To the immense pride of both institutions, the partnership between Emory University and The Carter Center now spans more than 35 years. During that time, both institutions have grown and transformed the landscapes of higher education and NGOs—all while addressing some of the most challenging global problems. Coordinated work on the part of The Carter Center and Emory has resolved conflict, advanced democracy and human rights, prevented disease, and improved mental health care. This collaboration has fostered a community of scholarship and practice that has had an impact far beyond our institutions.

After leaving the White House, US President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter decided to commit themselves to the advancement of peace and human rights. They sought a partner and, in 1982, saw in Emory University an institution whose values they shared. In conversation with then–Emory President James T. Laney, they became convinced that the center they hoped to build could draw on the university’s unique resources and serve the world in remarkable ways.

The Carter Center recognizes that universities today provide an increasingly rare space for the open, civil, and critical exchange of ideas—across disciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. Indeed, President Carter has reflected that part of the reason for choosing Emory was that he believed he would always have a platform for speaking his mind. Similarly, many Emory faculty and students have benefited from having real-world, real-time opportunities for applied research and hands-on experience in helping The Carter Center carry out its mission.

Today, the connections remain strong. We succeed together because we bring complementary strengths. Like any good marriage that endures, each side still looks to the other with confidence and respect.

“We share the Carter Center’s commitment to waging peace, fighting disease, and building hope. These tenets mean as much today as they did when we launched our partnership 35 years ago. The Emory community looks forward to many more years of spirited collaboration as together we seek a compassionate and just world.”

—President Claire E. Sterk

Emory University

”Emory University and The Carter Center must cherish their joint commitment to humanitarian principles and the use of knowledge to improve the human condition. Together—through education, research, and action—we can alleviate suffering, enhance freedom and democracy, and advance human rights.”

—Ambassador (Ret.) Mary Ann Peters

Chief Executive Officer, The Carter Center

The Carter Connection


Of all the notable scenes one is likely to encounter on the Emory University campus—helicopters touching down atop medical facilities, Buddhist monks in crimson robes chatting on mobile phones, film crews shooting major stars on the Quad—few are more captivating than the caravan of SUVs that signals a visit by a former United States president.

Since he joined the faculty as a University Distinguished Professor 35 years ago, President Jimmy Carter has been a steady presence at Emory—fielding questions from first-year students at his annual Town Hall, holding regular luncheons with small groups of faculty and staff, meeting monthly with the university president over breakfast, and appearing in classes and special forums during the fall and spring semesters. “I’ve taught in all the schools at Emory,” Carter says. “It has kept me aware of the younger generation, their thoughts and ideals.”

When Carter returned from Washington, D.C., to his home state of Georgia in 1981, the former peanut farmer with a Naval Academy degree in engineering had a wide range of options for how to shape his post-presidential career. With offers from a number of universities, public and private, he chose to partner with Emory—a decision that he made with his wife, Rosalynn.

He remembers how then–Emory President James T. Laney convinced them “that he had a moral and ethical vision for the university that we could share and help to advance.” In addition, Carter says, “I wanted to speak to the students in a very frank way on controversial issues of the times, and I felt Emory would give me that opportunity. Since I have been a professor at Emory, 
I have always been able to speak without restraint.”

In September 1982, from an office on the tenth floor of the Robert W. Woodruff Library, he launched The Carter Center, the organization whose work has consumed him and Rosalynn for more than three decades. Created in partnership with Emory to promote human rights and improve the human condition, the center would pursue conflict resolution as a special mission. President Carter placed few limits on the future agenda, choosing complex problems as the first to address: Middle East peace, 
international security and arms control, and health policy.

“I knew that the center would be unique, because it was to be a partnership between a former US president with enormous energy and a university on the rise, and nothing like that had ever been tried before,” says Steven Hochman, director of research and the first person Carter asked to join him. “However, no one imagined exactly how The Carter Center would develop.”

Now located just three miles from Emory, The Carter Center has blossomed into a thriving organization that reaches around the world. To help support democratic governments in countries where they are nascent or threatened, the center’s peace programs have made it a pioneer in election observation, monitoring 105 national elections to help ensure the citizens’ collective will. Programs in conflict resolution, human rights, and global access to information respond to challenges from multiple continents. The China Program and the Latin American and Caribbean Program bring special expertise to broad issues of peace and leadership.

The center’s health programs are deliberately focused on preventable diseases that have been neglected or overlooked by other major health organizations. As a recognized world leader in the practices that can achieve eradication and elimination, the center fights Guinea worm disease, river blindness, trachoma, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, and malaria in Hispaniola. The center also works to improve access to mental health care worldwide.

