council approve the replacement of Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences Cyrus Partovi, who is retiring after the 2019-20 academic year.

Currently, Partovi teaches U.S. Foreign Policy, a required class for the IA major, and Middle East Politics. The IA department aims for Partovi’s replacement to hold a tenure-track position, but a final decision will not be made until late May or early June.

Smith-Cannoy said that she believes that Partovi’s successor must be able to teach the classes left unfilled following his retirement.

“We’ve been very clear about the fact that we think Middle East politics is a critical field, as is American foreign policy,” Smith-Cannoy said. “These areas must be covered by the person that ultimately replaces (Partovi) after he retires.”

Though Smith-Cannoy voices concerns about the financial state of LC, she is confident that the quality of education IA students receive will not change after her departure.

“(The IA) department is staffed by some of the most brilliant and compassionate people that I’ve ever worked with,” Smith-Cannoy said. “I’m not worried about the students because I know my colleagues will take very good care of them.”

Students are also dismayed to see Smith-Cannoy depart. Kara Wood ’21 expressed appreciation for Smith-Cannoy’s teaching and guidance and is saddened to see her go.

“Heather has been my IA advisor since the start of this past school year,” Wood said. “She was an incredibly supportive and kind professor who made her dedication to her students obvious everyday.”

When Smith-Cannoy leaves Portland in June, Professor of International Affairs Bob Mandel will succeed her as chair of the IA department. A farewell gathering to celebrate Smith-Cannoy’s contributions to the LC community will be held Tuesday, April 30 between 4 and 5 p.m. at the Muddy Rudder Public House in Sellwood.

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