Category Archives: News

Abigail Post Joins Anderson University

Abigal PostAbigail Post joins Anderson University in Indiana as an Assistant Professor of International Relations/National Security in the Department of History & Political Science. Her dissertation was title The Language of Signaling: National Rhetoric in International Bargaining, and her research included laboratory and survey methods. Her committee included John M. Owen (co-chair), Todd Sechser (co-chair), and Nicholas Winter.


Kenny Lowande: from UVA to UMich

Kenneth LowandeStarting Fall 2018, Kenny Lowande will be an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy (by Courtesy) at the University of Michigan.

Kenny earned his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016, and has been a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. He studies American political institutions, policymaking, and the executive branch. The University of Michigan political science program is ranked 4th by the U.S. News and World Report.

Kenny spent four years in the program—advised by Jeff Jenkins (Chair), Craig Volden, Rachel Potter, and David Lewis (Vanderbilt). He first met Lewis during the American Politics Speaker Series at UVA. UVA’s Quantitative Collaborative funded portions of his dissertation and supported other research coauthored with Andrew Clarke. His first published paper grew out of a graduate seminar with Sidney Milkis.

A galvanizing moment of awareness occurred during his stint as Editorial Assistant at the Journal of Politics (2015–2016), while at UVA. “Famous” professors’ papers were routinely being rejected. Authors whose previous work was nonpareil, whose reputations were golden, were regularly being denied, and still they submitted. To Kenny this indicated persistence was key, as was listening to the advice of reviewers and maintaining a leathery hide.

He developed tough skin during the series of steps that led to Michigan. The doctoral program at UVA and multiple postdocs exposed him to different academic cultures, varying research pressures, and a broader range of scholars than one might see going straight from Ph.D. to faculty.

Kenny is a first-generation college student from Burbank, CA. When asked for advice for those who follow, he said…

“Being on the market is a full time job. Expect to spend most of Summer and Fall, preparing for, applying to, and getting a job. The periods between feedback are difficult.”

“There are a lot of talented, accomplished people on the market. It often takes time to find the right ‘fit.’”

“Be a good citizen. Read others’ work, share your data, go to talks, and review manuscripts (quickly).”

Request for Abstracts – Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Working Group Graduate Research Workshop

The Race, Ethnicity and Gender Working Group (REG) in the Department of Politics brings together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students to advance research, mentorship and teaching on political questions that address race, ethnicity and gender.

An integral element of our mission is to support graduate research on the politics of race, ethnicity and gender. Therefore, we will hold the first annual REG Graduate Student Workshop on January 19, 2018. We invite applications from graduate students to present a working paper, receive feedback from a faculty discussant and receive a $200 gift certificate to the UVA Bookstore in recognition of their research excellence. Ph.D. students in the Department of Politics are eligible to apply. We anticipate selecting 3-4 students.

Proposed research papers must involve some aspect of race, ethnicity and/or gender. Papers may be standalone projects or a discrete component of a larger research project.

Workshop participants will be expected to

  • Present their working paper at the January 19 workshop, to be held from 12-1:30pm.
  • Attend the REG Open House, 5-7pm, hosted by Nick Winter.

Submissions should include:

  • Title of the paper, abstract of not more than 200 words that identifies and explains the importance of the question to be addressed, describes the approach(es) used, and articulates the connection between the research and race, ethnicity and/or gender.
  • CV

REG faculty from several subfields will evaluate abstracts on the importance of the questions they raise; the suitability of the approach they take; and their relevance to race, ethnicity and gender in the study of politics.

Abstracts and CVs must be submitted by email as a single PDF attachment to Nicholas Winter, by 5pm on December 15. Selections will be announced in early January, 2018.

More information about REG is available on our website. Inquiries about REG may be directed to Denise Walsh.

Roger Herbert: Theoretically

It would be so nice to sum up Roger Herbert's path in a few simple words, but that is not going to happen. He graduated with his Ph.D. from the Department of Politics in 2016. But he was a Captain in the U.S. Navy as a SEAL before that, and a NOLS instructor, and a football and swim coach, and afterwards, the Director of an outdoor school for teens in the mountains of North Carolina (The Outdoor Academy). All the ands!