The partnership between Emory and The Carter Center has kept pace, weaving a richly complex and robust network of connections between the two organizations. Many of the center’s experts have taught at Emory, and both faculty and students regularly participate in the center’s work. The connections have involved every school. The center also directs an intensive internship program that has given hundreds of Emory students the enviable opportunity to participate in its humanitarian efforts directly.

In 2001, the Lillian Carter Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility (then the Lillian Carter Center for International Nursing) was dedicated by former School of Nursing Dean Marla Salmon and President Carter. Named for Carter’s mother, “Miss Lillian,” the center serves as the focal point for the school’s international nursing and midwifery work and facilitates the many domestic service-learning programs that focus on vulnerable populations. The faculty and students have worked with The Carter Center on mental health and public health training around the world.

Carter and then–Emory President James Wagner founded the Institute for Developing Nations (IDN) in 2006 to encourage Emory faculty and student engagement with the developing world as well as collaboration with The Carter Center. Overall, the IDN has supported 56 student experiences, including four graduate fellowships for students across academic units, and it has hosted more than 80 lectures, workshops, and conferences. In fall 2015, at a special forum as part of President Carter’s Emory teaching program, six Emory graduate students discussed their IDN-sponsored research publicly with him.

One of them, Abidemi Fasanmi, a student in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, commented on the honor of speaking with the president and went on to say, “One of the things that amazes me is the rapt attention he gave to each participant and his command of detail. I was also intrigued by how much he knew about almost any topic you can think of from health to development, politics, human rights, and economics. When I am in my 90s, I want to have made the mark he has made in so many lives.”

Dean Lisa Tedesco of the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies notes how privileged the Emory community is to have access to a former US president. “The research university has a unique responsibility to apply our work to solve global problems,” notes Tedesco. “Our strength is our partnership. Having President Carter as a University Distinguished Professor helps Emory reshape the role of higher education in international development. Our long partnership with The Carter Center has allowed us to build a strong bridge to work on global action across disciplines, not in silos.”

When Carter received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2002, leaders across the university greeted the news with pride. Laney, after leaving the Emory presidency to become US ambassador to South Korea, had recommended Carter to the Nobel committee in 1994. “It could have come earlier, and it would have been eminently justified,” Laney said. “But now it is a grand capstone of his life and career for which we all rejoice.” William Chace, Emory president at the time, attended the ceremonies in Oslo and remarked, “This native son of Georgia has advanced, in many different ways, a vision of healthy understanding among the nations and people of the world. He served his country well as president, but he is now being recognized for all that he has so superbly done since that presidency.” Carter himself is always quick to credit the partnership with Emory for some measure of the center’s 35 years of accomplishment.

In 2016, Carter, Laney, and Wagner gathered onstage at The Carter Center to reflect on the impact of the relationship and look to the future.

Wagner described the profound impression made on him when he met both Carter and Laney before his official arrival at Emory. Two years later, he noted, he and his wife, Debbie, traveled to Africa with the Carters to better understand the Carter Center’s work—a trip that further strengthened the partnership. “I think part of the Carter Center’s success has been its focus,” Wagner said. “It is interested in making a difference, not just making a statement.”

Says Vice Provost for Global Strategy and Initiatives Philip Wainwright, “From my time as an Emory College student when The Carter Center opened its doors on the top floor of Woodruff Library in the early 1980s, I have seen Emory become much more global in its outlook and in the scope and impact of its work. The university supports research projects around the world, hosts students from many countries, and sends its students to study and do field work wherever global problems challenge us. The Carter Center has played a major role in bringing that international outlook to the university, especially through the inspiration provided by President Carter.”

“The relationship between Emory and The Carter Center is permanent and it’s virtually indestructible,” Carter said. “I have personally gotten more out of this partnership than Emory has. It has made the time since my presidency the best time of my life.”

On a 2007 trip to Ethiopia to review the Carter Center’s health programs, President and Mrs. Carter are welcomed with flowers by a local girl. Credit: The Carter Center/L. Gubb.

Emory event sponsored by the Institute for Developing Nations and the Center for International Programs Abroad, billed as “A Conversation with President Jimmy Carter.” Credit: Emory Photo/Video.

"Presidents in Conversation: Legacies of Leadership," which took place in February 2016, was historic for having three such prominent figures share the same job title. True to its title, the program was a conversation—one guided by shared history, dedication to Emory, genuine affinity for one another, and plenty of humor. Credit: Emory Photo/Video.

