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Potnis and White Receive Approval for Diplomacy Lab Projects

The US State Department recently approved Diplomacy Lab project proposals from IS Associate Professor Devendra Potnis and ADPR Professor Candace White.  

The Diplomacy Lab program was launched in 2013 by Secretary of State John Kerry and enables the State Department to “course-source” research and innovation related to foreign policy by harnessing the efforts of students and faculty at universities across the country.

Devendra PotnisPotnis’ project is titled, “Leveraging the use of WhatsApp to spread the US message.” Potnis will use his background in computer and information science and mobile technologies to lead this project on WhatsApp messaging and suggestions for its use in US public diplomacy. He will use his expertise in electronic governance and his research on factors influencing the electronic word-of-mouth among Indian youth using mobile phones, examining youth’s access to, emotional engagement with, and behavior in spreading sensitive messages via WhatsApp. His team of 3 graduate students will work to address the required questions (WhatsApp’s future use, informing/influencing audiences, use as collaboration tool, message dissemination, etc.) and triangulate findings with the knowledge and experience of mobile app developers, communication researchers, and members/administrators of WhatsApp groups in Africa and India (see for information about the service).

White’sProfessor Candace White project is titled, “Developing new case studies for public-private partnerships.” She will lead graduate students in developing three case studies to answer the required questions (history, inputs, outcomes, governance & key findings). Students will also learn how public diplomacy benefits from a private partner’s expertise and resources (i.e., large communication budgets, extensive networks, and ability to be nimble and efficient). The resulting case studies will provide models for leveraging the expertise of government and corporations making for more effective public-private partnerships in the future.

The University of Tennessee has had nine projects approved since joining the State Department’s Diplomacy Lab project in 2015. Six of these projects have been led by CCI faculty members including Potnis’ and White’s projects. Other CCI faculty members who have led Diplomacy Lab projects include: JEM Director and Professor Catherine Luther, IS Associate Professor Bharat Mehra (two projects), and JEM Howard Distinguished Professor and Beaman Professor Stuart Brotman.

“We continue to see the research of our outstanding faculty lead to solutions for real world issues and questions,” said CCI Associate Dean for Research Suzie Allard. “This latest round of Diplomacy Lab projects is yet another example of how our faculty members use their knowledge and research in concert with our graduate students to find solutions for the greater good. Both of these projects have implications beyond the US and may have world-wide impact.”