Research News at the College of Liberal Arts

College of Liberal Arts

Last Update: August 30, 2022

Presented by Dr. John Robertson of Grant Writers’ Seminars and Workshops, LLC

October 25, 2022

Stewart Center, Room 302; 8:30AM-5:00PM

About This Workshop

Purdue is pleased to again host the highly acclaimed grant writing program that has enriched many faculty members and led to many successful applications. The workshop focuses on specific skills: idea development, identification of the most appropriate granting agency, how to write for reviewers, and tips and strategies that are of proven value in presenting an applicant’s case to reviewers. The workshop provides intensive grant writing training interspersed with specific details by agency. Participants will also choose one of four workbooks which provide agency specific grant writing tips and suggestions. The choices include: National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, or “Any Other Agency”, which covers agencies other than those listed. The cost of each book is $75, which will be covered by the participant’s college.

About the Presenter

Dr. John Robertson received his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin in pharmacology and toxicology. He was hired in 2004 by the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, KS, where he was a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics, and an associate member of the University of Kansas Cancer Center. Dr. Robertson has been the recipient of competitive extramural funding from both the NIH and non-federal sources. He has authored 30 peer-reviewed journal articles and three book chapters. He has been a member of grant review panels, a reviewer for a number of biomedical journals, and served on editorial boards. In addition, he has been routinely recognized for excellence in teaching.

Who Should Attend

This full-day workshop is designed for faculty and full-time staff researchers who have had some exposure to writing grant applications. A limited number of postdocs will be allowed to attend but must first receive an invitation through the Graduate School. Interested postdocs should contact Lisa Nielsen ( We are unable to accommodate students for this event.


Registration is required by Friday, September 30th at: you register and then find that you are unable to attend, please contact Adrianne Thompson ( immediately. All notices of cancellation should be done by September 30 since the workbooks will be ordered then.

Lunch will be provided. There is no cost to participants for this workshop; however, lunch and workbooks are ordered specifically for each participant so those registering are expected to attend. Content builds on itself throughout the workshop so we hope you can find a way to avoid any conflicts during this day; however, we do understand if you need to leave and return for those commitments that you simply can't avoid. Those who register and do not attend will not receive the workbook.


Contact Sue Grimes ( or Adrianne Thompson ( if you have any questions.

Last Update: March 29, 2022

The College of Liberal Arts recognizes the work accomplished by the most recent cohort of the Faculty Development Center Fellows. The faculty members working in the Humanistic Studies, Social Sciences, Creative Endeavors, and Instructional Excellence, were offered a course release for a semester to make significant contributions to the learning, discovery, and creative mission of our university.

Due to the pandemic, an in-person celebration event was converted to a series of personal videos produced by the awardees as a summary and recognition of their work. The College of Liberal Arts is proud and honored to host them virtually here.

The following videos provide a brief introduction to the awardees' work and accomplishments.

Overall Playlist. Each video can also be watched below.

Faculty Development Center for Artistic Endeavors

Dr. Donald Platt, English Department

Topic: Eighth Book of Poetry, "Swansdown" with New Section, "Highland Rape"

Dr. Platt used his FDC-AE Award to write a new section in his book of poetry titled Swansdown, a meditation on loss and growth that combines historical and traumatic personal experiences.

Watch Dr. Platt's Video Presentation

Faculty Development Center - Humanistic Studies

Dr. Katie Brownell, History Department

Topic: "Cable Television and the Transformation of American Democracy"

Dr. Brownell challenges assumptions about the role of cable TV expansion in reshaping American politics. Her work contributes to the growing field of historical scholarship that recognizes media as central to understanding American political culture and development.

Watch Dr. Brownell's Video Presentation

Dr. Robyn Bartlett (Malo), English Department

Topic: "The Social Lives of Confession"

Dr. Bartlett's (Malo) research examines the ways confession acted culturally in Medieval England as a means to promote the common good.

Watch Dr. Bartlett's (Malo's) Video Presentation

Faculty Development Center - Social Sciences

Dr. Robert X. Browning, Political Science Department

Topic: "Measuring Specialization in the US House Through Floor Speeches"

In his study, Dr. Browning draws on the literature on norms to address the question of practical norms in Congress, including that which prescribes that congresspeople should speak about the things they are most qualified or invited to specialize in. Dr. Browning looked at the topics congresspeople spent the most time on to learn if they speak about a few or many topics.

