FACULTY PROFILE: Middle East conflict specialist Croatti makes UO his single-season home

Story Aside Info

Mark Croatti (photo courtesy of Anne Arundel Community College)
Mark Croatti (photo courtesy of Anne Arundel Community College)

Mark Croatti has gotten a pretty good feel for springtime in Eugene – but not so much, the other three seasons.

This year's spring term was the second in a row that Croatti served as a guest lecturer in the UO School of Law’s Conflict and Dispute Resolution program. His two courses in 2012 – also focused on foreign policy and conflict resolution – quickly filled to capacity.

Croatti occupies himself the rest of the year teaching courses at Georgetown University, George Washington University, American University and the Naval Academy, so spring term is his only opportunity to make the trip West. He is most known for his teachings on conflict resolution in the Middle East, a subject he became embraced during his education.

“I graduated from the University of Southern California, both undergraduate and graduate, and had a professor there that made a difference for me,” said Croatti, who may return to the UO in summer 2014 or later to teach as an adjunct in the Department of International Studies. “I took Middle East (politics) with her and became fascinated by it, but my eyes weren’t really opened up until I went over there.”

At the time, Croatti was working on a Middle East grant program for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which had so much money to donate that it was establishing grant programs in countries around the world.

“I was asked to create a Latin American grant program and go throughout the region working on that, so I did and they still had more money to give away," he said. "I wish these guys did 401k plans.”

Sadly, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated during Croatti’s trip to the Middle East, demolishing the program. When he got back to the U.S., the institute had no enthusiasm for it, as the board of trustees had overruled the program’s director.

From there, Croatti and the director headed over to work at Science Magazine. After a few years, he started teaching a non-credit, Middle East policy course at Georgetown University while working at the magazine’s main office in Washington, D.C.

“The great thing about non-credit out there in D.C. is you get a room full of students who work as foreign diplomats and who work for the state department, White House and Congress during the day,” said Croatti.

The class kept growing in popularity, and after 9/11 Croatti said his phone began ringing off the hook.

“Word got out, so to speak … you would think that people would be doing that already, but almost nobody had heard of Osama bin Laden, and I had been lecturing about him at Georgetown since 1996,” he said. “So people who had heard my talks all of the sudden went, ‘I know this guy! This guy! He talked about this guy!’"

The number of teaching positions being thrown his way soon overwhelmed Croatti, and his boss at Science Magazine took notice, suggesting that he may want to think about accepting an offer.

“I had a decision to make," Croatti said. "These were such great schools that I just couldn’t look back and say, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t teach at Georgetown and the Naval Academy.’ I just couldn’t do that. So I had to leave the magazine and enter the world of academia.”

During this year's spring term, Croatti taught three classes: Global Flashpoints, Global Terrorism and U.S./Mexico Border. While he is most known for his terrorism and Middle East classes, the latter of the three illustrates Croatti’s heavy interest in foreign policy in other regions of the world.

He also uses the policies of Native Americans as examples to hammer home the point that foreign policy and conflict resolution exists outside of the Middle East.

“With Native American politics, you have this sort of country within a country. Americans know of Native Americans but they don’t know anything about their system of government, the social issues, the economic issues and so fourth,” he explained. “When’s the last time you picked up a newspaper and found out what was going on in the Navajo reservation?”

For Croatti, his knowledge of Native American politics and his job at the UO are intrinsically linked. Back in 2007, he was invited to talk for an OASIS campus in Bend, which is a nationwide organization providing non-credit courses for senior citizens.

“I came out here to talk to people in Bend, Corvallis and Portland," he said. "I had this speaking tour and I’m sort of going back and fourth for about a month talking and having a great time. What woke me up to (Native Americans) was when I was driving to Portland and drove across the Warm Springs reservation. As soon as I entered the reservation my radio station changed from jazz or whatever I was listening to, to National Native News.”

Once in Portland, Croatti saw an ad in the Oregonian looking for a pool of instructors to teach conflict resolution. Once the UO realized that Croatti was currently speaking in-state, they set up a meeting. For years, however, it was impossible for Croatti to make it out as a visiting lecturer due to his teaching duties in the East, until an opening in his schedule allowed him springtime visits.

“I enjoy opening up these doors for students and showing them problems that exist and, in the end, seeing what they think and should be done, which is the best part for me,” Croatti said.

- by Taylor Robertson, UO Office of Strategic Communications intern