College Corner with Professor Dominic Tierney

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Swatties who have been lotteried out of one of Professor Dominic Tierney’s classes know about his popularity. The Daily Gazette chatted with this political science professor in his office about his plans for next year, why he came to Swarthmore, and the mysterious sport of cricket.

DG: What are your plans for next year when you’re on leave?

DT: It’s yet to be determined. Depending on fellowship news, I may be at Harvard, or in Philadelphia.

DG: What prompted your interest in political science? And what is your area of study or interest?

DT: My work is on American foreign policy and international security. As an undergraduate I was a history major at Oxford. And I had a wonderful professor who got me very excited about modern American history, especially the history of U.S. foreign policy. For graduate school, I decided to branch out from history to political science because I wanted to use historical knowledge to tackle contemporary problems.

DG: What’s your favorite class to teach?

DT: They’re all great to teach because the students are always wonderful. I particularly enjoy the intro class and the honors seminar because they represent the extremes of the Swarthmore experience. The intro class is mind opening for the students. It’s the first time they’ve ever studied international politics and I try to provide them with a completely new experience—with a set of novel theories and tools to understand the world. And the honors seminar is the gold standard at Swarthmore. It has all the intellectual excitement of graduate school, without the angst of PhD students.

DG: Why did you come to Swarthmore in particular?

DT: To be honest, being British, I didn’t know a lot about Swarthmore until I came for the interview. I was at Harvard then, and people told me how great the college was. When I came to visit, I thought my department was terrific and I had an intense lunch with the students, who were really superb, and asked probing questions. I immediately thought: “I can be happy here”.

DG: If you could make a prediction, what do you think will end up happening with the war in Iraq?

DT: Well, I think the number of American troops will be drawn down. The real question is the speed with which that happens. My prediction is this: it will depend less than we might think on which American president is elected next fall. In other words, John McCain will feel powerful pressure to slowly reduce the number of American troops regardless of his own preferences. Meanwhile, President Obama or Clinton will find that, in practice, it takes longer than they think to draw down our troop numbers.

DG: What do you think about Kosovo’s recent declaration of independence?

DT: Well, it was essentially inevitable once the U.S., the British and French announced in advance they would support independence. Our job now is to manage this very difficult transition period. My sense is that the independence of Kosovo is the least bad outcome. The ultimate solution may be for both Kosovo and Serbia to join the European Union.

DG: What’s your favorite pastime or thing to do outside of academics?

DT: I’m an obsessive cricket fan—a game that is a total mystery to the American population. But it’s a wonderful sport, loved around the world. I hope to introduce its charms to more Americans.

DG: Maybe you could sponsor a cricket team here at Swarthmore.

DT: That would be great. Philadelphia is actually the center of cricket in the United States—of course these things are all relative.

DG: Do you have a favorite movie?

DT: I was very impressed by No Country for Old Men. Javier Bardem plays a mean bad guy.

DG: Is there anything quirky about you that students don’t know?

DT: My direct relative killed Thomas Becket in 1170 in Canterbury Cathedral. I own a tie that Samuel L. Jackson wore in Snakes on a Plane. My sister-in-law is Johnny Depp’s stylist. I landed on an aircraft carrier. I’m not a gambler—but I did once win a poker tournament in Las Vegas.


  1. I’ve always thought that Professor Tierney was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Given his answer to that last question, I know this now for a fact.

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