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Michael Horowitz has been the director of Perry World House since February 2020. Credit: Kasra Koushan

Michael Horowitz, the director of Perry World House, began a leave of absence from his position on Wednesday to serve in a new office within the United States Department of Defense.

Horowitz, a Political Science professor at Penn who has led PWH since February 2020, departed the University yesterday to begin his federal service as the inaugural director of the Office of Emerging Capabilities Policy within the Pentagon. His departure was first announced in an internal message to faculty on March 22 from Interim President Wendell Pritchett, Interim Provost Beth Winkelstein, and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel. 

"It's an honor to be able to serve the country," Horowitz told The Daily Pennsylvanian. "I'm going to do the best job I can, and then I'm going to return to Penn with with more knowledge and perspective that will help me hopefully work even more effectively in helping Penn be a global leader and working with Penn students."

Horowitz said that he expects to return to Penn in about a year, once his federal service is complete. PWH’s Executive Director LaShawn Jefferson will assume the role of senior executive director during Horowitz’s leave of absence.  

He added that his work with the Department of Defense will center around developing policy and guidance to improve the U.S. military's effectiveness in integrating new capabilities like artificial intelligence and robots, which he said could play a "big role" in shaping the future of warfare. 

Jefferson joined PWH in 2016 after working in leadership positions at Human Rights Watch and the Ford Foundation. Her academic interests and work are centered around women’s international human rights. 

"My leadership builds on the extraordinary leadership and contributions of the inaugural director, William Burke-White, and of Michael Horowitz, whose leave of absence made my expanded leadership possible," Jefferson wrote in a statement emailed to the DP. 

In addition to Jefferson’s promotion, administrators wrote in the internal message that Penn will form a new faculty council that will work to advance the mission of PWH and grow its engagement with faculty. The council will be chaired by Emanuel, and its members will include philosophy professor Michael Weisberg, who is currently the senior faculty fellow and director of post-graduate programs at PWH. 

Winkelstein went on to write that more information about the council will be shared later this year. 

“We are confident that the new leadership team will sustain the invaluable work of Perry World House, at a time when its leadership on global challenges is needed more than ever,” Winkelstein said after announcing Horowitz’s leave during the University Council’s meeting on March 30. 

Horowitz served as interim director of PWH from July 2019 to February 2020 and succeeded PWH’s founding director, Penn Law professor William Burke-White. Horowitz, who has taught at Penn since 2007, previously served as PWH’s inaugural associate director from 2015 to 2019. He has also previously worked with the Department of Defense and is a senior fellow for defense technology and innovation at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Founded in 2015, PWH is a center for international exchange and public outreach on pressing global issues that aims to foster international policy engagement within the Penn community. Last month, the center held an event with former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt to discuss the Russia-Ukraine War. PWH also recently announced an alumni gift that will support studies and programming related to global justice and human rights. 

Jefferson wrote that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and conflicts in Ukraine, Ethiopia, and other countries, it is essential for PWH to double down on its mission and expand its programming offerings to make students well-informed global citizens. 

"Penn is a great home for me. Perry World House is a great home for me," Horowitz said. "I've been really honored to serve as a director, but when this opportunity came about, it seemed like a chance to try to serve and help my country, and that's really important to me."