Watch Dr. Browning's Video Presentation

Dr. Anne Marie Clark, Political Science Department

Topic: "Human Rights Defenders: Bringing Local Social Justice Under the Global Human Rights Umbrella"

Dr. Ann Marie Clark explores the political and theoretical significance of a new type of social and political role in the human rights space: The Human Rights Defender. This is a position that deals with political contestation that focuses on social justice issues that do not fit a traditional conception of human rights. Dr. Clark's work leads to a new conceptualization of human rights advocacy.

Watch Dr. Clark's Video Presentation

Faculty Development Center - Undergraduate Instructional Excellence

Dr. Kim Gallon, History Department

Topic: "The Digital History of the Transatlantic Slave Trade: A VR Experience for Undergraduates"

Dr. Kim Gallon was awarded the FDC UIE for her work on an immersive mobile and desktop VR system of Cape Coast Castle, a major slave port in the West-African country of Ghana. The system was designed to deepen student knowledge of the history of slavery, in an undergraduate digital history course taught by Dr. Gallon. She co-authored and submitted scholarly articles to peer-reviewed journals as well - and the VR application was made publicly accessible via the project website.

Watch Dr. Gallon's Video Presentation

Dr. Rosalee Clawson, Political Science Department

Topic: "Advancing Sustainability Through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification (ASPIRE)"

Dr. Clawson works with an engineering research center, ASPIRE, whose vision is a sustainable and equitable transportation future that involves the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.  She is the director of Diversity and Culture of Inclusion for the center and works closely with the Engineering Workforce Development team.  Through curriculum development and pedagogical innovation, their goal is to develop a diverse workforce ready to engage future electrified transportation opportunities with abilities in social justice, public policy, leadership, and ethics.    

Watch Dr. Clawson's Video Presentation

Questions or concerns about the CLA FDC Awards, awardees, presentations, and/or content of this news article can be directed to the CLA Office of Research and Graduate Education at the following email:

Last Update: October 26, 2021

Careful observation of Ancient Greek society led Aristotle to argue that humans are by nature social animals. Centuries later, scholars in Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts have reached similar conclusions after reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic. Human behavior is often influenced by factors such as social norms and trust in others, meaning that responses to the coronavirus epidemic cannot be attributed to a single individual, but are instead the result of shared decisions made in communities across the world. Understanding what went well, what did not, and what may change as a result of an unprecedented global pandemic requires critical reflection of groups and cultures. 

We turned to several leading College of Liberal Arts social scientists to consider group-level responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: Dr. Hwanseok Song and Dr. Ilwoo Ju, both Assistant Professors of Communication, and Dr. Andrew Flachs, an Associate Professor of Anthropology. These scholars have extensively studied human behavior and aspects of decision-making processes and may provide new perspective on how societies met the changing circumstances of an unprecedented pandemic as well as the “lessons learned” to improve our responses if another epidemic arises in the future. 

The interview was conducted by Dr. Sorin Adam Matei, Professor of Communication and the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Education. 

(Left to right): Dr. Hwanseok Song, Dr. Andrew Flachs, Dr. Ilwoo Ju, and Dr. Sorin Adam Matei

Dr. Matei: What did the COVID-19 crisis reveal about modern, highly urbanized group responses to pandemic threats? Any insights about traditional communities? 

Dr. Flachs: One of the biggest takeaways from this current crisis is that it exists alongside other inequalities and health disparities present in our society. This is because of both the comorbidities that made COVID more deadly and the unequal access to healthcare infrastructure around the country. Obesity and diabetes, for example, are both illnesses that disproportionately affect poorer people in the United States, while poorly resourced health care centers are found both in poorer parts of cities as well as in many rural areas around the country. For example, one of the reasons that the outbreaks at the meat packing plant in Logansport were so damaging to the surrounding community back in May was not that meatpacking could not be done safely - slowdowns and safety equipment have significantly curbed the spread of disease - but because the rural hospitals near this and other meatpacking facilities were quickly overwhelmed by the volume of new patients for this highly contagious disease. As with many outbreaks in the past, the initial spread of disease was facilitated by people in a relative position of privilege traveling around the world, but the people who faced the most risks from that disease were communities with far less mobility, access to healthcare resources, or remote work options.  

