An unprecedented year, an exciting future 

What a year! My first six months as CEO of the United States Studies Centre spanned the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election. It was hard to imagine that 2017 could have been even more hectic or more engaging, but it was. The first year of the Trump administration made for the busiest year in the Centre’s history. It is hard to overstate the intensity of interest in the policy direction of the United States under President Trump and the implications for Australia.  

In turn, this has made the Centre’s work more relevant and more valuable than at any time in its history. I’m so proud of the way that the Centre’s staff have risen to this challenge. Let me share some highlights with you.

The Centre's research tempo picked up considerably in 2017, with 20 publications released. We’d committed to a heightened research tempo and intensity ahead of the US election, but the Trump administration has added extra urgency and relevance to this ambition, broadening the Centre’s expertise beyond our long-standing strengths in American politics and foreign policy. In 2017 we launched the investment and innovation research programs with important reports from each. There will be much more to see from these two research areas next year.

I'm excited to announce that Ashley Townshend will lead our Foreign Policy, Defence and Strategy Program in 2018 as its new director. Ashley has been acting in the role for several months while former research director James Brown overhauled the NSW RSL. James will return to the Centre in a part-time capacity in 2018, contributing to the Centre's research and media commentary while he continues his work at the RSL.

Our experts dominated media coverage of the United States this year, with appearances on ABC’s 7.30 Report, CNN, the BBC, NPR and Al Jazeera, as well as in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, The Financial TimesThe Australian, and The Sydney Morning Herald, among many others. The foreign policy team's weekly spots on Sky News and David Smith's "Trump Tuesday" segments with Richard Glover on ABC's Drive also became compulsory viewing and listening.

Our already renowned events program truly raised the bar in 2017, with a line-up of guests that included US Senator John McCain, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, The New York Times' managing editor Joseph Kahn, the Australian CEOs of AirBnb and Uber, and the founders of the Black Lives Matter global network.

This year we launched our polling partnership with YouGov and produced the second iteration of the Asian Research Network survey, tracking public opinion on security, trade and investment across the Asia Pacific. We’ve increased the frequency of our briefings and engagements with government, opposition, the public service and the business community and this will continue in 2018.

The Centre’s academic team have refreshed and updated course content for the next semester, as the United States and its institutions change rapidly under its new leadership. I want to thank our academic director David Smith for his commitment to keeping our offerings relevant for University of Sydney students. He hands over the reins to Thomas Adams in 2018, but will continue with us as a senior lecturer.

In the second half of the year we were delighted to land a new chief operating officer, Vik Naidoo, helping me realise my ambitions for the Centre’s research output and relevance, on-time and on-budget. In 2018 we’ll be joined by economist Stephen Kirchner, adding depth to the investment and innovation research programs.

At the beginning of 2017 I noted that everyone at the Centre was energised by the heightened relevance of our mission. As we enter 2018 and the one year anniversary of President Trump's inauguration, that energy is just as palpable. The demand for our research, teaching and events has never been greater, and I encourage you to get involved with our work for what is shaping up as an incredible line-up of events and research for 2018.

There's a selection of some of our best research and events for 2017 below – plenty to dive into over the festive season, should you be hungry for further analysis of America while we break until January 8.

Have a safe and peaceful break, and a happy new year,

Professor Simon Jackman