Zach Vertin

Princeton SPIA Appoints Head of Washington, D.C., Initiative

Sep 27 2023
By Tom Durso
Source Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs has appointed Zach Vertin, an experienced policy analyst, writer, and diplomat, to serve as the first director of its SPIA in D.C. initiative, which launched in May.

Vertin, who holds a Master in Public Policy from the School, begins his duties October 2. He comes to SPIA from the Biden administration, where he served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, working on a range of policy issues across the U.N. system, as well as the future of multilateralism, global governance reform, and U.S-China relations. Vertin also served in the Obama administration as director of policy for the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, during which he was intimately involved in negotiations to end South Sudan’s civil war.

SPIA has secured space just off Washington’s Dupont Circle to be used for a variety of educational, public-affairs, and engagement purposes. It marks the first time the School has established a permanent physical presence in the nation’s capital.

“Our intention is to cultivate a dynamic space and to add real value in the public square — not by recreating what others are doing well, but by leveraging unique talent, research, and resources to advance creative ideas — whether on climate or economic security or artificial intelligence,” Vertin said. “We see this as an opportunity for the school — and its faculty, students, alumni, and partners — to further deliver on its mission of public service.”

Vertin’s role will also include amplifying SPIA’s presence in the capital and helping to raise its global profile as a leading school of public policy and international affairs.

“We are excited to have Zach leading SPIA in D.C.,” said Dean Amaney Jamal. “He brings a wealth of experience to this important role, and I am confident he will help elevate the School’s profile in the capital. As SPIA in D.C. evolves, Zach’s leadership, deep connections to Washington, and significant experience will be enormous assets to the School.”

Vertin has been a lecturer of public and international affairs with SPIA for six years, and held previous positions with the Brookings Institution and Brookings Doha Center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and the International Crisis Group. His career interests have included U.S. foreign policy, global governance and institutions, multilateral diplomacy, strategic planning, conflict analysis and resolution, mediation and negotiation, political transitions, Africa, the Middle East, and China. Vertin is the author of a 2019 book, A Rope from the Sky: The Making and Unmaking of the World’s Newest State (Pegasus), about the extraordinary birth of South Sudan, its subsequent collapse, and a reckoning with the limits of American influence amid a changing global landscape. He has published policy reports, long-form analyses, and op-eds and contributed expert commentary to national and international media on a wide range of global policy issues.

"I’m excited to help the school plant its flag in the nation’s capital,” Vertin said. “This is a first for Princeton, and I'm confident it will prove to be a smart investment in people and ideas.”