Carnegie Mellon University
April 02, 2015

Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College To Create New Institute for Politics and Strategy

By Shilo Rea / 412-268-6094 /

Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences will open a new Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS), effective July 1. Under the direction of Kiron K. Skinner, the IPS will serve as a center for research, undergraduate and graduate education, and university-wide initiatives in the fields of political science, international relations, national security policy and grand strategy.

“I am thrilled that under Dr. Skinner's leadership, the new institute will create opportunities for CMU students, faculty, and national and global thought leaders to engage with critical ideas and issues in politics and strategy in a highly multidisciplinary way. I believe that the IPS will be a vital home for programs that bring a distinctly CMU approach to these issues of critical importance to today's world,” said Nathan Urban, CMU’s interim provost and the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences in the Mellon College of Science.

Leveraging the Dietrich College’s strengths in the social sciences, the IPS course offerings will engage students and faculty by using the analytic tools of game theory, economic and statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, historical research methods, rational choice theory, and theories of behavioral decision-making as they study domestic politics, international alliances and coalitions, international institutions, transnational actors and political strategy.

The IPS academic programs that will be immediately available to undergraduate students include a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Politics, and two new minors, one in international relations and politics and another in politics and public policy. The international relations and politics major and minor have a particular focus on the grand strategy of nation-states and the effects of globalization on national and transnational actors.

At the graduate level, the IPS will administer the Dietrich College portion of the Master of Information Technology Strategy (MITS) Program. A cooperative endeavor with CMU’s College of Engineering and School of Computer Science, the MITS provides a multidisciplinary education focusing on cybersecurity issues, decision-making challenges and international security.

“The IPS will be a focal point for research on politics, particularly politics in the international arena,” said Dietrich College Dean Richard Scheines “Dr. Skinner has done groundbreaking work on the Reagan era and has now turned her attention to the transition of America’s role in the Cold War with the Soviet Union to the war on terrorism. Along with several important scholars from the Pittsburgh office of the RAND Corporation as well as political science departments at several top universities, the work of the IPS will add a critical dimension to Dietrich's portfolio in humanities and social sciences.”

Previously administered through the Dietrich College Dean’s Office, CMU’s Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) will now fall under the IPS umbrella. Undergraduates from any course of study at CMU desiring first-hand policy experience are invited to apply to CMU/WSP. In this semester-long program, students live, work and study in Washington, D.C., coming into direct contact with political, business and community leaders, and learning about the most pressing policy issues of the day. Students who participate in the CMU/WSP may be eligible for the newly established minor in politics and public policy.

“The activities and events at CMU in politics and strategy have grown enormously over the last several years. The major in international relations and politics is filled with great students and courses, the Washington Semester Program is transformative, and the fantastic events hosted by the Center for International Relations and Politics, including a visit from former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, all make for a veritable feast in this space. Dr. Skinner has done a marvelous job in growing all of these programs, and I am delighted that we can bring them all under the single umbrella of the Dietrich College,” Scheines said.

The IPS also will serve as the home for the university’s Center for International Relations and Politics (CIRP), a hub for research, policy work on domestic and international issues, and programmatic activities on campus, as well as the Dietrich College portion of the Institute for Strategic Analysis (ISA), a joint program with the College of Engineering and School of Computer Science. The ISA provides a focal point for high-level, strategic engagements with the defense, diplomatic and intelligence communities through activities spanning disciplines of several colleges at the university. It also facilitates and supports CMU faculty members interested in bringing their scientific research to bear upon problems of national security. Skinner serves as the director of both the CIRP and ISA.

“The establishment of this new institute underscores the growing interest in and importance of these elements in the educational experience of students from across the university. The curricular and experiential learning opportunities offered through the IPS will enhance our students’ preparation for policy and strategy impact in local, national, and global contexts,” said Amy Burkert, vice provost for education.

In addition to Skinner, the IPS will be steered by an executive committee that includes three world-renowned Carnegie Mellon professors: Baruch Fischhoff, the Howard Heinz University Professor of Social and Decision Sciences and Engineering and Public Policy; Mark Kamlet, University Professor of Economics and Provost Emeritus; and Allan Meltzer, the Allan H. Meltzer Professor of Political Economy in the Tepper School of Business.

“Carnegie Mellon University’s establishment of the Institute for Politics and Strategy is an exciting development in the field of political science and security studies,” said Karl W. Eikenberry, the William J. Perry Fellow in International Security at Stanford University and former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. “Dr. Kiron Skinner has a demonstrated ability to combine theory, policy and practice in ways that produce extraordinary learning and cutting-edge research. The IPS, under Dr. Skinner's leadership and drawing upon Carnegie Mellon University's tremendous intellectual resources, has a bright future.”

Skinner, who has been a CMU faculty member since 1999, is a leading expert in international relations, U.S. foreign policy and political strategy. She currently serves on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. From 2001-2007, she was a member of the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board as an adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Additionally, Skinner is the co-author, along with political scientists Serhiy Kudelia, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Condoleezza Rice, of “The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin,” which is now used in political science courses at leading research universities.

“I am happy to see the various strands of my academic and programmatic activities at Carnegie Mellon coming together under the auspices of the Institute of Politics and Strategy. I look forward to working with colleagues to advance the university’s involvement in the study and practice of politics,” Skinner said.