Dr. Ju: During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been observing that the public’s risk perception and emotional responses affect their protective health behaviors, including protective measures suggested by public health agencies (e.g., CDC). Statistically, highly urbanized communities, such as metropolitan areas, showed larger percentages of the disease spread compared to more traditional communities with less density. Among others, what I recently found is that COVID-19 risk perception (susceptibility or severity) induces anxiety and fear and the heightened negative emotions motivate people to engage with protective behaviors. The level of risk judgment and emotional responses are influenced by a variety of factors and differs across individuals. Suggesting one fool-proof remedy seems impossible given the differences. In general, however, less urbanized communities showed a lower level of risk perception and affective responses that often result in a lack of compliance with protective measures. This may be partially due to optimistically biased beliefs that they are less likely to get the disease compared to denser areas. On the other hand, it was found that risk perception and emotional responses are influenced by a complex mix of many factors. I found political views, race, education, residential areas, and personality can come into play in shaping the public’s risk perception and health behavior decision-making. The cultural and social climate also played a critical role in protective health behavior engagement. Public health agencies may need to consider tailored health communication approaches to the different people in different areas or social segments. 

Dr. Matei: What social scientific finding, of your own or broader, about COVID-19 surprised you the most? 

Dr. Song: In a project that I’m working on with Dr. Ju in our department, we interviewed and surveyed Purdue students to investigate confrontation as a mechanism enabling social norms during COVID-19. Behaviors such as wearing masks on campus cannot be enforced through law or disciplinary action every time. This is where the influence of social norms steps in, creating an atmosphere of disapproval against those who engage in behavior threatening the community. Upon observing deviant behavior, such as someone walking around in a densely populated space without a mask, people motivated to protect the group can intervene in several ways. They can directly confront the person, they may report the behavior to an authority who can handle the situation, or glare at the person to tacitly signal their disapproval. We wanted to ask students what these episodes creating and sustaining social norms looked like during the ongoing Protect Purdue initiative on campus. 

In a typical week on campus this semester, students reported that they witnessed about 7.9 incidents of someone not wearing a mask properly. We asked participants to think about 10 random events over the semester in which they saw someone fail to wear their masks properly during the semester. On average, more than 3 of these incidents occurred outdoors on campus and nearly 3 of them off campus within the community. Also, approximately 2.5 of them were witnessed in residential halls, off-campus student housings, or amenity buildings.  

When asked about how they reacted to their 10 events, they avoided the violator or simply ignored the incident in three quarters of the occasions. In about 1.7 events (16.5%), they chose to tacitly signal their annoyance. In only about 0.5 (5%) of such occasions did they explicitly request that the person wear his or her mask properly. 

While students seem not to expect a hostile response when they ask someone to wear their masks properly on campus, a majority expected hostility when they were in a drinking establishment or off campus in the Greater Lafayette area. 

It appears that one of the key factors in facilitating intervention (as opposed to simple avoidance) is having clear rules for as many types of spaces as possible. This seems to help students feel legitimized in their decision to confront or at least signal some annoyance to the person failing to wear masks.  

Dr. Ju: The research community on public health communication have believed that health risk information may motivate people to engage with protective behaviors for a long time. There is also much evidence on that. However, more recently, my research team found that the public’s emotional fatigue may prevent people from protective health behaviors during the pandemic. We have been exposed to a wide range of health risk information that usually consists of COVID-19 outbreaks, transmission, deaths, risks, etc. In this case, public health risk communication campaigns may lead to backfire effects such as a lack of compliance with protective measures or message avoidance. Traditionally, many social behavior change campaigns have used fear appeals or risk communication to encourage the public to take proper measures. However, we are tired of so much health information that is negatively framed. All of us have been experiencing intense and negative emotions such as fear and anxiety for a long period of time. Even if COVID-19 health risk information has been circulated by the mass media, social media, personal networks, and more, simply providing more risk information does not mean improved health behavior compliance. As noted previously, as the face of COVID-19 changes, audience targeting, tailored messages, carefully planned media approaches are warranted. Our ulterior goal should be public health. However, public health should be redefined by incorporating not only physical but also mental and emotional well-being. 

Dr. Matei: What seemed to work in helping people make the right decisions and what backfired? 

Dr. Song: Clear science-based guidelines communicated in a consistent fashion has always helped people make the right decision. We can see this from countries that have displayed more disciplined responses to the pandemic as a group such as many in Asia, Oceania, and even parts of Africa. Many of these countries had prior experience fighting serious outbreaks such as SARS, MERS, avian flu, or Ebola. For example, their guidance on mask wearing has been consistent from the beginning—they have not only required their citizens to have their masks on but recommended that those masks be equipped with some functional filters.  