And next, he will be the General Robert T. Herres Distinguished Military Professor in Leadership and Ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. A good place for him since he has been speaking on character development, leadership, and ethical decision making for much of his professional life, and (and another and) in his dissertation intrinsically bound international relations and political theory.

Body/Mind: The Cartesian and the Aristotelian

As we talk, Herbert compares and contrasts the two philosophers. On one hand he can peek at life as a Cartesian, and see a difference between mind and body—one, the other, or both, can be built up like a muscle. And then he's Aristotelian, there is no difference between mind and body, there is only one, and one is all there is. He was an athlete in college and came at academics in the reverse from most intellectuals, the physical and then the intellectual.

He states "One of my early influences and what got me interested in academics and intellectual pursuits was my Latin professor at Davidson, Professor Davies. He was exactly what you think a Latin professor would look like—Princeton guy, big coke-bottle glasses, bowtie."

“Our class was having a conversation about a verb tense, which is what you do in Latin class. The professor says ‘of course you know which is the correct verb tense here because you know how this (Virgil’s Aeneid) ends.’ We all looked at him puzzled—none of us knew how it ended because none of us had ever read the Aeneid. Dr. Davies, who assumed that this was at least the second reading for most of us, was disgusted. ‘I just don't understand your generation. You spend all this time in the gym trying make your bodies strong, and yet you do nothing to make your minds strong.’ The way he framed this struck me—that you can build a strong mind. It really had an influence on me.”

In the Navy Herbert used this metaphor with his junior officers as they joined his reading programs – the brain isn’t a muscle, but it acts that way; it’s something you can build and make stronger.

Herbert continues to integrate his mind and body, but considers himself a failure at yoga, only able to touch his kneecaps ;). His integration process is less formalized, but walking through the woods sets it in motion. He is a NOLS instructor, and his most recent job at the Outdoor Academy, a school for teens in the mountains of North Carolina helps unify the mental and the physical.

In Theory

Most people who study international relations as a major don’t match it with political theory as a minor. The prevailing wisdom is to pick comparative politics or methodology. But Herbert says IR and PT come together in lots of productive ways, especially with some of the scholarly movements in the late 1990s and early 2000s; he says the constructivists, for example, put together those two sub-disciplines very well. He indicates his decision to meld the two areas was less strategic and just his areas of interest. His Master’s degrees and his professional life dealt with the IR side of political science, but his interests have always tapped into PT starting from when he went to Naval Postgraduate School in the early 1990s.

“When I was looking at Ph.D. programs that I would be interested in, and programs that would be interested in me as a political scientist, I don’t think the Department of Politics at UVA would have been inspired to bring me on board as a political theorist; I just didn’t have the PT cred.“ But matching theory with IR is a wise choice for a political scientist. Herbert got into it in this way:

At the Naval Postgraduate School “my most influential professor walked into the classroom and threw John Rawls’ Theory of Justice on my desk. ‘Read this and talk to me about it next week.’ I did read it in a week, and, although I must admit very limited comprehension, it opened up the door to political theory for me. It was also the first time I’d been treated as an intellectual and I really liked the way that felt.”

I Have Never Spoken to a President

Herbert's dissertation, Cry Havoc: Rhetorical Mobilization and Foreign Policy Decision Making During War-threatening Crises, seems to give advice to presidents, but he states he has not spoken to one personally. The closest he came, was at the beginning of the Iraq War. He worked at the Pentagon and every morning he delivered maps to various places, including the Oval Office.

He was a Commander at the time and despite the lofty-sounding title, he claims that a Commander in the Pentagon is little more than a glorified coffee maker; it was not even particularly glorified. As a Commander he was Executive Assistant to one of the generals in the J3, the Directorate of Operations. In his words, he was the dude who carried the briefcase and the papers. The position did, however, allow him to sit in on high-level meetings and importantly, to hear how top officials viewed the challenge of communicating the administration’s policy preference (regime change in Iraq) to domestic and foreign audiences.

In his dissertation he asks: When leaders choose war, for whatever reason, how do they marshal domestic support for that? Modern war requires mobilization, sometimes of entire societies. “When you think about it, the material incentives for any of us to go to war are pretty small. IR has many theories about why states are pushed into situations which are tragically conflictual. But states don't fight wars, people fight wars.“

He asks how does that mobilization happen? And answers that it happens through rhetoric. He also argues rhetoric is a variable which can be measured. He turns to social movement theory to hypothesize about when a rhetorical mobilization campaign will resonate with the public—and when it won't.

