Professor Patrick Mendis is a distinguished senior fellow in the School of Public Policy. He is also an affiliate professor of public and international affairs as well as an adjunct professor of geography and geoinformation science at George Mason University (GMU).
In 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has appointed him as a commissioner to the United States National Commission for UNESCO. Earlier, the UNESCO commissioner served as a governing board member of the USDA Graduate School—an appointment by the George W. Bush administration. His other government and international experience includes positions in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the World Bank, and the United Nations.
Prior to joining GMU, Dr. Mendis served as the vice president of academic affairs at the Robert Osgood Center for International Studies and a visiting foreign policy scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). While at SAIS, he authored two books: Trade for Peace (foreword by Professor Brian Atwood, former dean of the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota) and Commercial Providence: The Secret Destiny of the American Empire (foreword by Professor Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus of the George Washington University).
Before returning to academia, Professor Mendis served as an American diplomat under both Secretary Madeline Albright and General Colin Powell. Joining the Department of State as a mid-career science and diplomacy fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Dr. Mendis served as a foreign affairs officer and chaired a number of U.S. interagency policy working groups, managed the Department’s international educational and cultural programs, advised the U.S. Delegations to the United Nations, coordinated science and technology policy with the White House, and served as vice chair of the Secretary’s Open Forum. He also lectured at the George Shultz Institute of Foreign Service. For his leadership and service, he was recognized with the State Department’s Meritorious Honor and the Benjamin Franklin Awards. After his diplomatic assignments, Dr. Mendis worked as a consultant economist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center for Global Security Research at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Before serving in the State Department, he taught as a military professor in the NATO and Pacific Commands of the U.S. Department of Defense through the University of Maryland. For his teaching, leadership and service, he was selected by faculty and students for the Stanley Drazek Teaching Excellence Award—a financial prize. Professor Mendis joined the Maryland faculty after his teaching and research career at the University of Minnesota, where he has established the annual Edward Burdick Legislative Award, honoring his late mentor and friend at the Minnesota House of Representatives. In 2013, he received the Alumnus of Notable Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Mendis served as a visiting professor of economics and public policy at the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester at Sea Program and authored a book based on his global voyage, Glocalization: The Human Side of Globalization as If the Washington Consensus Mattered (foreword by Sir Arthur Clarke, the late science-fiction writer). He also taught at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University and the George Washington University. He was a visiting professor of economics and management at the Leningrad State University in the former Soviet Union and a visiting professor of American studies at Northwestern University in Xi’an, China. He is currently a distinguished visiting professor in the Center for American Studies at the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies in China.
An alumnus of the Harvard Executive Leadership Program at the Kennedy School of Government, he earned his PhD in geography/applied economics and agriculture from the University of Minnesota, MA in international development and foreign affairs from the Hubert Humphrey School of Public Affairs. A Socrates fellow at the Aspen Institute, he also attended Oxford University’s Merton College as a Twenty-first Century Trust fellow and Columbia University as a Coolidge research fellow.
Author of more than 100 books, journal articles, newspaper columns and government reports, Dr. Mendis has received numerous awards and honors for his leadership, public service and philanthropic activities. These include the Hubert Humphrey Outstanding Leadership Award, the University of Minnesota President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service, the Harold Stassen Award for United Nations Affairs, and the USDA Graduate School Outstanding Service Award. He has lived, traveled, and worked in more than 100 countries and visited all 50 states. A fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science, Dr. Mendis serves as an advisor to the Harvard International Review, an editor of The Public Manager, an advisor to The Encyclopedia of the Sri Lankan Diaspora at the National University of Singapore, and a counselor on the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni DC Council Board. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who of Asian Americans, and Who’s Who in the World. Professor Mendis is a former American Field Service (AFS) exchange scholar from Sri Lanka to Minnesota.
He was one of the nine AFS scholars selected among over 100,000 applicants in Sri Lanka. After receiving his American diploma from Perham High School in Minnesota, he returned to the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, where Dr. Mendis endowed two annual scholarships in leadership and management studies in 1993. Mendis served as the vice president of the World University Service, the president of the University Sports Council, and a member of the University’s badminton, athletic, and swimming teams for which he won the University Colors. He earned his BS in business administration and economics (First Class Honors) before he returned to the United States on scholarship for graduate studies at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
With Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala, Dr. Mendis represented the Government of Sri Lanka as “Youth Ambassador” at the 1985 UN International Year of the Youth (IYY) in New York. It was a political appointment by the Government of Sri Lanka (at the suggestion of the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa to honor Mendis’ service at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Professor Karunasena Koddituwakku, the Vice Chancellor of the University, recommended Dr. Mendis to the Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs, Ranil Wickramasinghe. After representing the Government of Sri Lanka at the UN, he was awarded the United Nations Medal for the International Year of the Youth by the UN Secretariat.
Born in the medieval capital of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka, Professor Mendis was a Boy Scout, a Sarvodaya volunteer, a Police Cadets sergeant, and a commander of the Army Cadets Corps of Sri Lanka. In 2012, the General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University (KDU) presented Professor Mendis the KDU Appreciation Award recognizing his contribution to Sri Lanka. He has also received the UNESCO Award sponsored by the United Nations Association of Sri Lanka. At Sarvodaya, Professor Mendis worked with his mentor, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, the “Gandhi of Sri Lanka” and founder of Sarvodaya, and later established a number of tsunami scholarships and the Sarvodaya Peace Prize. For his contributions to his country, Dr. Mendis is recognized with the Sarvodaya International Peace Award and the Sri Lanka Foundation’s Exceptional Achievement Award for International Diplomacy.
Professor Mendis serves as the founding chairman of the Board of Advisors at The Educate Lanka Foundation in Maryland, USA.