In contrast, messaging around mask-wearing has been quite confusing in Western countries. Early in the pandemic, even the Surgeon General tweeted that masks are not effective in preventing catching of coronavirus. Many opinion leaders have also signaled strong disapproval of wearing masks. Inconsistent messages eventually damaged public trust in our health authorities badly enough to hurt efforts promoting mask wearing, and more recently, vaccination.  

Dr. Flachs:   Throughout the pandemic, I have been struck by the ways in which the maps of COVID transmissions and fatalities diverged from population maps. Many maps of social phenomena, say those of energy use or light pollution or internet traffic are really just proxies for population density. And that would make some logical sense for a contagious disease. But in this case the maps where this illness was most serious were often areas where population was lower, reflecting not a distribution of human density but a distribution of political decisions around masking and social distancing. In areas where public spaces were not de-densified and masks were uncommon data throughout the pandemic has consistently shown that the virus spread, people got sick, and people died. Clearly, people also needed options to work remotely, which not all jobs were able to provide. Purdue was able to be successful in offering students remote options, intensely cleaning areas, requiring masks in all places where people were likely to inhale others' breath, and structurally changing high-density encounters like dining halls, fraternity events, sports, and large lecture classes. The biggest lessons are that public health decisions became entangled with a partisan politics, thus eroding trust in institutions charged with public safety.  

Dr. Matei: What cultural or social approaches can or should be used in the future to minimize epidemics and also keep societies functional? 

Dr. Song: We are learning that COVID-19 requires a group-level response. Simply promoting protective behaviors at the individual level is not enough. We need to mobilize entire communities or countries to engage in a coordinated response and influence their members to create and sustain helpful norms. At least part of Asia’s better response can be attributed to their communitarian values as opposed to the West’s more individualistic ones. Even within Western culture, we see some countries more accepting of group-level responses than others despite their shared individualistic values. These countries seem to better recognize that global or national-level crises like COVID-19 impose a personal responsibility to each member to do their part to protect the group.  

A phenomenon I found interesting was the stigma attached to “snitching” in the U.S. For example, in South Korea, you can easily report minor violations such as unlicensed use of disability parking spaces and illegal waste dumping to relevant authorities with a cell phone app. During the pandemic, the same system has been expanded to encourage reports of gatherings beyond the capacity limit or businesses opening against mandates. It appears that societies with more communitarian values see practices like reporting in a different light—protecting the group and sustaining the norms while sanctioning those who exploit the inconvenience of others.  

When a crisis like COVID-19 hits us again, messaging toward the public should go beyond simple advice to protect oneself and better highlight one’s responsibility to protect the community. This is not a completely foreign or new idea. For example, in response to terrorism threats, the Department of Homeland Security launched an “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, underscoring and approving of individuals’ role in reporting suspicious behavior. In a pandemic situation, masks work not only by protecting the person wearing it, but also others interacting with the person, effectively protecting the health of the group. Messages that emphasize one’s responsibility in relation to the group could improve public responses in future pandemics by characterizing the impact of our behavior more accurately.  

Dr. Flachs: Fundamentally, institutions will have to work to regain trust beyond the particular partisan politics of this moment. That will be a difficult task because many people do not see institutions as serving in their best interests - either because trusted leaders have told them to ignore advice from those institutions or because they have a history of harm against some of those communities. Long-term investments in public health infrastructure will also be critical from a public health perspective. By providing higher standards of care that lower the risk of comorbidities and exacerbating health and socioeconomic factors, the overall deadliness and rate of spread of such contagious viruses will be lower. Institutions that see public health measures like sanitizing, contact tracing, remote work, and masking as an important part of keeping the organization running, provide a model that keeps stakeholders engaged without cutting them off from their work or placing them at unnecessary risk. It is likely that the increased attention on hygiene and a flexibility with remote working for at least some activities is here to stay. 

