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The Institute’s Security & Foreign Policy Initiative

The W&M GRI Security and Foreign Policy Initiative was designed with two key objectives: to meet students’ demand for courses and research opportunities in the areas of international security and U.S. foreign policy and to diversify W&M’s theoretical approaches to the study of these subjects. With generous support from W&M alums and the Charles Koch Foundation, GRI will achieve these objectives through an expansion of its post-doctoral fellowship program and a series of convenings that bring scholars, students, and policy practitioners together.

Many in the academic field of international relations (IR) and observers of the foreign policy discourse in Washington, DC have noted the need for greater diversity of thought. Long dominant approaches to U.S. foreign policy have failed to integrate the insights of Realist thought to challenge the dominant liberal internationalist theories in academia and the consensus thinking in DC that leads to more interventionist policies. In fact, GRI’s TRIP project at W&M has documented the decline of Realist thought in academic publications and through surveys of IR scholars. The changing balance of power within the international system, as indicated by the rise of China and other potential peer competitors, makes revisiting the theoretical and empirical underpinnings of U.S. foreign policy a pressing concern both in the academy and in Washington, DC.

With this program, GRI seeks to increase the intellectual diversity at W&M by supporting a cadre of up-and-coming scholars who do policy relevant research with strong empirical foundations. The Security & Foreign Policy Initiative’s post-doctoral researchers will approach foreign policy questions in their research and the classroom armed with cutting-edge research tools and academic independence. They will look beyond conventional wisdom in academic and policy debates in these issue areas to evaluate, challenge, and expand the possibilities of U.S. foreign policy.
Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program
GRI’s residential Security and Foreign Policy Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship increases and broadens W&M’s intellectual capital in security studies. These two-year long positions ensure that the Fellows benefit from the GRI ecosystem and contribute to W&M’s teaching and research in this area. The Fellows are overseen by the Initiative Director, Dr. Jessica Trisko Darden, while also receiving mentorship from GRI’s Director, Mike Tierney, and the Initiative Advisors, Sue Peterson, Marcus Holmes, and Amy Oakes. 

Our Postdoctoral Fellows explore and develop arguments related to a grand strategy of restraint, U.S. overseas military commitments, alliances, military spending, foreign aid, and free trade, and/or take a critical and empirical approach to assess the effectiveness of U.S. foreign policy tools in both contemporary and historical contexts. For example, beyond questions of grand strategy, a new generation of researchers has employed multiple empirical methods to assess the efficacy of U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine, nuclear proliferation policy, and foreign aid policy.  All these approaches fit within this initiative. 

Alongside a cohort of peers, Postdoctoral Fellows benefit from a bi-weekly skills workshop and have access to GRI research seminars where they can present their work and learn from other scholars at W&M. Learning from faculty and high-level practitioners both inside and outside the W&M community, Postdoctoral Fellows will develop skills in areas relevant to their professional development. 
Fall Book Workshops
The Security and Foreign Policy Initiative book workshops are explicitly designed to assist the Postdoctoral Fellow in advancing their own research. The workshops are designed around two days of intense engagement on the written work of the Fellow and feature external readers from the Fellow’s field as well as internal readers drawn from the W&M faculty. GRI has an established track record of turning good manuscripts into great books published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press, among others. These book workshops also help strengthen GRI’s network of engaged practitioners and scholars working on issues related to security studies and U.S. foreign policy.
Spring Thematic Conferences
A key component of the Security and Foreign Policy Initiative is our Spring thematic conferences. The conference focuses on a specific contemporary policy issue and provides a platform for research that critically questions the efficacy of past and current foreign policy solutions to pressing problems. The conference engages scholars and practitioners who are open to transpartisan policy debates that explore and broaden the range of policy options for the United States. They are designed to put scholars in direct contact with legislators, senior staff, and members of the executive branch.