The Institute for Developing Nations' Important Role


The story of the Institute for Developing Nations (IDN) is one of going beyond academic disciplines and institutional boundaries. It has involved thinking in new ways about the intersection of higher education and development by connecting research to action, engaging stakeholders beyond the university, and strengthening learning opportunities in connection with the real-time work of The Carter Center.

In 2005, President Carter took then–Emory President James Wagner to Mali, Nigeria, and Ethiopia to visit Carter Center projects in health, education, economic development, and democracy. They already were talking about how Emory could engage more with The Carter Center in the developing world. This trip moved their discussions to a new level as they considered how to inspire Emory researchers and students to address the problems they were witnessing.

A year later, IDN was launched as a university-wide effort to advance interdisciplinary, action-oriented scholarship on development. With that in mind, IDN concentrated on three areas.

Problem solving. IDN engages a wide range of development issues, including gender-based violence, human rights, water insecurity, peace building, civil society, climate-change adaptation, and rule of law. Although the issues and geographical locations have shifted through the years, IDN’s vision remains to bring together practitioners and scholars to solve problems.

Enhancing graduate education. IDN provides support for graduate student research opportunities aligning with the research and programmatic agendas of the Carter Center’s peace and health programs. Through IDN funding, graduate and professional students gain invaluable learning experiences in the field, working with Carter Center staff. Project areas since 2012 include human rights, NGO management, and health education and promotion (Atlanta); gender-based violence and mental health (Liberia); malaria, trachoma, and field research technology (Ethiopia).

Strengthening capacity. Drawing on Emory faculty and graduate student expertise, IDN works closely with the Carter Center’s in-country partners to develop and implement projects and programs to bolster civil society, higher education, and empowerment for women and youth.

IDN’s current initiatives provide good examples of these connections. The Prospects for Peace in Sudan and South Sudan series, organized with the Carter Center’s Conflict Resolution Program, supported efforts to find opportunities for practical collaboration between the two countries, including support for research on complex social identities and peace building. And, in collaboration with the Carter Center’s Democracy Program, IDN’s Common Indicators for Democratic Elections initiative has supported a series of workshops—the most recent in spring 2018—bringing together scholars and practitioners from election-support organizations to 
develop consistent methods to assess the quality of democratic elections.

The interim director, Dabney P. Evans, is a Rollins School of Public Health professor who combines expertise in public health and human rights. She notes, “IDN will continue to grow as a creative space that engenders innovative ways of engaging scholarship and practice. With changes under way at Emory and The Carter Center, this is an opportune time to envision IDN’s path forward.”

Jason Carter, chair of the Carter Center Board of Trustees, during the Emory 21 Days of Peace finale honoring the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21, 2016. Credit: Bryan Meltz, Emory Photo/Video.

Jason Carter, chair of the Carter Center Board of Trustees, during the Emory 21 Days of Peace finale honoring the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21, 2016. Credit: Bryan Meltz, Emory Photo/Video.

The audience during an IDN event—"The Expansion of Democracy"—featuring President Carter on April 18, 2013.

The audience during an IDN event—"The Expansion of Democracy"—featuring President Carter on April 18, 2013.

Conference participants for "Disease Elimination and Eradication in Theory and Practice: New Directions and Multidisciplinary Collaborations," presented by IDN and the Emory College Program in Global Health, Culture, and Society, April 2013.

Conference participants for "Disease Elimination and Eradication in Theory and Practice: New Directions and Multidisciplinary Collaborations," presented by IDN and the Emory College Program in Global Health, Culture, and Society, April 2013.

Gender Programming Workshop in Liberia, September 2011.

Gender Programming Workshop in Liberia, September 2011.


The Institute for Developing Nations (IDN) provides support for graduate student research opportunities that align with the research and programmatic agendas of the Carter Center’s Peace and Health programs. Through IDN’s funding, students gain invaluable learning experiences in the field with a Carter Center program and develop skills that make them workforce-ready upon graduation. As the following four profiles attest, graduate and professional school students make a real impact—assisting IDN and The Carter Center with the planning and implementation of seminars, conferences, and working groups, as well as capacity-strengthening projects.


Former Carter Center graduate assistant Amelia Conrad, a 2016 graduate of the Laney Graduate School, says she decided on a career in international public service while a junior in high school.