Dr. Ju: Our society has focused on medical therapies to cope with infectious diseases or other health issues. More recently, social scientists increasingly examine behavioral aspects of public health. From the communication perspective where I view the phenomenon of COVID-19, the public should be properly and timely informed about a disease and its coping strategies (awareness). Their cognitive and emotional responses will follow and public health communication campaigns should contribute to effective coping strategies by affecting the cognitive (comprehension) and emotional responses (attitudes). Knowing is not sufficient. People enact behaviors when they are convinced (conviction) and able to engage (efficacy) with the behaviors. Throughout this process, the role of public health communication using mass media, social media, professional experts, and even influencers in personal networks play a part. The key is a timely and persuasive communication. Communication can contribute to keeping societies functional. My research team and other social scientists are conducting research projects to better understand and suggest working communication approaches for the local governments, public health agencies, and social networks. Effective and strategic public health communication is possible when we understand the target audience with their needs and wants. I hope we can share better insights soon. 

Last Update: September 23, 2021

There are grant programs, and then there are grant programs... Some are highly contextual, meant to live only for a season of funding, while others have a long shelf life, aiming at programmatic, continuing impact. The CLA Office of Research would like to draw your attention to these latter, important opportunities, which reflect some broader and continuing funding interests in social sciences and humanities.

Private Foundations

Mellon Foundation Higher Learning – embracing of equity in higher learning with a focus on core humanities fields

ACLS Digital Extension Grants focused on Digital Humanities and expansion to users who wouldn’t normally have access to collections if not digital. Due annually in December for $150,000

Spencer Foundation small research grants focused on closing the education gap, Deadline: June 1 for $50,000

Henry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Research Grants on the basis of violence for $40,000.  Deadline: August 1

National Geographic Exploration Grants for $30,000 (rolling deadline)

Humanities Without Walls for $150,000, Deadline: November 15 2021-HWW3-RFP.pdf (

Andrew Mellon Foundation Higher Learning or the arts.  Rolling deadline

Carnegie Corporation of New York (Democracy / Education)  Rolling deadline


NEH Digital Projects for the Public for $400,000, Deadline: May 5

NSF Archaeology and Archaeometry, Deadline: July 1

NSF Linguistics, Deadline: July 15

NSF, Science, Technology and Society, $400,000 Deadline: August 3

The list was compiled by Martha Weise, our grant and funding expert, who is ready to assist you in your funding quest.

Last Update: September 23, 2021

Purdue University is part of Humanities Without Walls, and as a special benefit, we are invited to compete in the limited submission competition for humanities research Grand Challenge grants.

Humanities Without Walls invites applications for interdisciplinary, collaborative, research-based projects in the humanities and arts that build a clearly communicated commitment to methodologies of reciprocity and redistribution into their project design and proposal narratives, regardless of the research topic or theme they focus on.

PI Eligibility: Tenure-line faculty in humanities or humanistic social sciences
Award amount: Up to $150,000
Project Period: January 1st, 2022–December 31st, 2024
Application Deadline: November 15th, 2021, Midnight, Central Time
How to Submit: Proposals should be emailed as a single PDF to

In anticipation of the final proposal, the CLA Office of Research can support preparatory work through a local grant. The deadline is April 23, and should be submitted according to the outlined instructions.

If you have questions, please contact our office at or contact Jason Mierek, HWW Director of Operations, at the email address listed above. Thank you, and good luck!

HWW Link

Last Update: March 5, 2021

Purdue University is excited to announce the Early User Program (EUP) for Anvil, an NSF Category I large-capacity computational research platform. Anvil will provide a seamless and comprehensive ecosystem of software, access interfaces, programming environments, and composable services to support a broad range of science and engineering applications.

Anvil will integrate new technologies for interactive usage, scalable HPC, machine learning and big data applications; prioritize researcher productivity and ease of use; and provide an extensible architecture for interoperation with complementary data-intensive projects, campus resources, and commercial cloud.

Please find more information about the Anvil EUP in the attached PDF document, and join the Anvil team for an informative webinar to learn more about the system, how you can apply it to your research, and join the Early User Program. The webinar will take place via Microsoft Teams starting at 2pm on Monday, March 29, 2021. It is scheduled for 90 minutes.

Join the Anvil EUP Webinar HERE.

Last Update: February 16, 2021

The College of Liberal Arts has been invited by the Graduate School to submit one (1) nomination for the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor. If you have in mind someone whom you believe is deserving of this award, please submit your department’s nomination (one per department only; to be submitted by DH, Grad Director, or Admin) – with all necessary parts combined into a single PDF document – via InfoReady (URL listed below) by Wednesday, March 24, 2021 before 5 PM EST.

