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Alum of the Month

April 2017 Alum of the Month: Christopher S. Chivvis '89

Christopher S. Chivvis '89 is associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center and a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, strictly nonpartisan organization focused on objective analysis and finding solutions for major public challenges. Chivvis is an expert on national security issues in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, including NATO, military interventions, counter-terrorism, and deterrence. The author of several books and many articles on U.S. foreign policy and defense, he is also an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), named for the great statesman and Hotchkiss alumnus, Class of 1924.

Chivvis came to Hotchkiss as a lower mid from New Canaan, CT. "My father attended the local high school and had a good experience, so we were unsure about boarding schools in general. But we decided to visit Hotchkiss and saw the many opportunities on the horizon, and I applied and was accepted. There were many talented teachers at Hotchkiss, but I think more than anything it was the time spent with international students that inspired my broader intellectual curiosity in the world. Certainly, rigorous training at Hotchkiss gave me a great foundation in the skills I needed to write as much as I do now."

Having matriculated at Johns Hopkins after Hotchkiss, Chivvis already had a strong interest in international issues, but majored in writing. That combined interest evolved into international journalism, and later, international affairs with a concentration on Europe. After college, he worked at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in DC, a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization, before entering graduate school at SAIS. Chivvis then worked as a research assistant in Washington and Geneva, and later spent time teaching at Sciences Po in Paris, while finishing his doctoral research. After completing his doctorate, he returned to the States to teach at New York University, before heading back to Washington and then again to Europe, serving as a fellow at the French Institute for International Relations and finally at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "I knew I wanted to work more on policy than in a strictly academic setting," he explains. He also served in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he worked on NATO-Russia and missile defense issues. He is now settled in Washington with his wife Sumona Guha and their three children.

The mission of the RAND Corporation is to help improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. As a premier global research institution, RAND prides itself on its ethical and professional standards. Its staff of 1,875 people works in 53 countries; 56 percent of the research staff holds one or more doctorate degrees. Clients include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Boston Children's Hospital, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, and the World Bank. As associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center, Chivvis works on political, security, and economic issues, and focuses on some of the world's most dangerous challenges, such as terrorism, nuclear weapons, and civil war. "We try to combine research methods to solve practical problems to address the needs of the government and broader public. We do that through in-depth qualitative and quantitative research, including economic analysis and field research. I think the U.S. faces a daunting range of security challenges today – whether on Russia, the Islamic State (also ISIL or ISIS), or China. We need objective analysis now more than ever to help our leaders sort through the options and pick the best strategies."

As adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins, Chivvis enjoys teaching graduate courses. "I teach one evening a week, one course a semester. It's very rewarding and also helps me continue to learn. Broadly speaking, I think the kinds of subjects and topics we are studying in Europe have changed dramatically in the past decade. For a time it appeared that Europe had resolved many of its great challenges. But much has changed now with the crisis in European politics, mounting security issues, mass migration of refugees, terrorism, and crippling debt."

Chivvis is interviewed frequently in the media, and his work has appeared in leading publications including The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Washington Quarterly, and The Christian Science Monitor. He has also testified (as recently as March 22) before the U.S. Congress House Armed Services Committee on the subject of Russian Hybrid War. Earlier last month, he joined a Brookings Institute expert panel on internal and external security challenges in Europe. He is currently researching a monograph on Russian operations in Syria, a project that brought him to Moscow in February. Chivvis is the author of numerous articles and three books, The Monetary Conservative: Jacques Rueff and Twentieth-Century Free Market Thought, Northern Illinois University Press, 2010; Toppling Qaddafi, Cambridge University Press, 2013; and The French War on Al Qa'ida in Africa, Cambridge University Press, 2015. According to Chivvis, "There are a lot of great parts of this job. I value writing about big national security issues, and doing the research and travelling to absorb outside perspective and input."

Fluent in French, German, and Spanish, Chivvis is the recipient of several awards for his contributions, including the Gold Medal Award from RAND and an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. "I received the Gold Medal Award for a line of work I led helping U.S. Strategic Command – that's the unit in Omaha responsible for the U.S. nuclear arsenal – understand its future operating environment. The award from the Office of the Secretary of Defense was given to me for my support to the Secretary of Defense and other senior leaders during ongoing discussions about missile defense cooperation back in 2011. In those days, the United States was trying to reset its relationship with Russia."

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