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Politics Comes to Life

Former senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department official, alumnus Jeffrey Fields joins the USC School of International Relations and will head back to Washington D.C.

Former senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense, alumnus Jeffrey Fields brings years of experience at the highest level of government to his new position at USC Dornsife’s School of International Relations. Fields will lead the new USC Dornsife Washington D.C. program. Photo by Susan Bell.
Former senior adviser to the U.S. Department of Defense, alumnus Jeffrey Fields brings years of experience at the highest level of government to his new position at USC Dornsife’s School of International Relations. Fields will lead the new USC Dornsife Washington D.C. program. Photo by Susan Bell.

Joining USC Dornsife as assistant professor of the practice of international relations, alumnus Jeffrey Fields will direct a new program in Washington D.C. to be launched in Spring 2015.

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. 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 Ph.D. in international relations from USC Dornsife in 2007. “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, housed in USC Dornsife, 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.”

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 at USC Dornsife, who co-developed the Washington program with Dean Steve 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.”

During the Spring semester in Washington, 15 to 20 USC students will take three international relations courses for a total of 12 units. Participants will earn an additional four units for the semester by working part time as an intern in an area related to their studies.

Students from any USC major may apply.

“As participants’ interests may range from security issues to human rights to economics, we are organizing internships that will reflect that diversity while providing students with valuable learning and networking experience,” Fields said.

In the second year of the program, courses in economics will be added, joined by courses in practical politics in year three. Fields hopes to expand the program to include Fall offerings.

“Since this will be a D.C. experience, the idea is to work with real-world issues, so courses are less theory-based and have more policy relevance.”

Students will also benefit from Fields' government connections as he brings in guest speakers from a broad range of Washington’s political elite.

As a Ph.D. 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.”