CLA 2021 POGFM Nomination Form – InfoReady:

**The attached document (titled “Update IRUP.pdf”) outlines how to update your InfoReady User Profile for CLA, if you have not yet used InfoReady. This update must be done before you can make a nomination!**

Criteria for nominations are provided in the other attached document, along with a list of materials to be submitted with the nomination. Here is a preview:

  • Current graduate faculty member on the West Lafayette campus
  • Nominees must demonstrate sustained and significant contributions to graduate education at Purdue University through activities such as the following:
    • Well-structured relationships with students that lead to successful completion of masters and doctoral degrees. These relationships include service on committees, mentoring, funding, intellectual and creative support, advocacy, and respect for students;
    • Innovative graduate teaching;
    • Significant administration of graduate programs

Nominating documents will be limited to five (5) pages, exclusive of the CV and support letters, and must include the following (assembled in the order indicated below):

  • A cover sheet with the nominee's and nominator's name and contact information;
  • Three letters of support including one from the nominator who is currently affiliated with Purdue University (this could include a dean, department head, faculty member, or graduate student) and two from FORMER students (1 page each).
  • Nominee's reflection (written in first person) on involvement in various aspects of graduate education (1-2 pages); this section should be written by the nominee and include, but not be limited to, innovations in graduate mentoring and graduate administrative service;
  • C.V. (include education; Purdue position; graduate courses taught; significant publications [indicate publications co-authored with graduate students by highlighting graduate student(s) name]);
  • List of past masters and doctoral students for whom the nominee served as major professor and their current positions if available (1-2 pages)

CLA Administration will review all our candidates and forward the one we feel best represents the college, given the guidelines. One recipient will be recognized for this $2,500 award this year. More information can be found on the Graduate School’s website at the following URL:

As always, please direct questions to Mike Hicks, CLA Grants Coordinator, at Thank you.

Last Update: January 25, 2021

The year 2021 comes in the US with a new presidential administration confronted by critical strategic challenges, political turmoil, and high expectations. The FORCES team of social science, STEM, and military experts summarizes in this report the leading functional, geographic, and political-military issues confronting the Biden administration. A non-partisan, land-grant university research initiative, the FORCES report provides policymakers, military leaders, media experts, and the general public a direct and unbiased assessment of the road ahead. It identifies the most significant hot spots created by the clash between the global military, technological, and social forces. A future speaker series and upcoming reports will provide a constant flow of knowledge. The FORCES team is also looking forward to hearing your opinion about their work or to provide support in your future research and policy-making activities. Feel free to reach out them at

Note: The report reflects the opinion of the authors, as scholars. It does not represent the official position of Purdue University. The report benefitted from the review and suggestions of a member of the Purdue Policy Research Institute.

From the Executive Summary

A new American presidential administration coming into office is seldom an easy transition, a fact made more difficult when one party replaces another. In the areas of security and strategy Biden is walking into a dangerous room.  Purdue’s FORCES Initiative looks at the Biden’s potential and actual strategic priorities and challenges. 


  • Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Anticipate much from Blinken, who has known Biden since the latter’s senate tenure. He is an Atlanticist since his earliest days at State and has called for diplomacy based on confidence and humility. 
  • Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin. Austin began working closely with Vice President Biden during the 2013 150,000-troop drawdown in Iraq. He favors diplomacy and development (monetary aid) over force, which he calls “only one instrument of our national power.” 
  • National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. The lawyer and Atlanticist served as Hillary Clinton’s national security advisor. Even Congressional Republicans like him, a benefit in Biden’s centrist reconstruction administration.  
  • Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines. Haines was Deputy Director of the CIA in 2013-15. She will have an uphill battle restoring morale throughout the American intelligence community after much partisan infighting generated by the recent Russian and Chinese interference scandals. 
  • Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. Named by Obama to serve as Chairperson of the Federal Reserve Bank, expect her to support Biden’s moderate “whole of government” path. Internationally, she should to continue her previous open trade actions.
  • Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. He will carry the burden of balancing immigration policies in a way that satisfies both human rights and security interests.
  • CIA Director, William Burns. A former diplomat, he will shift the emphasis on the workings of the agency from muscle and spycraft to intelligence and influence operations.  


