2015 Archives

'High-level' national security postdoctoral fellows join SMU Tower Center

December 16, 2015

DALLAS (SMU) – Thomas Cavanna and David Benson have been selected to serve yearlong national security postdoctoral fellowships at SMU. Cavanna is in the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, and Benson joins SMU as part of a National Science Foundation-funded project on cyber-security.

“Both are pursuing important interdisciplinary scholarship at a very high level,” says Joshua Rovner, Tower Center acting director. “They’ve sought out discussions and collaborative research on critically important policy issues, and they are pushing the boundaries of what we know about international relations and national security policy.”

Cavanna’s work focuses on U.S. foreign policy, strategy and nuclear studies, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. He is the author of Hubris, Self-Interest and America’s Failed War in Afghanistan: the Self-Sustaining Overreach (Lexington Books, 2015). His next book, expected in spring 2016 to focus on U.S. foreign policy toward India and Pakistan in the 1970s, is based on his dissertation, which won the 2013 Prix Jean-Baptiste Duroselle for best dissertation in history of international relations. Another forthcoming book will address U.S. grand strategy and the rise of China from the Cold War to the Obama administration.

“Thomas is an award-winning diplomatic historian who has studied U.S. foreign policy regarding India, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Rovner. “His current project, focusing on South Asia, challenges historians and political scientists to reassess their understanding of nuclear proliferation while suggesting important lessons for policymakers seeking to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Like some of the best historians of American foreign policy, he has actively engaged in debates with political scientists, whose theories he uses in his own work.”

Prior to joining SMU this fall, Cavanna was a lecturer in international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He also taught at Science Po (Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris), where he earned his M.A. in 2007 and Ph.D. in 2012. As a doctoral student he also served as a Fox International Fellow at Yale University from 2009-2010. Additionally, Cavanna holds a Master of Management degree from Audencia Business School as well as a B.A. in modern literature from Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle and the French “Agrégation” honor (highly selective civil service examination) in history.

Benson’s work at SMU continues his path-breaking research on the international politics of cyber-security. In August 2015, he earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago, where he specialized in international relations and comparative politics.

Before studying at UC, he served six years in the U.S. Army, with part of that time in Iraq, and spent nearly two years as an intelligence analyst and instructor for the Department of Defense’s Joint-IED Defeat Organization.

“David is a rare scholar – a political scientist with the technical skills to dig deeply in the ongoing controversies over cyber security. Not many people can easily talk to political scientists and computer scientists the way he does,” Rovner says. “His ongoing work at SMU has important implications for cyber security and war in cyber space. Dr. Benson’s work on terrorism, political rebellion and social media has also contributed a great deal to our understanding of terrorist group behavior.”

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About SMU

Southern Methodist University is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today. SMU enrolls approximately 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools.

About the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies

In the spirit of John Tower’s commitment to educate and inspire a new generation of thoughtful leaders, the Tower Center seeks to bridge the gap between the world of ideas, scholarship and teaching, as well as the practice of politics. The primary mission of the Tower Center is to promote the study of politics and international affairs and to stimulate an interest in ethical public service among undergraduates. The Tower Center is an academic center where all parties and views are heard in a marketplace of ideas, and the Center pursues its mission in a non-partisan manner.

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