Jennifer Erickson

Jennifer Erickson (Photo by Gary Wayne Gilbert)

Associate Professor of Political Science Jennifer Erickson, an award-winning researcher on global security and arms control, is this year's recipient of Boston College's Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award.

Each year, BC students in the prestigious honor society submit nominations for outstanding teachers who have positively influenced their experiences at BC, either inside or outside the classroom. Faculty are selected for the award based on the cumulative nominations from students over multiple years.

Students who nominated Erickson for the PBK Teaching Award cited her willingness to offer insight and direction beyond the classroom, whether for specific assignments or as a means to better understand issues, trends, and events related to her expertise. 

“She is phenomenal at explaining the complexities of international relations and always willing to help students in office hours.  She helped me devise a topic for my thesis and served as an informal academic adviser during the course selection process.”

“Professor Erickson has spent countless hours helping me to refine my original ideas and stimulate my curiosity as a student and scholar, especially with regards to my thesis. Her wisdom taught me to persist until I found the right topic.”

“Her Introduction to International Studies course, to this day, still remains one of my favorite courses I've taken here at Boston College. It was challenging, yet engaging, and her passion and interest in her students was evident in the way she conducted class.”

“She truly cares so much about each and every one of her students, and wants us to succeed in all ways. Sophomore year can be an extremely pivotal time for college students, and the support I received—and continue to receive—from Professor Erickson led me in a very positive direction.”

Erickson, also a member of the International Studies Program faculty, came to BC in 2010 after serving as a postdoctoral research fellow in the War and Peace Studies Program at the Dartmouth College Dickey Center for International Understanding. She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on international relations theory, global governance, globalization and national security, and European Union foreign affairs.

In 2017, Erickson won the American Political Science Association Foreign Policy Section Award for her book Dangerous Trade: Arms Exports, Human Rights, and International Reputation. In Dangerous Trade, she explored why major arms-producing democracies—previously opposed to controls on exporting arms to human rights violators and conflict zones—changed their stance, leading to the groundbreaking Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) overwhelmingly passed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013.

Erickson challenged existing theories of state behavior while providing insight into the role of reputation as a social mechanism to gain treaty support, and the importance of government transparency and accountability in generating compliance with new norms and rules.

Her other honors include a first prize in social sciences awarded by the Council for European Studies for her article on human rights and European arms transfer policy.

Erickson said the Phi Beta Kappa award is special to her by virtue of it being given by BC students.

“They are the ones who see professors in the classroom for weeks at a time, who get to know us as teachers more than anyone, and they are the ones in whose intellectual and professional development we faculty members hope to play a lasting role. The professors I had as an undergraduate and graduate student did that for me—in fact, I would not be a professor without their mentorship—and I would like very much to do the same for my students at Boston College, whatever they aspire to do in their careers. I also want my students to grow in their thinking and ability to analyze the world around them, and so my classes challenge them to grapple with difficult arguments and empirical topics about world politics for which there are no easy answers.

“I know the classes aren't easy, but I have been so impressed by the remarkable willingness of BC students to take on these challenges and come away even more motivated. So it is particularly meaningful to me to have the PBK inductees affirm that I have had a positive, lasting influence on their learning and college experience.”

Erickson’s activities at BC have included co-founding and co-organizing the Annual Senior Thesis Poster Session for students in the social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies programs, and serving as a faculty mentor for the McNair Scholars Program and Gabelli Presidential Scholars Program.

In 2014, Erickson was named as the inaugural White Family Sesquicentennial Assistant Professor, an endowed assistant professorship established with a gift by Susan and Michael White ’74 as part of a University initiative to support junior faculty research and early-career development. Erickson was promoted to associate professor in 2016.

Sean Smith |  University Communications | June 2019