  • People’s Republic of China. Biden committed to treat the PRC as America’s primary competitor. His Democratic party now agrees with Republicans about a powerful and nouveau riche China posing a “special challenge.” The two nations’ relationship is complicated because they are each other’s top trading partner. The People’s Liberation Army is the world’s largest, and its Navy and Air Force are expanding; paid for by the country’s accumulating wealth. The PRC’s cyberwar capabilities are at least equal to America’s, and its space program is catching up. As America’s only economic and military peer rival, Biden cannot ignore the PRC, and will probably pursue a tougher policy than Obama. 
  • Russia. Biden must simultaneously keep a wary eye on Putin’s Russia. Russia is weak, and COVID has made it weaker. Continued cyber and information ops are Putin’s asymmetrical weapons of choice. The PRC pretends Russia is still a great power, and the two have enjoyed a détente. Biden will have to beware of the two coordinating their machinations, threatening to send American responses into “systems overload.” 
  • Europe and NATO. Biden is a child of the Cold War who realizes America’s Atlantic security arrangements have maintained generations of peace; so do many of his foreign policy personnel. With the expected emphasis on long-standing relationships, the EU will return to its former prominence.  
  • Middle East and South Asia. The trend away from fossil fuels plus the resurgent American oil industry has pushed the Persian Gulf into our B List of global hot spots. Biden may create a more connections in the region, for example, eschewing Trump’s over-emphasis on Israel and Saudi Arabia, while remaining loyal to both. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran was a cornerstone of Obama’s Gulf security regime, and we expect Biden to try to rejoin it. Biden has long favored shifting American efforts away from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and instead focusing on non-state threats like the Islamic State. 

Functional Areas: 

Diplomacy. Biden favors strategies short of war: a noble objective. We believe he will restore American diplomatic eminence and unity of effort.  Nuclear Weapons. Although many in the US Department of Defense believe its nuclear arsenal needs updating, both Obama and Trump considered this a waste of effort and money. Biden may reverse his predecessor and extend the START Treaty with Russia. We suggest that START should also include China, which would benefit both the US and Russia.   Cyber: This newest threat area has become perhaps the most dangerous. Like 9/11, recent cyberattacks have caught America off guard and are worthy of grudging respect. A challenge is that any American countermeasures would invite counter-countermeasures; in which it is not clear how the US would fare.  Climate. Biden sees climate change as an immense manmade problem requiring scientific solutions coordinated globally. He said he will return to the UN-sponsored 2016 Paris Agreement. Opportunities to include the PRC, India, or Brazil in the conversation should be examined. Space. Biden is alert to the dangers posed in the ultimate high ground. He will have his hands full with domestic and foreign challenges, and it is unclear what he will do about space.  Moral Leadership and Information Operations. America’s record was built on moral values, which at times clashed with realism and pragmatism. The US have usually strived to be a beacon for good. Our better values have been questioned during the past four years. Biden vocally advocated a return to American virtue, from reinforcing democracy to fighting injustice, while retaining a strong sense or realism.

US Military: In terms of capabilities and global reach, the US has no peer. But we also have worldwide commitments like no other. Biden will be under pressure to axe defense spending. Global tensions should prevent him from cutting too much, but expect him to save on “legacy systems” (ground forces, aircraft carriers) to switch to new technologies (cyber, hypersonics, space).  

  • US Army: The Army must prove its relevance in the information age. This will be an uphill battle, especially as it is of doubtful utility in the Indo-Pacific region or cyber and space arenas.
  • US Navy: The Navy’s high op-tempo but limited manpower and ships means it is probably in the worst shape of the three services. With 90 percent of world trade and 95 percent of global internet traffic on or under the sea, the Navy has a full plate. Nearly two-thirds of its capabilities are dedicated to the Indo-Pacific region. 
  • US Air Force: The USAF is probably the healthiest service, and likely to remain DoD’s “golden child.” Its new subordinate US Space Force budget increased from $40M in FY2020 to $15.3B in FY2021. Overall, the future of Space Force seems secure under Biden. 

Last Update: November 12, 2020

Please join us on Tuesday, November 17, from Noon- 1 pm EST as several of our Purdue colleagues, including CLA’s Dr. Hwanseok Song, as well as a member of the Tippecanoe County Health Department discuss Lessons Learned from the Regional Response to COVID-19. This online panel discussion is sponsored by the Purdue Policy Research Institute, Discovery Park. Registration is free! Please Register HERE or at this link: Please see the attached flyer for more details. Once you register, a link to the online event will be sent to you prior to the event. Stacey Connaughton, Ph.D. Director, The Purdue Policy Research Institute, Discovery Park Director, The Purdue Peace Project Professor, Brian Lamb School of Communication Associate Editor, Journal of Communication Purdue University