Pop Culture, Propaganda, Tech, Social Media

His dissertation covers two case studies: Iraq 2003, a brilliant use of rhetoric by the Bush machine, and Roosevelt in 1940, a president unable to marshal public support for a war that really needed to be fought. Whether the Iraq war needed to be fought, Herbert doesn't address, but “it's a war which brought on all sorts of unintended consequences; it was a war which took the military by surprise.“

To some extent, Roosevelt was the first modern president when it comes to the use of mass media. Though reluctant to use it for propaganda, he ventured into it to garner support for the war. Polling, another new technology for presidents, had just come into use. He used Princeton professor Hadley Cantrill to plug-into what America was thinking on a daily basis.

Herbert indicates it was nothing like what we have now— we have a different media landscape including social media, reality TV, and all the other low-friction ways the internet brings us together and pushes us apart. “An administration or a campaign can leverage the current media landscape in ways we've never seen before. Maybe (media) is more important now than ever before in how leaders can marshal support.“

Disembodied Operators

We spoke about other issues outside of his expertise, but still with an ethical bearing. Drone warfare—is the body or the mind responsible? He says drone technology has been erroneously conflated in ethical discourse with other technologies which make decisions autonomously. The human drone operator, while not in physical danger, is very much there – “it is a very personal form of warfare. From an ethical perspective, we should be careful about what we are talking about. Whether you are back in CONUS (the continental US) fighting a drone, or on the ground ten meters from your enemy, you always have rules of engagement, which are essentially algorithms for ethical decision making.”

He says the next big question will be about autonomous decision makers, “where we're turning over the decision-making keys to the castle to artificial intelligence.“ He says wisely, “I don't have enough background to comment on that.“

To my other tech related questions he offered, “Compared with other warfighting specialties, SEALs are pretty low-tech.“ But he did routinely employ a decision-making algorithm, a framework for moral reasoning that he evolved throughout his naval career.

The notion of a just war, an ancient idea reinterpreted and reinvigorated in Michael Walzer's book Just and Unjust Wars had a profound influence on the post-Vietnam military. “We had lost touch with the language of the just war tradition in WWII and the Vietnam War. The military was very encouraged by the resurgence of this (tradition)—What does it mean to be a just warrior, what does it mean to have a just cause for war?“

He continues “It fascinates me, I've evolved my own framework for moral reasoning in combat that allowed me to make decisions both quickly and in long term. It's something I've developed with the help of Kant and Aristotle and Mill and Jesus and Mohammad and various other ethical traditions.“

It became a part of how he led his subordinates. While he was still on active duty, it was a work-in-progress, but he shared his evolving framework with his troops. “Every American soldier, before they go into combat, is familiarized with detailed rules of engagement to guide their conduct on the battlefield. But rules of engagement only take you so far, especially on the very complex battlefields on which SEALs typically fight.

“Of note, I'm currently running this school in Western North Carolina. I've introduced a leadership and ethics seminar, which every student goes through. I have found that the same framework of moral reasoning that benefitted me during my naval career has also been valuable for teenagers who also routinely face difficult choices with moral content and very real consequences.”

And Annapolis

And will he continue the effort when teaching at Annapolis? He responds that "Every Youngster* at the Naval Academy will go through his ethics course."

At the Naval Academy, you are a Plebe (freshman), a Youngster (sophomore), a Junior, and then a Firsty (senior).

The staff that designs and delivers the course, Introduction to Moral Reasoning, includes a handful of philosophers and political theorists, “amazing scholars who put together the curriculum.“ Joining these scholars are 25-30 naval officers who have significant field experience. “On Monday, for example, a professor may lecture on Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative. The students will then break into sections led by one of the naval officers who will lead a discussion on the material covered in lecture and, importantly, put these esoteric ideas in perspective in the context of their military careers: lessons from the battlefield.“

The position has been around for about 20 years, but Herbert will not just show up and introduce his syllabus; As a professor he will be one of the people doing the lectures, and also someone who has been in battle. He speaks the language of both. He says “Every single combatant is a moral agent. Especially on today's battlefield and especially for those on the ground like SEALs, Marines, and Infantry folks who deal directly and at close quarters with other moral agents, individual choices can have lasting consequences…for good or harm. It is the nature of modern warfare that individual soldiers must exercise a great deal of autonomy, which is why we have to prepare them well to make those difficult choices.”

