Focus on Faculty
Loch K. Johnson
Loch Johnson, Regents Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, exemplifies the university’s motto “to teach, to serve and to inquire into the nature of things.” An expert on national security issues, he’ll again teach a First-Year Odyssey seminar on the CIA in the fall and enjoys meeting new students.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I received a B.A. from the University of California, Davis, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Riverside. After completing my academic training, I spent a year as a Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate, working on foreign policy issues. As Regents Professor in the department of international affairs, I engage in research on American foreign policy and national security topics and teach both undergraduate and graduate courses on these and related subjects.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came in January 1979 and have been here ever since, with the exceptions of a year away in Washington, D.C., working on a presidential campaign (1980); then on the Aspin-Brown Presidential Commission in 1996; and finally as a Visiting Fellow at Yale University in 2005. Before I came here, I served as staff director of the Intelligence Oversight Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. I wanted to return to a life of teaching and writing, and that year UGA had an attractive opening. I visited in the spring of 1978 when the azaleas and crepe myrtles were in full bloom. I had never seen such a beautiful campus. Plus, the department I would join featured Charles Bullock and some other nationally known scholars. The opportunity was irresistible.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I have two favorites: National Security Intelligence at the undergraduate, upper-division level; and my new First-Year Odyssey seminar that focuses on America's Central Intelligence Agency. The National Security Intelligence course is enjoyable because students, like most American citizens, know little about this subject beyond James Bond movies. I think it is important in a democracy for students to learn about the hidden side of their government and, in my experience, they respond with enthusiasm to a topic that is truly fresh to them. This also applies to the FYO seminar, with the added attraction for me of meeting weekly with students brand new to campus and eager to begin their university adventure.
What interests you about your field?
I am interested in how the United States can defend itself against threats to its security and how we might advance the quest for world peace - twin objectives that speak for themselves in their importance. I have had the chance, rare for a scholar, to work on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees as special assistant to their chairs, as well as to work for two presidents (Carter and Clinton) on foreign policy and intelligence issues. I have also been on the staffs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. These experiences have allowed me to bring a sense of realism into my research and teaching. I enjoy trying to balance basic empirical and theoretical research, rightly valued by the academy, with a concentration on policy analysis and efforts to solve contemporary security and foreign policy problems.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I have had the good fortune to win the Meigs Teaching Award and the Owens Research Award, along with the Honoratus Teaching Medal presented by the Honors Program. I also greatly value my membership in Sphinx, the university's oldest service honorary. It has been rewarding over the years to mentor Foundation Fellows, CURO scholars and policy analysts with the Roosevelt Institute. Another highlight was to be named a Visiting Scholar by the national Phi Beta Kappa organization, joining the late Lamar Dodd to become UGA's second recipient of this honor. I was pleased, as well, to lead the efforts on campus to create the School of Public and International Affairs (2001); the University's Service Memorial, located next to the Miller Learning Center (2005); and the Abraham Baldwin statue near Old College (2011).
What are your latest books?
The Threat on the Horizon: An Inside Account of America's Search for Security After the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press), and National Security Intelligence: Secret Operations in Defense of the Democracies (Cambridge: Polity) were both published this year.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching?
My research is policy oriented. I believe in applying knowledge to problem-solving. As I investigate contemporary foreign policy and intelligence dilemmas, I am sensitive to possibilities for the United States to improve its global relations. Further, I search for ways to use our intelligence agencies for the purpose of advancing democracy everywhere, through a better understanding of how to defeat rogue nations and terrorist factions. In the classroom, my first objective is to ensure that students understand the facts, the theories and the laws related to international affairs; then we turn to an examination of values, posing the question: What reforms might make this a more just world?
What do you hope students gain from the classroom experience with you?
I try to impart to students the importance of three skills: the ability to critique any intellectual or policy problem that comes their way; to express themselves clearly in written form; and to speak with confidence as oral advocates. Thinking critically, writing lucidly and speaking forcefully - these are the traits I encourage them to develop.
Describe your ideal student.
The ideal student goes regularly to class, listens intently, takes good notes, engages in classroom discussion, gets to know the professor, goes to office hours and finds someone smarter than they are to study with.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
In my off-hours, I relish a run through the woods at the intramural fields near Lake Herrick, and I also like to see if I can hit a golf ball straight on the UGA fairways - though I rarely succeed!
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
…go downhill skiing in the winter with my family; in the summer we hike, play golf and travel.
Community/civic involvement includes…
My family and I are deeply involved in community affairs, from service on the local hospital board to spearheading drives to improve our local schools and sports facilities.
My favorite book is Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, even more for its beautiful style than its story; my favorite play is Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; and my favorite movie is Zorba the Greek.
Proudest moment at UGA?
After putting in five years to lead the initiative, my proudest moment at UGA was when the Board of Regents officially approved the new School of Public and International Affairs in 2001. The college is thriving and celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.