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Faculty Spotlight: John Schuessler

December 13, 2016

Dr. John Schuessler

Dr. John Schuessler

Dr. John Schuessler spent the past five years in Montgomery, Alabama, as an associate professor of strategy at the Air War College. In August 2016, he came to the Bush School, where he joined the international affairs faculty.

“It’s a good fit,” said Dr. Schuessler of his new role within the Bush School. “I’m teaching graduate students just as I did at the Air War College, and I’m also teaching courses that blend theory and history as well as courses on security studies, with the added focus on public service, which is emphasized here at the Bush School,” he added.

A native of Decatur, Illinois, Schuessler earned a BA from the University of Notre Dame and his master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Chicago. He has held positions as a research fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and Public Affairs and as a lecturer and post-doctoral fellow at the Committee on International Relations at the University of Chicago. His research interests include security studies, American foreign policy, strategy, and diplomatic and military history.  Schuessler is the author of the recent book Deceit on the Road to War: Presidents, Politics, and American Democracy, published by Cornell University Press, and his research has been published in several major academic journals, including International Security and Perspectives on Politics. He has chaired the Foreign Policy Section of the American Political Science Association and is a contributing editor to Strategic Studies Quarterly, among many other professional activities.

Along with his work developing leadership courses at the Air War College, he considers publication of the book one of his best achievements.

“The perseverance to see a book through to publication is essential. When it’s published, you can’t help but feel a certain amount of gratitude that you were able to generate at least the germ of an idea and then execute it,” Schuessler said.

As a tenured associate professor, Schuessler teaches Leadership in International Affairs, a required course for all international affairs students that he describes as an “eclectic, interdisciplinary course” focused on international politics and leadership skills. In the two sections of the course Schuessler teaches, he routinely assigns one book per week, which he makes a point to read himself.

“I absolutely will read with the students,” Schuessler said. “I am a firm believer in reading things over and over again. The ideas slip out after the first read, and you have to constantly remind yourself what’s in these texts, and you read it differently each time.” The seminar-based course reflects a teaching style Schuessler learned during his education at the University of Chicago. After assigning a text, Schuessler expects his students to come to class ready to “nail down the argument” before determining the implications and leadership lessons that can be derived.

“I follow the seminar format, where you read an important book or a great book, digest it thoroughly, debate its contents thoroughly,” Schuessler said. “Very little black and white, all sorts of gray, wrestling with ideas—graduate students are the ideal audience for that.”

Schuessler will teach American Grand Strategy in spring 2017 and a forthcoming course on realism and liberalism in US foreign policy. Schuessler is also focused on research efforts in the areas of security studies, American foreign policy, strategy, and diplomatic and military history.

“The thread that runs through all of my research is the use of theory and history to shed light on current events. A lot of [my] focus tends to be historical,” Schuessler said. He will use this perspective in his latest research project with Bush School professor Josh Shifrinson as they study how the geographic position of the US has enabled its expansion abroad.

Schuessler looks forward to future opportunities at the Bush School. He hopes to further develop leadership and strategy courses to appeal to a broader range of students and participate in research collaborations with fellow faculty members and others outside the Bush School.

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