The 2023 Spring Conference on The Past, Present, and Future of US Alliances will foster a rigorous academic and policy debate over the extent of the United States’ forward military strategy, the evolution of U.S. military assistance, and the long-term objectives of NATO expansion, among other topics. The Conference brings together political scientists, historians, think tank analysts, and policymakers for an evidence-based assessment of US alliance strategy from the 1940s to the present day.
The Team
Michael Tierney, W&M GRI Director and George and Mary Hylton Professor of Government
Tierney teaches courses on international organizations, international political economy, and development policy. He has co-authored or co-edited five books and dozens of peer reviewed articles on the reform of international organizations, multilateral cooperation, foreign economic policy, and the impact of academic research on U.S. foreign policy. He has written dozens of essays for public facing outlets. Professor Tierney is currently working on two projects. The first uses new open source methods to explain the allocation and effects of Chinese development finance. The second explores the conditions under which expert consensus changes the perceptions and behavior of policy practitioners. He holds a Ph.D in political science from UC San Diego and a B.A. from William & Mary.
Jessica Trisko Darden, Director of the Security and Foreign Policy Initiative at W&M and Assistant Professor of Political Science at VCU
Trisko Darden researches and teaches courses on international politics, political violence, and human rights at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also a Visiting Research Affiliate at W&M’s Global Research Institute. Her most recent of three books, Aiding and Abetting: US Foreign Assistance and State Violence, Stanford University Press, 2020, explores the consequences of U.S. foreign policy for human rights abuses in aid recipient countries. Dr. Trisko Darden was previously an Assistant Professor at American University’s School of International Service, where she received the SIS Outstanding Scholarship Award for Faculty in 2020. She served as a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a Visiting Scholar at Yale University's Program on Order, Conflict and Violence. She holds a Ph.D. in political science from McGill University, a M.A. in Russian, East European and Eurasian studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. (Hons.) in international development from McGill University. 
Ryan A. Musto, W&M GRI Director of Forums & Research Initiatives
Musto is a diplomatic historian with concentrations in nuclear and Cold War international history. He is currently completing a book manuscript on the international history of regional nuclear weapon free zones. Musto aims to produce works of “applied history” that can inform our understanding of contemporary security challenges. He previously served as a MacArthur Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University and as a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He holds a Ph.D. in history from The George Washington University, master’s degrees in international and world history from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, and a B.A. (hons.) in history from New York University (NYU).
Program Advisor and Mentor, Professor Marcus Holmes, Director of the W&M-St. Andrews Joint Degree Program and Associate Professor of Government

Marcus Holmes joined W&M's Government Department in Fall 2014 and is Assistant Professor of Government and co-director of the Social Science Research Methods Center (SSRMC), which houses the Political Psychology and International Relations (PPIR) lab, which he directs. His research and teaching interests are in international security, international relations theory, foreign policy, diplomacy, homeland security affairs, and political psychology. Holmes has published in International Organization, Journal of Theoretical Politics, International Studies Perspectives, Review of Policy Research, International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Journal of Transportation Security, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Homeland Security Affairs. He earned his doctorate from The Ohio State University and has previously taught at Georgetown University, The Ohio State University, and Fordham University.

Program Advisor and Mentor, Professor Amy Oakes, Director of the International Relations Program, Co-Director of the Project on International Peace and Security, and Associate Professor of Government at W&M
Oakes' research interests include the domestic causes of war and nuclear nonproliferation. She is co-director of the Project on International Peace and Security (PIPS).Her work has appeared in Security Studies, Politics & Gender, International Journal, International Studies Quarterly, and Foreign Policy. Her book, Diversionary War, Stanford University Press, 2012, examines whether governments provoke international crises in response to domestic unrest. She was previously a research fellow at the John F.  Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is the recipient of W&M's Alumni Fellowship Award and was appointed University Associate Professor for Teaching Excellence in 2014. Oakes holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from The Ohio State University and a B.A. in Political Science from Davidson College.
Program Advisor and Mentor, Sue Peterson, Chair of Government at W&M and Reves Professor of Government and International Relations

Sue Peterson received her B.A. from St. Lawrence University and her Ph.D. from Columbia University.  She teaches courses on international security and U.S. foreign policy.  In 2020, she co-authored Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide in International Relations with fellow government faculty. She is a Principal Investigator on the Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) Project, the author of Crisis Bargaining and the State: The Domestic Politics of International Conflict (Michigan, 1996), and the co-editor of Altered States: Domestic Politics, International Relations, and Institutional Change (Lexington, 2002).  She has published articles in International Studies Quarterly, British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Security Studies, Foreign Policy, International Studies Perspectives, International Journal, Politics & Gender, and several edited volumes. From 2003 to 2006, she was editor of Security Studies, and she served from 2006 to 2018 on the editorial board of that journal. She has served as Director of the International Relations Program and the Co-Director of the Global Research Institute.  She also served as Dean for Educational Policy (2005–2007) and Dean of Undergraduate Studies (2007–2011) in Arts and Sciences. Currently, she is Chair of the Department of Government.


For more information about the W&M GRI Security & Foreign Policy Initiative, contact GRI Director of Forums Ryan Musto or Program Director Jessica Trisko Darden.