Professor Kiron K. Skinner, a renowned expert in international relations, US foreign policy, and political strategy, is an academic administrator and tireless public servant. At Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), she is founding director of the Center for International Relations and Politics; university adviser on national security policy; associate professor of international relations and political science; and director of the International Relations and Politics undergraduate major. In addition, Skinner is a Distinguished Fellow at CyLab, a research center in the College of Engineering, and holds courtesy faculty positions at CMU’s Heinz College and the Institute for Software Research, an academic department in the School of Computer Science. She has also taught political science courses at Hamilton College, Harvard University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. At Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Skinner is the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow and a member of the Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy.
Professor Skinner is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her coauthored books Reagan, In His Own Hand (2001) and Reagan, a Life in Letters (2003) were New York Times best sellers. Reagan, In His Own Hand won the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Book Award and was serialized in the New York Times Magazine on December 31, 2000. Reagan, A Life in Letters was selected as one of the best books of 2003 by the Los Angeles Times, was Time magazine’s cover story on September 29, 2003, and was the subject of a September 29, 2003, editorial written by the New York Times editorial board. The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin (2007), a book Skinner coauthored with Serhiy Kudelia, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and Condoleezza Rice, was excerpted on the opinion page of the New York Times on September 15, 2007. A frequent contributor of opinion essays, Skinner has written for CNN.com, National Review Online, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She also regularly provides scholarly commentary on national and international television and radio programs.
Among Skinner’s numerous awards are the Truman Scholarship for the State of California (1979); Glamour magazine’s Top Ten College Competition for Women (1981); Harvard University’s Sidney Matz Prize for excellence in advising undergraduates (1989); Delegate to the Bellagio “New Faces” Conference sponsored by the Arms Control Association and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (1989); University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow (1996-98); Olin Foundation Faculty Fellowship (1999-2001 and 2001-2002); BMW Transatlantic Forum Fellow (US and Germany, 2004 and 2005); and Kennedy Middle School Hall of Fame (Redwood City, California, 2005).
Professor Skinner’s government service includes membership on the US Defense Department’s Defense Policy Board as an adviser on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (2001–07); the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) Executive Panel (2004–present); the National Academies Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security (2009–11); and the National Security Education Board (2004–11). In 2010, Skinner was appointed to the advisory board of the George W. Bush Oral History Project. She served as a foreign policy surrogate for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004 and as a senior foreign policy adviser in 2011-12 to Speaker Newt Gingrich during his presidential campaign. In 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett appointed Professor Skinner to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs.
Skinner serves on the boards of the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, DC; Propel Schools in the Pittsburgh area; and Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. She is a life member of the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.
Professor Skinner holds MA and PhD degrees in political science and international relations from Harvard University and undergraduate degrees from Spelman College and Sacramento City College. She received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Molloy College, Long Island. In her leisure time, she enjoys hiking in California’s foothills and mountains.
Press Release, July 23, 2012: Carnegie Mellon Names Kiron Skinner University Advisor on National Security
Professor Skinner demystifies American exceptionalism through a scholarly yet lively perspective based on her historical research and compelling personal narrative as a conservative African American scholar. She argues that American exceptionalism is a double-edged sword that has resulted not only in extraordinary advances in liberty, property rights, individualism, and justice, but also in an inconsistent record on equality. Furthermore, American exceptionalism has led to the creation of a virtual, rather than a traditional, American empire. And while virtual persuasion may appear to be more benign than traditional demonstrations of strength, it must be managed carefully in order to remain consistent with American values and ideals.
Why the Middle East Matters to the United States
The United States has core interests from North Africa to the outer banks of Central and Southwest Asia, and Professor Skinner maintains that these interests range far beyond concerns about oil and economic issues. In her talks, Skinner carefully reviews the broad variety of cultural, political, economic, and security factors that continue to make the Middle East a region of key concern for the United States despite Washington’s recent pivot toward Asia.
US Presidential Politics
Professor Skinner has written extensively about US presidential politics. She is the coauthor, along with political scientists Serhiy Kudelia, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and Condoleezza Rice, of The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin. She has also served as a surrogate and foreign policy adviser for the presidential campaigns of President George W. Bush (2004) and Speaker Newt Gingrich (2011-12). Skinner brings her deep scholarly and practical knowledge of presidential campaigns and politics to her speaking and writing on the future of the US political system.
Professor Skinner weaves history, political thought, and contemporary analysis into her discussions on why the survival of the American republic depends on a healthy tension between political conservatism and liberalism, and why conservatism is at times the more fragile of the two doctrines. She cautions against adopting the view that the sky is falling and argues that the redefinition of American conservatism – forged at Tea Party rallies as well as within establishment circles – is not wholly new. Skinner contends that the current political battles have been fought in the past, typically leading to the emergence of a unique American centrism.