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Alumnus with international relations expertise to lead new program next spring

Alumnus Jeffrey Fields, a former State Department official, joins the USC School of International Relations

by Susan Bell
Alum Jeffrey Fields
Jeffrey Fields brings years of experience at the highest level of government to his new position. (USC Photo/Susan Bell)

Jeffrey Fields PhD ’07, who is joining the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences as assistant professor of the practice of international relations, will direct a new program in Washington D.C., to be launched next spring.

As a former senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), Fields worked at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, where he was an analyst specializing in thwarting unconventional weapon threats such as bio-weapons.

I have the experience of being on the inside of government to supplement and enhance my thinking, writing and teaching.

Jeffrey Fields

In his prior post as a political-military analyst at the Pentagon, Fields was the lead social scientist, responsible for long-term planning and analysis of international security threats and for ensuring that social science research was sound and rigorous. Fields also brings experience from his time in the U.S. State Department, where he served as a foreign affairs officer in the Office of Strategic Planning and Outreach.

“I’m excited to return to USC Dornsife and to be part of the launch of its Washington D.C., program,” said Fields, who earned his PhD in international relations. “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring my experience in Washington to bear and use it to inspire students by making politics come to life.”

Robert English, associate professor and director of the USC School of International Relations, said the department and new program are lucky to get Fields.

“Jeff was a star as a graduate student and won a prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship to begin his Washington career in the Department of Defense,” English said. “He has had broad experience on proliferation and other key national security issues, and has continued his academic research. This combination — and, of course, the fact that he is a Trojan — make him ideal to direct this exciting new program in Washington.”

Unique insight into government’s inner workings

Fields’ experience at the highest levels of power has given him unique insight into the inner workings of government — insights he will be sharing with USC students as he leads them to the nation’s capital for a new, semester-long program focusing on national security and intelligence.

“Jeffrey will be able to present both the academic and practitioner views on issues related to foreign policy and security concerns,” said Steven Lamy, professor of international relations and vice dean for academic programs, who co-developed the Washington program with Dean Steve A. Kay. “With seven years in the U.S. Department of Defense, he will add a very important policy perspective.”

The interdisciplinary program will eventually have three dimensions: international relations, economics and practical politics.

“Jeffrey is well-qualified to lead such a program,” Lamy said. “He knows people in Washington, and he is an active scholar in foreign and defense policy areas.”

International security and foreign policy

As a PhD student, Fields researched international security and American foreign policy toward rogue states such as Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria. He taught at California State University, Los Angeles, for a year before moving to Washington D.C., and joining the DOD.

In 2010, he served at the U.S. Department of State as an adviser to the special representative of the president for nuclear nonproliferation.

Growing up, Fields first wanted to be a doctor, then an engineer. He finally decided to major in math and statistics. While he has always been interested in global affairs, he never thought it would lead to a career until his passion for international relations was kindled while traveling through Latin America and Western Europe following his undergraduate degree.

“The Cold War had ended and it was a fascinating time,” Fields said. “The world was changing and I realized what interests me most are other ideas, other cultures, other countries and the way the U.S. interacts with those countries.”

Fields spent the majority of his time in the capital working on issues related to nuclear proliferation and weapons of mass destruction.

“It’s an area of international security I am very interested in,” he said. “Now I have the experience of being on the inside of government to supplement and enhance my thinking, writing and teaching on these subjects.”

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