Faculty Spotlight: Ronald Sievert

February 2012

Professor Ronald SievertProfessor Ronald Sievert is a senior lecturer and director of the Certificate in Advanced International Affairs program.  He earned his undergraduate degree at St. Bonaventure University in western New York State and a law degree from UT-Austin. Sievert says he decided on a law career after witnessing both military investigations and the Watergate scandal, which showed him how important lawyers can be. He attended law school after his military service, did well in the trial classes, and decided to specialize as a trial attorney.

Sievert was a trial attorney, high level supervisor, and international and national security advisor at the Department of Justice (DOJ), trying more than 100 cases during his law career before moving full time to academia. “The neat thing about that DOJ job was that in all cases, in all investigations, and in all trials, our job was to see that the truth came out, to see that justice was done,” Sievert said.

He taught regularly at DOJ in Washington, the FBI academy, and UT law school as an adjunct while still directing investigations, trying cases, and travelling overseas for the DOJ.   When he “retired,” his next move was to the Bush School.  “I heard the Bush School was looking for faculty in national security; and since I had heard of Jim Olsen, Chuck Hermann, and others, I knew the Bush School had a great reputation,” he added.

Sievert’s most recent publications include the third edition of his textbook on national security law, Defense, Liberty and the Constitution, and ten articles for law review journals. He just completed a law review article with Texas Congressman Michael McCaul, which compares law in military trials to that found in civilian trials.

Currently teaching national security law, homeland security law, and international law, Sievert says he is “passionate” about the material because it is interesting and he lived it.  He likes to enhance the substantive material in his courses with anecdotes from his work experience, “…to show how it actually works in practice,” he added.

“I love teaching,” Sievert says, “especially at the Bush School, whose strength is its mix of academics and people with work experience outside the university.  Twenty-five years at the Department of Justice gave me insights I otherwise would not have had, and enhanced my career as an academic.”  He has worked on several Capstone projects with the intelligence community noting that, “These projects have enhanced the Bush School’s reputation for excellence.  The projects are always well received.”

When asked about current trends in his field, Sievert mentioned some similarities between the Bush and Obama administrations in their approach to national security law. “President Bush recognized that the US was at war with Al Qaeda. President Obama also sees that and, as a result, has followed many of Bush’s policies.”  He added that international law is especially relevant today because of globalization and because judges and administrators are increasingly incorporating international law.

Sievert proudly cites his happy marriage and raising three daughters as his “best work.”  He loves sports and has recently taken up softball and golf as leisure hobbies, but notes it is a lot easier to be accurate with a jump shot than to hit a driver consistently. His favorite activities are coaching and playing with his young grandchildren.