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Diddy R. M. (Seyd) Hitchins Ph.D. MBE

Photo of Diddy R. M. (Seyd) Hitchins Ph.D. MBE
1945 Birthday: 1945
Biography

As a founding professor of Political Science/International Studies at University of Alaska Anchorage, Diddy Hitchins brought the world into classrooms in Anchorage. She informed and challenged students to think outside of the U.S.A., about different social, economic and political influences on world affairs. She taught students how to analyze and understand the way different political systems worked and interacted so that students could perform political risk analysis. She compelled students to be critical thinkers and precise writers and to see the U.S. within a global framework, particularly encouraging their analysis of U.S. foreign policy. Hitchins has mentored and inspired generations of students to read, consider, debate and understand why the nation-states of the world have the political systems, international relations and foreign policies that they have. She has taught students not only to understand but also how to evaluate these situations in order to be able to advise policymakers in today’s world. She required them to adopt the interests and articulate the points of view of the countries they represented in the Model United Nations program and to think globally about the worldwide process of governance.

Hitchins designed the Political Science curriculum at UAA and was responsible for teaching Comparative Politics, International Relations, International Law and Organizations, and U.S. Foreign Policy. She also led the way in developing the multi-disciplinary and team-taught Canadian Studies Program and obtained financial support from the governments of Canada and Quebec to launch the effort in Alaska. The UAA program was a founding member of the Pacific NorthWest Canadian Studies Consortium, which developed and offered opportunities for faculty development in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon.

As the Cold War receded and opportunities for Alaskans to interact with Russians from the Far East opened up, Hitchins provided briefings on the Russian political system at the request of the governor and the Legislature for delegations going to visit the Russian Far East, and was a member of UAA’s first official delegation to the Russian Far East in 1989. Building on the success of the Canadian Studies Program, she then served as the founding director of UAA’s International North Pacific Studies Program, which covered the North Pacific Region from Hong Kong to Seattle and offered UAA students the opportunity to study China, the Koreas, Japan, the Russian Far East and Western Canada. To develop faculty capacity for this program, Hitchins obtained Fulbright Hays funding for faculty development and student travel in the Russian Far East. Following the development of these programs, much of Hitchins’ research and publications focused on developments in the Arctic with emphasis on the significant role of indigenous peoples in the Arctic and in Alaska.

One of her unique curriculum efforts was the establishment of the Model United Nations Program,which brings high-school students from around the state to participate alongside university students from UAA, University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Southeast in an annual authentic simulation of the United Nations. This program focuses each year on a topic of vital interest to Alaskans and Alaska youth. For two decades this program has initiated high-school students from across the state into the world of international studies

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/DhT7_HmsA_k

Notes

Passionately committed to international education, Diddy Hitchins devoted her professional career in Alaska to ensuring that University of Alaska Anchorage students and the community had a curriculum that allowed them a real understanding of Alaska’s place in the world.

Born in Scotland and raised in England, she studied politics, sociology and economics and developed an interest in international relations. Arriving in Alaska in 1974 with Cliff Hitchins, her engineer husband, she was hired by UAA and served as the founding chair of the new Political Science Department, creating its internationally focused curriculum.

Hichins then shifted her academic focus from Europe and Africa to Alaska’s neighbors – Canada, the Russian Far East, Japan, the Koreas and China – and pursued an understanding of international relations across the North Pacific and Arctic regions. She founded and directed the innovative, multi-disciplinary and team-taught Canadian Studies Program and the North Pacific Studies Programs at UAA. Hitchins then created the nationally and internationally recognized Model United Nations of Alaska to offer all Alaska high-school students the opportunity to participate in an international simulation, which for many rural youth opened pathways to becoming students at UAA.

Hitchens forged links between UAA and the wider community by sharing her international expertise within organizations such as the Alaska World Affairs Council and the World Trade Center Alaska. She also served for more than 25 years as British Honorary Consul for Alaska and was honored in 2005 when Queen Elizabeth II personally conferred upon her the prestigious “Member of the Order of the British Empire,” or MBE, at Buckingham Palace for her contribution to British-Alaska relations.

In reflecting on her career, Diddy Hitchins said: “The most rewarding experience has been to see my former students – particularly women – pursuing international graduate studies and embarking on careers in the international arena. I am equally warmed by other students who have assumed a variety of roles in Alaska and throughout the USA, whose professional behavior and practice is based on respect for all nations and peoples – values which I also see reflected in my daughter, Dzagbe, who is a successful fashion executive in Seattle.”

Induction ceremony acceptance speech https://youtu.be/DhT7_HmsA_k