News from the Bush School

Faculty Spotlight: Joshua Shifrinson

January 30, 2018

Joshua Shifrinson

Dr. Joshua Shifrinson

Dr. Joshua Shifrinson, now in his fifth year of teaching at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, is passionate about providing top-notch education to his students in the fields of US foreign policy, grand strategy, and security studies.

Shifrinson arrived at the Bush School after completing his PhD in political science at the MIT Security Studies Program. He earned a dual bachelor’s degree in politics and history from Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Shifrinson’s dissertation research brought him to the George H. W. Bush Library and Archives, located in the same complex as the Bush School. While conducting his research, he met former and current Bush School professors, who eventually encouraged him to apply for an open teaching position.

Shifrinson teaches American Foreign Policy Since 1945, Alliance Politics, Foundations of Strategy and Statecraft, and Rise and Fall of Great Powers. Of all these courses, Shifrinson says the American Foreign Policy is his “bread and butter.” Shifrinson teaches this class nearly every semester and enjoys it because it gives him an opportunity to interact with first-year students shortly after they arrive at the Bush School.

“I love all my classes,” he said. “I think they’re all fun exercises in thinking deeply about the intersection of policy, theory, and history.”

His love of teaching is exemplified in his teaching style, which has evolved over the years. While he was much more timid in front of a class in his first years of teaching, he now is comfortable.  Shifrinson’s teaching mixes the Socratic method, a discussion of history and theory, and how history and theory translate into policy today. As he has progressed through his career, he has become more comfortable with this style of teaching.

“I see my teaching as an interactive process of lecture, discussion, debate, and application,” he said.

Currently, there is a significant shift toward active learning in the classroom. To keep up with the changing trends, Shifrinson has become a proponent of classroom simulations that give students the opportunity to take on roles they normally would not—interacting with other students and thinking critically. He also incorporates an active learning approach by bringing in outside speakers, such as Colonel Robert Brown, Professor of Military Science at Texas A&M University, who spoke to his American Foreign Policy class.

“I hope to train the next generation of policy makers,” he said. “I’m really enthusiastic about helping the Bush School grow its prominence in the national security and diplomacy world.”

Great students cannot be educated without excellent guidance. Shifrinson works among some of the best faculty in the country and is enthusiastic about working with them to help the School become a name in international affairs and grow a grand strategy and security studies community at Texas A&M.

In addition to his teaching, Shifrinson is working on multiple research projects, including a study of George H. W. Bush and his legacy as a foreign policy realist, a piece on the evolution of US-Israeli nuclear relations, and a collaborative project with fellow Bush School Professor John Schuessler on how the US has managed and is managed by its allies in world affairs.

Shifrinson has also written a book, Rising Titans, Falling Giants: Rising States and the Fate of Declining Great Powers, which is slated to be published in 2018. He has also published an award-winning article, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion.” This article was named co-winner of the 2017 Article Award presented by the Diplomatic Studies Section of the International Studies Association.
“I would’ve been proud of that article had it not won an award,” he said. “It has informed part of this big debate between the US and Russia over why US-Russian relations deteriorated after the Cold War.”

In addition to shedding light on this important debate, the article drew on archival research from the George Bush Presidential Library, which is located right across the street from the Bush School on the Texas A&M campus.  This resource also made the piece special to him.