But while rules of engagement and detailed planning play an important role in this preparation, planning has its limits. Of plans he says “planning is priceless, but plans are useless.“ Once you get out on the battlefield, he says you better be ready to adapt, and this is especially important for the lower-level leaders—be tactically smart, but ethically on target. On the battlefield today, ethical behavior has strategic implications, and unethical behavior has huge strategic implications. “By promoting ethical decision making and the use of a framework for moral reasoning, we increase the likelihood that our soldiers will not only achieve desired results on the battlefield, but also come home as whole human beings—with as little damage as war can cause.“

Surprise at UVA

For just getting into the program, he owes Mark Schwartz a huge debt of gratitude. When looking at schools, Herbert encountered reluctance from some programs when they heard a 50-year old say, “I want to go be a tenure-track professor somewhere,“ the implication being: we don't want you to sue us, but we're trying to welcome the next generation of scholars...and you look like our generation of scholars. Schwartz, Director of Graduate Studies at the time, saw this unconventional Ph.D. candidate and saw good things.

During his studies here he says “I studied under extraordinary scholars like Jen Rubenstein, Jeff Legro, Lawrie Balfour, Dale Copeland, Michael Smith, Lynn Sanders, Todd Sechser, Jim Ceaser, and John Owen.” Looking back, Herbert recognizes that not only was it a good decision for him to retire from the Navy to pursue his doctorate, but very important that he studied at UVA. “I am so pleased with where I ended up.”

Jim Childress from Religious Studies also contributed importantly to Herbert's experience at UVA and he continues a conversation with him today. “I consider Jim a mentor, in the same way I consider John Owen, the Chair of my Dissertation Committee, a mentor. I was trying to find my voice straddling IR and PT. I went to Jim who was offering a Just War course. My intent was to walk away from that course with a dissertation topic.“ He smiles and continued, “It didn't come out quite the way I'd hoped. My dissertation is an IR dissertation. It certainly has normative implications, but I don’t feel like I'd hit that sweet spot as an IR/PT scholar. He continues, “I still think the ethical dimension of conflict is a fertile ground to find this connection—after all, some of the best scholars in the Just War tradition are political theorists, and the normative aspects of war and peace certainly have a place in international relations scholarship.”

His gratitude towards his teachers is overwhelming, but no doubt the Department of Politics should also be thanking Roger for picking the University of Virginia.

Selected additional information


Ethics 2016: Capt. Roger Herbert: Courage - Can we teach it? Can we learn it?

NPR Website

Navy SEALs Seek to Build Up Their Ranks

Herbert in his role as Director of The Outdoor Academy in the mountains of North Carolina

Herbert in his role as Director of The Outdoor Academy in the mountains of North Carolina

#PSJMInfo vs Fake News

Twitter phoneThere is a new initiative to bring some transparency to hiring in Political Science: see #PSJMInfo on Twitter.  Following the best examples of internet activism, the Department of Politics at the University joins other leading institutions to fight the FAKE NEWS! surrounding hiring, especially the information and disinformation on rumor sites. The idea is to tweet to the hash tag when calls have been made for interviews, but not to announce the names of candidates. This allows some calming to the candidate pool, as well as to candidates who don’t make it to the final rounds. A little information goes a long way.


Womack in China

Brantly WomackBrantly Womack is currently enjoying a one-month position as visiting scholar at China Foreign Affairs University (CFAU), the university associated with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He presented a lecture, “Comparing the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and the 2017 Global Political Crisis,” at CFAU and at Beijing University, China University of Politics and Law, Nankai University in Tianjin, and Jilin University in Changchun.  He presented a paper, China, ASEAN, and the Re-Centering of Asia,” at CFAU and at Guizhou University.  At the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau he talked about “Xi  Jinping and Continuing Political Reform in China” and participated in a seminar on the English translation of Chinese political terms.  He held a graduate seminar at CFAU on asymmetry theory, and has met with leading Chinese scholars in international relations at Tsinghua University and Renmin University (Jin Canrong, Shi Yinhong, Yan Xuetong, Yu Keping, Sun Xuefeng).