As an undergraduate political science and international development double major, Conrad refined her interests, learning how power structures and geopolitics play a critical role in the history and ongoing struggles of developing nations. She came to Emory for graduate school, enrolling in the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) Program. Its focus on applied skills and the opportunity for summer international practicums impressed her. She was attracted by the chance to study with faculty who had experience in gender-related programming and ties to CARE and The Carter Center, two major global NGOs in Atlanta.

It was on a backpacking trip in Tanzania during her MDP practicum that Conrad received her chance to connect with The Carter Center. The MDP Program director, David Nugent, emailed her to ask if she might be interested in working with the center and its Global Access to Information (ATI) Program, which works in partnership with governments and civil society organizations.

Laura Neuman, director of the Global ATI Program, says she selected Conrad because of the experience and training in monitoring and evaluation Conrad received through Emory. She assigned Conrad to conduct an evaluation of the previous 15 years of Global ATI work in five countries—Jamaica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Mali, and China. During the year-long project, Conrad developed an instrument for interviews and a system for evaluation. “Her efforts already have had an impact and they will influence the program’s future development,” says Neuman.

Today, Conrad is a research assistant with the international division of the consulting firm JBS International. Although planning to learn as much as she can in that role, she says, “I would like to continue to be involved in working for gender equity, perhaps working in the field internationally, and would consider a PhD focused on these issues later on.”

Amelia Conrad at the 2015 IDN event “Graduate Education and Global Development: A Conversation between University Distinguished Professor Jimmy Carter and Graduate Students.”


Freedom from violence—domestic or state-sponsored—is a human right. Robert Shannon, a 2016 graduate of Emory’s Laney Graduate School, worked to make that point by helping participants in the 2016 Human Rights Defenders International Forum in Accra, Ghana, consider an intersectional approach—one that combines feminist and human rights theory—to countering faith-based ideas that perpetuate inequality and gender-based violence against women and girls. A graduate intern, he worked with former IDN Director Sita Ranchod-Nilsson and Danielle Taylor, Carter Center program associate for human rights, as a gender consultant to the conference.

Before pursuing a master’s in development practice (MDP) at Emory, Shannon worked in Ghana on and off for two years. Ranchod-Nilsson thought this experience made him a good fit to support the conference. “My background in looking at men’s issues of gender, violence, and development, and how that perspective can inform work done for violence against women in West Africa—the human rights forum theme—were all contributing factors to my involvement,” he says.

The MDP Program requires students to undertake two practicums in their area of interest with an organization of their choosing. Shannon’s interests lie in democracy and conflict. His first practicum was a project in Sri Lanka to reduce intimate partner violence and human rights abuses in marginalized Tamil communities on tea plantations.

He got two for one with this internship. “I was aware of IDN and the work they do with The Carter Center before starting the MDP, and they were the places I really wanted to work,” he says, adding, “Danielle and the rest of the Human Rights Program staff represented a huge wealth of knowledge and experience that I was able to tap into to understand better how to do thoughtful work.” 

The human rights forum, an ongoing initiative of The Carter Center, was convened in December 2015 with West African partner organizations. Chaired by former President Jimmy Carter, it brought together more than 60 scholars, activists, and religious leaders. Shannon assisted Ranchod-Nilsson in facilitating a workshop on Women in Leadership with political, media, religious, and human rights thought leaders from around West Africa.

To achieve gender equality, Shannon says, “We must consider the unique needs of men and boys and women and girls and the ways in which those needs intersect.” Realizing the complexities of gender and intersectionality as well as thinking about complex power relations can work toward facilitating change. “These approaches need to leverage the relationships of men and women in different contexts and understand ways in which both groups can be allies for one another,” he adds.

Robert Shannon at the 2015 IDN event “Graduate Education and Global Development: A Conversation between University Distinguished Professor Jimmy Carter and Graduate Students.”


Long-term, hard-to-shake cultural practices and beliefs can play a role in spreading disease—even when people are desperate to wipe it out. That’s true of trachoma, the bacterial eye infection that the Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program and an alliance of partners hope to eliminate by 2020. 

Nicole Devereaux, an MPH student at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, spent summer 2015 working with the center’s Ethiopia office collecting and analyzing data for sanitation and hygiene education. Trachoma is prevalent mostly in Africa and the Middle East, in isolated communities lacking basic hygiene, clean water, and adequate sanitation. It spreads easily from person to person via eye-seeking flies, hands, and clothes. Ethiopia has the highest known prevalence of trachoma in the world, and its Amhara Regional National State has the most cases in the country.

