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Erickson Named to New Endowed Asst. Professorship

04/09/14
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Assistant Professor of Political Science Jennifer Erickson has been named the White Family Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: Apr. 10, 2014

Assistant Professor of Political Science Jennifer Erickson, an expert on international security and political economy issues whose current research assesses the impact of arms export controls and embargoes, has been named the White Family Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor.

Erickson, who began teaching at Boston College in 2010, becomes the second faculty member appointed to a Sesquicentennial Challenge chair, an endowed assistant professorship created as part of a new initiative to support junior faculty research and early-career development. Earlier this semester, Lynch School of Education Assistant Professor David Miele was named the Buehler Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity,” said Erickson. “I’m also really overwhelmed, both by the generosity of the White family and by the honor of being the first faculty member to hold the appointment. BC’s young faculty are doing excellent teaching and research, and it’s an honor to be selected from among this group.

“I am quite certain that I would not have gotten this appointment – or even been considered for it – were it not for the tremendous support of my senior colleagues from Political Science and International Studies, so I am incredibly grateful to them for the vote of confidence they have given me. Such appointments for assistant professors are incredibly rare, and it’s a significant professional honor.

“BC faculty devote so much of ourselves to our teaching and our research, and it means a lot to me to have colleagues I really respect show that they genuinely appreciate my work on both fronts.”

“Jennifer is a wonderful colleague doing invaluable, timely research on international security, and who is already making her mark on the Political Science Department and International Studies Program,” said College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean David Quigley.

“She also understands the importance of encouraging and supporting students’ scholarly pursuits, having recently teamed with Assistant Professor of History Jeremy Clarke, SJ, to run a poster session for seniors writing theses in the social sciences and the humanities. Jennifer is quite deserving of this opportunity.”

The White Family Sesquicentennial Assistant Professorship was established with a gift by Susan and Michael White ’74, whose daughter Larissa Booras earned bachelor’s and law degrees at BC.

“Susan and I are thrilled to learn that Jennifer Erickson has been named the first White Family Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor,” said Michael White, president and CEO of DirectTV. “We established the White Family Sesquicentennial Assistant Professorship to support rising stars whose teaching and research will make a lasting impact both at the Heights and in their area of scholarship. Dr. Erickson exemplifies what we had hoped to accomplish.”

Erickson has taught courses on Globalization and National Security, the European Union in World Affairs and Introduction to International Studies. Her research interests focus on international reputation, states’ commitment to international rules and how their compliance is affected by domestic politics. She has authored articles or chapters for such publications as World Politics Review, European Journal of International Relations and Journal of Peace Research, and The Causes and Consequences of Nuclear Proliferation.

 She is finishing up a book project on the development of humanitarian arms export controls, including the new UN Arms Trade Treaty, that will attempt to limit small and major conventional arms transfers to countries engaged in severe human rights violations, conflict, or genocide.

Erickson’s activities at BC include co-organizing a series of seminars, “Afghanistan After 2014,” and the Political Science Department Foreign Policy Speaker Series.

A graduate of St. Olaf College with master’s and doctoral degrees in government from Cornell University, Erickson has conducted extensive fieldwork in the United States and Europe. She has also been a research fellow at Dartmouth College in the War and Peace Studies Program at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.

In her time at BC, Erickson said she has found students “smart and hardworking,” and with a strong interest in “learning more about the world and thinking about what they can do in it. This makes it an especially rewarding place to teach about international issues.”

Teaching in the Political Science Department and the International Studies Program, she added, “means that I get a lot of really fantastic students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who, as a whole, are excited to be challenged to think hard about big questions in world affairs. It’s really motivating as a teacher to get to work with students like this, and to help them develop their ideas and personal and professional goals along the way.”

Erickson said the professorship will be integral in providing support for her next research project, which will examine how countries manipulate – or attempt to do so – international norms during wartime, such as through deployment of new military technology or treatment of civilian populations.

“Ultimately, this will be a book-length project, which will mean lots of research and traveling to conduct interviews and visit archives. It’s very exciting to know there will be resources available and that I can jump more directly into the research as a result.”

The Sesquicentennial Challenge Gift initiative was sparked by a BC alumnus who offered to match $500,000 for every $1 million put forward by other benefactors to create the $1.5 million endowments required to fund each assistant professorship. Two other Sesquicentennial Assistant Professorships are expected to be announced this year.