Political Scientist on the Gridiron

Professor Allen Lynch, place kicker for the SilverbacksDespite what you may conjure from the headline of this story, it is not about the politics of football—the power players and the trades, the Superbowl and DeflateGate, severe head injuries or insights into quarterbacks in panty hose. Allen Lynch, professor in the Department of Political Science at UVA, is a place kicker for the Virginia Silverbacks, a semipro team in the Atlantic Football League, filled with (mostly) 25-30 year-olds who love playing football and never wanted to give it up after high school or college. It’s a beautiful sight.

For Professor Allen it’s about the resumption of kicking for a team. He played for two years in high school and four years at Stony Brook (State University of New York, Long Island)—he was there during the early years of football at Stony Brook, a club team, though in his first season there in ’73, the team fell apart after the 4th game, having lost their initial game 69-6 to Albany State. The coach said he’d never coach again.

Despite that shattering experience, something inspired the club to give it another shot in 1974. By 1975, the team was playing at the National Championship (against Westchester Community College)—Stony Brook showed vast improvement in skill, but still scored a loss. He notes they played on astroturf, perhaps that was the cause. Or perhaps because WCC had 90 great players to Stony Brook’s 40, many playing offense and defense, tongues hanging out.

I try to entice him into the topic of sports vs. academics, but he doesn’t bite. Dr. Lynch did indicate THAT during his college game, once a month he’d have to leave practice early and attend a student government meeting, still in uniform, to make sure they didn’t cut the team’s $10,000 budget.

“At that time there were no NCAA level sports at Stony Brook and it reflected the true spirit of amatuerism. You base a school on academics—and if you want to play sports, you form a club. Now they probably have a $1,000,000 budget and are in the NCAA. We created a monster.” In Lynch’s time the team would mow the grass, erect goalposts, fence the field, and hire the coach.

Following graduation Professor Lynch was getting ready for try-outs for the Canadian Football League, but unfortunately got a full scholarship to graduate school at Columbia. He says it was a good thing because he was a straight-toe kicker and the future wasn’t in straight-toe kicking. Despite being sidetracked into political science he kept kicking — a bag of footballs at a high school field on Saturday mornings. Most modern kickers approach the ball soccer style, but he still uses a square toe shoe. He laments that there are no replacements for that shoe and jokes about buying up all the square toe shoes on eBay—an imagined market of square toe shoe futures.

His Silverbacks are mainly from Charlottesville and Albemarle county, with a few from Culpeper, Richmond, and Louisa. All were high school players, some were UVA players, some played arena football. Everyone has a day job, a family, and still loves football. Beyond the individual, it is a network of local guys led by coach and owner, Jamie Davis, who sometimes suits up to play QB. Davis played several seasons in NFL Europe, based in Switzerland.

I try to draw connections where there are, apparently, none:
Q: What does this do to your teaching, to your research—an improvement?
A: It does nothing, I was already kicking before I knew about the team.

Q: Are you a more aggressive player as an academic?
A: No, you’ll see I stay pretty close to mid-field. If the opposition does break through, I stay far enough away to bluff him to the sidelines.

Q: Does it make you happier playing with a team?
A: No question about it. Team Spirit! Common Enterprise. Football is emotional, violent; it’s all for one—or everyone is going to fall down.

Q: As I was taking pictures on the sideline I was afraid of catching an elbow. Would they resent me being that close?
A: The Team gets totally psyched. If they hit you it would be nothing personal, they’re just hyped up.

Q: What’s it like playing on this team?
A: I feel more accepted here. My earlier teams, they didn’t respect the kicker as much.

He claims there’s really not a lot of difference between his behavior before he joined the team and after, but “My wife and mother see a difference, they say I’m happier.”

There were so many poor choices for this story’s headline. Some I’ve considered: Kicks are for Kids, Play Ball!, Lynch Kick Ass!, but it’s ultimately about a man having fun on Saturday mornings. Dr. Lynch says “it’s incongruous, it’s a scream.”



“The extra point really captures the form — almost perfect.”

Joe Namath on Beautymist Pantyhose.