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Faculty Profile: Dr. John Tierney

 IWP has many remarkable faculty members, almost all of whom have concrete experience in the field that they teach.  IWP's Walter Kohler Professor of International Relations, Dr. John J. Tierney, Jr. is one such faculty member, bringing to IWP both experience working in the field of foreign policy, and in academia.  Since 1998, Dr. Tierney has been preparing IWP students to excel in careers in international relations, and he truly appreciates the uniqueness of an IWP education.

After attaining a B.A. in Political Science from LeMoyne College in New York, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Tierney went to teach at the Catholic University of America.  After several years of successful work there, he realized that he had been in academia his entire life, and wanted to get some practical experience to complement his academic achievements. 

He subsequently became a fellow at the Hoover Institution and spent five years on Capitol Hill.  After working in the House of Representatives for Ed Feulner, who was then the head of the Republican Study Committee, Dr. Tierney worked on forming bipartisan coalitions, including pro-national security groups in the House.

Later, when he began his twelve years of service in the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, he had very little background in arms control, but eventually mastered his job there, and learned even more about the inner workings of that agency and of the State Department.

Dr. Tierney found that, in one way, his time in academia provided him with good preparation for his government work: his academic experience had given him a larger framework within which he understood his day-to-day activities, and general ideas he was able to apply in certain situations.

He also found that his education was sorely lacking in another respect – it had not prepared him for his day-to-day professional activities themselves.  He comments that, "Having a doctorate is really not a sufficient prerequisite for working on the Hill or in diplomacy."  For instance, in school, Dr. Tierney had never learned specifically about chemical weapons control, inter-agency rivalries, or the "tunnel vision" these agencies possessed in terms of working on their own issues but being disinterested in cooperation with other arms of the government. 

Indeed, Dr. Tierney observes that, "it is rare to have government officials in foreign policy areas who have an educational background that is specifically designed to prepare them for their profession."  In fact, most people who work on Capitol Hill, in the Foreign Service, or as military officers learn their profession through on-the-job training after they are assigned to their post.

Dr. Tierney therefore truly appreciates the unique practitioner-oriented character of an education at The Institute of World Politics:  "IWP orients the student in a program tailored towards the work environment, and combines courses with an intellectual background in history, political philosophy, and American values with the study of the real world and training in a field that one will enter professionally." 

Dr. Tierney's classes are vital to IWP's core curriculum and its M.A. program.  He is consciously able to provide the intellectual framework needed in these fields through several of the courses he teaches, such as History of American Foreign Policy and History of International Relations.  He provides experience in specific fields through his class on U.S. Foreign Policy: Current and Future Challenges

Dr. Tierney imparts this appreciation of an IWP education to his students, many of whom are or will be involved in government work.   He knows that the real need exists for such well-trained professionals in this field in each and every administration.  As most recent Presidents have been novices in the realm of international affairs, Dr. Tierney explains that it is "vital for any new administration to fill itself with people who are steeped in the subject of foreign policy and international relations" – and who have the type of education IWP provides.

If a new President surrounds himself with capable staff members in this field, his administration has a high chance of being successful in this realm.  Dr. Tierney points to Ronald Reagan as a U.S. President who was initially inexperienced in international affairs, but, having chosen excellent staff members, had one of the most effective approaches to foreign policy in American history. 

Among numerous other publications, Dr. Tierney has published two books since being at IWP: Chasing Ghosts: Unconventional Warfare in American History and The Politics of Peace: What's Behind the Anti-War Movement?  His newest work, Conceived in Liberty, The American Worldview: Theory and Politics, is in the process of being published by IWP Press.

Charles Van Someren, the Institute's Communications Coordinator, remarks that "Conceived in Liberty is a fascinating examination of the philosophical concept of liberty serving as the moral compass of American foreign policy.  Tierney makes a compelling case, and provides the reader with penetrating insights into American strategic culture."

IWP is fortunate to have a professor like Dr. Tierney.  Having spent time in academia, he knows how to instruct students in the most effective and engaging manner, and, having gained real world experience in his field, he knows the type of knowledge he needs to communicate to help them become well-rounded, well-prepared members of the foreign policy community.