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The Patterson School

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Long time readers will recall that I’ve made an annual tradition of pitching this community on what I do for a day job. If you recollect previous posts and know it’s not for you, feel free to skip (although I’d appreciate if you would make this post an exception to the “Farley Open Thread” general rule). If you haven’t seen one of the posts before, or if your life has changed in a way that makes it relevant (looking for some new career options, or have children/nieces/cousins of grad school age, etc.) then read on…

The Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky is a terminal MA program specializing in foreign affairs. It has been in operation since 1959, although it changed substantially in the 1970s to focus on MA level education.  The school enrolls about 35 students a year for an 18 month program, involving ten courses.  Each student selects a major and a minor concentration, with the majors including Diplomacy, International Organization and Development, Security and Intelligence, and International Commerce. Patterson accompanies regular coursework with a range of co-curricular activities, including a fall conference, a Negotiation Simulation (prepared in cooperation with the Army War College), a Spring Crisis Simulation (prepared in cooperation between Patterson students and faculty), a spring break trip, and a variety of guest speakers and other events. A lot of this changed this year (no spring break trip, the conference and one of the simulations held online), but most of it remained recognizable and we foresee Building Back Better, so to speak.

Most of our students have some background in international relations, whether through coursework in political science, history, economics, or language study, or through career experience in government, the military, or NGOs.  The curriculum includes a required course in methodology and another required course in writing and the history of diplomatic practice, but leaves the rest of the space open for electives.  While most students stay three semesters, a few decided to stay on for a fourth. Students graduate after going through a comprehensive examination process, which involves a day of writing followed by an hour-long oral defense.

After completing the program, graduates find themselves in a wide variety of places, from various parts of the “Deep State” to commercial groups, NGOs, and just about anywhere else that involves attention to foreign policy.  A not insubstantial number of graduates also end up doing primarily domestic policy work, in large part because the skills and relationships developed at Patterson tend to cross over to domestic contexts. International students take different paths, of course, but have also experienced a lot of success. Over the last year we have relaunched our departmental podcast, where you can find interviews with alumni ranging from the founder of a micro-enterprise incubator in Myanmar to an Army lieutenant colonel running an ROTC program in St. Louis to a Kentucky state senator to the leader of a think tank in Afghanistan to a cybersecurity consultant to a journalist working the pandemic beat in Sioux Falls to a manager of Kentucky’s emergency pandemic response to the chief of staff of the mayor of the city of Lexington.

The Patterson School is situated on the campus of the University of Kentucky, near the center of Lexington, Kentucky.  Lexington is a city of about 300000 (metro area 500000) that punches above its weight in cultural terms because of the presences of the equestrian industry and the bourbon industry.  One of the best-educated cities in America, it’s a nice place to live for a while, whether that’s a short while or a long while.

Our faculty includes Dr. Kathleen Montgomery, an economist specializing in development work; Dr. Gregory Hall, a political scientist studying Global South relations; Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, a trained political scientist and career US State Department diplomat; Dr. Yujia He, a political scientist specializing in China and in technology issues; Senator Max Wise (R-KY 16), a retired intelligence professional, and myself. I can say on a personal level that teaching at the Patterson School has been an immensely rewarding experience.  On a daily basis I get to work on things that I love, with students who share a similar enthusiasm for the material.  My own specialty, as you know, is Security and Intelligence; here are a few of the courses I’ve had the opportunity to teach over the years:

  • National Security Policy
  • Defense Statecraft
  • Wargaming and Simulation
  • Cybersecurity
  • Airpower
  • Seapower
  • Counterinsurgency
  • Dynamics of Diplomacy

The thing about all of these courses is that they’re as ridiculously fun to teach as they are to take… maybe even more so.  I once had a set of podcasts for the Defense Statecraft and National Security Policy courses, but for various unfortunate reasons they have been lost.

Now granted that the reach of LGM into the 18-24 demographic is not what we would characterize as “high.” Still, Patterson enrolls more than a few mid-career professionals who want a change, or want to add something to their portfolio. And many of you teach undergraduates, advise undergraduates, and happen to have undergraduate relatives in your families. Let them know about the Patterson School if you think they would be interested in a small, cohesive program that helps develop foreign policy practitioners.

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