In February 2015, the Trachoma Control Program piloted a study in the region to evaluate opportunities to better address facial cleanliness and environmental improvement, two arms of the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy. Devereaux joined the study in June to conduct final data collection and analysis. Households in 10 Amhara zones were surveyed, with focus groups conducted among teachers, students, and community leaders. 

The survey found that Amhara schools did not discuss trachoma in curriculum materials before fifth grade, and teaching about hygiene and sanitation was limited as well. Traditional community beliefs held that smoke, dust, and crying were causes of trachoma, which residents tried to treat with harmful practices such as eyelash plucking and eyelid cutting. Outside of personal habits, the lack of soap and clean water were structural barriers to better hygiene. Yet the study found widespread understanding about the health benefits of using latrines and washing one’s face regularly.

Each of these findings confirmed the need for a comprehensive educational approach to trachoma. The Trachoma Control Program staff presented the survey information at a workshop for Amhara education officials, teachers, principals, and health care workers. The program staff sought the educators’ feedback on developing grade-specific lesson plans as well. 

The school district now uses supplementary educational materials created specifically for it by The Carter Center, in partnership with regional health and education officials. Incorporating Devereaux’s analysis into the materials has ensured that each misconception and barrier she noted was addressed. However, students still need access to clean latrines and clean water to put proper practices to use—a problem that will require the efforts of government officials and community leaders to solve.

Nicole Devereaux (center) with a study team in Lalibela, Ethiopia.


While pursuing a dual master’s of science in nursing and public health at Emory, Rebekah Stewart Schicker learned about an opportunity to conduct malaria research with migrant populations in Ethiopia alongside epidemiologist Greg Noland at The Carter Center.

“I was interested in doing something with mobile populations because that is what I had tried to focus my coursework on at Rollins [School of Public Health],” Schicker says. “The Carter Center has been supporting malaria control and elimination in Ethiopia since the mid-2000s, and they’ve made substantial progress as a country.”

One of the areas where a higher incidence of the disease was being reported was a vast area of farmland in the country’s northwest, where large groups of migrant farmworkers travel during the agricultural season. 

When Schicker joined the project, members of the Carter Center team suggested that she reach out to the Institute for Developing Nations for funding. “Because it was within the specifications of what they support, and because I was a graduate student, it was a natural fit,” Schicker says. She traveled to Ethiopia in June 2013 and spent nine weeks leading the research project “from start to finish.”

“With the help of Greg and the team in Ethiopia, I designed the survey and the sampling strategy. I came up with the protocols and tried to visit all of the areas where the survey took place to get buy-in from the stakeholders,” Schicker says.  

The team then trained local data collectors who were Ministry of Health personnel and nurses from other regions in Ethiopia who spent two weeks in the field administering the survey, as well as rapid testing all those who participated for malaria and anemia.

The prevalence of malaria in this group was about 12 percent higher than in most of the rest of the country—a major finding. Looking for differences in the group’s conditions, the study focused on sleeping arrangements and 
a lack of preventive measures. Based on the findings, the research team held brainstorming sessions with Ministry of Health personnel, professionals at health centers nearby, and Carter Center Ethiopian staff to figure out how to help the farm workers, for whom traditional preventive measures were not suitable. 

Says Schicker, “One idea was doing treatment testing when people come in to work and providing treatment at that time through health posts during the in-and-out migration of the workers. Another was providing farm owners with treatments they could give employees if they became sick, because the farmlands are vast, making it hard to access health care. Another idea was to secure the large housing units shared by workers with some sort of netting over the whole thing or even trying to provide workers who were sleeping outside with nets.” These recommendations were conveyed to the Ministry of Health and the malaria program in Ethiopia.

Currently, Schicker is an epidemic intelligence service officer with the Influenza Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “When I think about the work I want to do, I’d like to reposition it back toward working with migrant populations, including US migrant populations,” she says. “The opportunities I have had to expand my work through living in Atlanta and working at The Carter Center and with the CDC have definitely changed the course of my career.”

Rebekah Stewart Schicker presenting her research at the American Society of 
Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in November 2014.

“We formed a marriage with Emory, and it’s worked out quite well. We’re very proud of the new relationship, which is . . . destined to grow as the years go by. We have increasing access to a tremendous academic institution with research and a reservoir of knowledge and experience that’s equal to any in the nation. On the other hand, Emory has access to an organization that is extremely active in dealing with the very subjects that are taught there.”

—Jimmy Carter, Founder, The Carter Center, 1996

By Paige Parvin, Jane Howell, Stacey Jones, Maria Lameiras, and Susan Carini
Design by Elizabeth Hautau Karp

May 22, 2018