David Kearn, Ph.D.
St. John’s Professor’s Fellowship Study Published by RAND Corporation
David Kearn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at St. John’s University, has garnered many distinctions throughout his career, the most recent of which is the RAND Corporation’s Stanton Nuclear Research Security Fellowship. “I was blown away when I learned I had received the grant,” he said. Dr. Kearn’s study — Facing the Missile Challenge: U.S. Strategy and the Future of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty — was published by RAND this year.
Named for Frank Stanton — longtime president of CBS and chairman of RAND from 1961–67 — the fellowship was designed to foster the development of the next generation of nuclear security thinkers. Stanton Fellows receive funding to underwrite a year of research on the challenges presented by modifications in policies governing national security and the use of nuclear weapons.
Founded in 1948 in the wake of World War II, RAND was created to provide nonpartisan research and analysis on critical issues impacting national security policies. Many of the nation’s leading nuclear strategists worked at RAND, in addition to such government dignitaries as Secretaries of Defense Robert McNamara, James Schlesinger and Harold Brown.
“The opportunity to obtain generous support from such a renowned institution doesn’t come along very often,” Dr. Kearn said, adding that he looked forward to sharing the experience with his students.
When he began his tenure at St. John’s University in 2008, Dr. Kearn had participated in a variety of international relations think-tanks. “His practice of incorporating his professional experiences into the classroom makes concepts come alive,” Matthew Lundy ’13C said. “Watching the Presidential Debate on foreign policy with him was incredibly enlightening. He gave us his feedback, drawing on his expertise and behind-the-scenes knowledge, and he encouraged us to come to our own conclusions.”
Dr. Kearn believes the study of government and politics helps students acquire analytical thinking, speaking and writing skills. “Part of my role,” he said, “is to prepare students for the workplace by giving them the tools they need whether they choose law, public policy, international affairs, education or other career paths.”
He teaches his students to grapple with real-world problems, such as researching global terrorist movements and making policy recommendations to stem their growth. “Some of the resulting presentations have been so sophisticated, especially technologically, that they could have been done by high-level Washington, D.C., consultants,” Dr. Kearn said. “My students often surpass my expectations. Not only are they savvy and curious about the world, but their diverse backgrounds and differing perspectives make for dynamic class discussions.”
Ryan Covino ’10G, who now works as a law enforcement investigator for New York City, noted that he felt very fortunate to have Dr. Kearn as his master’s thesis advisor. “He taught me everything I know about international relations and security,” said Covino, “Dr. Kearn is a real asset to St. John’s and an invaluable resource and inspiration for his students.”
Growing up in Medford, MA, a semi-urban area much like Queens, Dr. Kearn was initially attracted to St. John’s because of the University’s transformation from a commuter college to a nationally recognized institution. “I was also excited about joining a leading Catholic school,” he said, “committed to creating opportunities for the marginalized.”
Dr. Kearn earned his undergraduate degree at Amherst College; his master’s at Harvard University’s John. F. Kennedy School of Government; and his doctorate at the University of Virginia.
While he initially considered pursuing a career in public policy and consulting, Dr. Kearn decided he wanted to teach future leaders in the field. “I love being in a university environment and interacting with students,” he said. “I wanted to be a scholar and teacher.”