Friday Faculty Focus: Michelle Black

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October 21st, 2016

Dr. Michelle Black (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

Dr. Michelle Black (Photo by Brandon McDermott)

Dr. Michelle Black is a political Science professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She worked in the military as a defense contractor for eight years before working as a government civilian for the Department of Defense for another seven years. KVNO’s Brandon McDermott had a chance to sit down with her and filed this week’s Friday Faculty Focus.


Brandon: Dr. Michelle Black thanks for joining me on the show this week.

Dr. Black: Thank you for having me.

Brandon: Now you worked as a government civilian in the Department of Defense for several years. Can you expound on your position there and what you worked on?

Dr. Black: I actually started in 2001. I was in the military as a psychological operations analyst where I did information campaigns, while I was deployed. We worked on communicating to the public on operations, activities, working with the government of the host country and you can kind of define that as influence operations as well. So I did that in the U.S. Special Operations for about four years. I exited the military became a defense contractor for a few years for Booz Allen Hamilton, and then A government civilian where I first started in budgeting in capabilities, then moved to planning and policy – specifically an adversary decision making and deterrence.

Brandon: Your research focuses on insurgency developing after war and deterring violent extremist organizations. Talk about the current state of things worldwide in a broader sense and the role that the U.S. plays.

Dr. Black: My research specifically focuses on Iraq as a case study. I looked at the insurgency developing after Iraq, in the sense of how the U.S. intervenes and what happens after the intervention. So, to look at in broader sense, what happens if we decide to go into another country, will the people accept us as liberators or will they look at us as occupiers? My research hopes to be able to expand and understand when we enter a certain country what that action will be so, from a bottom up perspective versus the top down. We always look at it from a very top down perspective. What our objectives as we go in? What do we want to accomplish? What I hope to do with my research is be able to tell a story or actually explain, on both sides, here we have objectives and so do the people in the domestic population. How can we prevent violence moving towards insurgency? You’re always going to have violence after a conflict, but the point is not upset that strategic level of violence and to move it towards more nation building and peacekeeping.

Brandon: How do historical concepts of deterrence and assurance. For example approaches use during the Cold War. How does that apply in today’s environment?

Dr. Black: Well it’s kind of funny that you ask that because we work with STRATCOM quite a bit here in the political science department.  One of the big requests from STRATCOM is to look at how has deterrence changed over the years has it changed are we still in the Cold War mentality? Are we still looking at deterrence? Specifically from a U.S. versus a Soviet mentality because we know the world has changed and we are adversaries have changed, the capabilities have to change. So, when you ask that question. We tend to think ‘oh well, deterrence in the Cold War mentality.’ But, as I just explained without his her decision making, we want to look at deterrence and assurance specifically in the new light. How has it changed over the years with the new capabilities and advisers like I just mentioned? So, the theories that are now being argued are not necessarily just destruction. It’s more what incentives are? What can we do to influence an adversary to ensure that they have certain benefits and they understand their cost to the actions that they could be undertaking?

Brandon: You were deployed to Iraq Kuwait and Qatar during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. How did that help form who you are as an educator?

Dr. Black: It’s given me a perspective of the operational level. When I walk into a classroom, there are lots of things that I’ve seen and executed as being a soldier.  As well as being a defense civilian. So I bring those experiences into my classroom because I feel that application is very important. It allows the students to see how theories can be applied. Sometimes specifically I think in our field we talk a lot about theory, we talk about action too but, when I was able to apply a lot of the theory and sort of sit back as an educator and make those connections. I really like to communicate that to my students.

Brandon:  Dr. Black thanks again for joining me.

Dr. Black: Thank you for having me.

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