Dr. Michael Kenney, a GSPIA professor of public and international affairs, has been named to the Wesley W. Posvar Chair in International Security Studies. He was also named the new director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies, which is part of both GSPIA and the University of Pittsburgh’s University Center for International Studies (UCIS).
“I am honored to be appointed the Wesley W. Posvar Chair and the Director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Both Posvar and Ridgway made important contributions to the United States and the University of Pittsburgh, so it is with a great deal of humility that I accept the challenge of continuing their legacy of public service,” Kenney said.
“I am excited about the opportunity of working with faculty, staff and student colleagues at GSPIA, the University Center for International Studies, the University of Pittsburgh, and beyond to continue the Ridgway Center’s mission of providing outstanding research and teaching in international security.”
Kenney, has been affiliated with the Ridgway Center for nearly a decade, directing working groups that regularly brief the FBI on different research topics relating to national and international security. He also served as a program director for GSPIA’s master’s program in public and international affairs for six years and is an affiliate scholar at the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security.
He has published extensively in the field of international security, including The Islamic State in Britain: Radicalization and Resilience in an Activist Network, which won the 2019 American Political Science Association Political Networks Section Best Book Award. He also authored From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation.
His research focuses primarily on terrorism, Islamic militancy, and global crime and has been published in journals such as Survival, Terrorism and Political Violence, and The Journal of Conflict Resolution. His article “Cyber-Terrorism in a Post-Stuxnet World” is one of Orbis’ most downloaded articles. He recently published a paper by the British government’s Commission for Countering Extremism, exploring the links between extremism and terrorism through a deep dive into the first UK-based proscribed Islamist group, al-Muhajiroun.
Kenney has been a consultant with the FBI and as an external reviewer for the Department of Homeland Security. He also serves on the editorial board of Terrorism and Political Violence, the leading academic journal in terrorism studies.
Kenney received his PhD and master’s degrees from the University of Florida and his bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts.
The University of Pittsburgh established the Posvar Chair to honor late Pitt chancellor Wesley Posvar, who died on July 27, 2001. Posvar, who had been a Brigadier General in the U.S. Air Force, served as chancellor of the University from 1967 to 1991 and was renowned for his early recognition of the importance of international studies, establishing UCIS during his years as Pitt's leader. He was a trustee of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an advisory trustee of the Rand Corporation, and a founder and president of the International Studies Association. The Posvar Chair is always held by the professor who also serves as director of Pitt's Ridgway Center.
“Professor Michael Kenney will be an outstanding director of the Ridgway Center for International Security Studies and richly deserves to serve as the Wesley W. Posvar Chair. He is an award-winning scholar who is nationally and internationally known for his publications on terrorist organizations, drug traffickers and cyber-criminals. Over the last two decades he has presented his research at major universities and security agencies in the U.S. and seven countries abroad on four continents,” said John T.S. Keeler, dean of GSPIA.
“With connections to both scholarly networks and public officials around the globe, he will build on the legacy of his predecessor—Phil Williams—and assure that the Ridgway Center remains an exciting place for Pitt students and faculty engaged in international affairs.”
Williams, a leading expert in transnational organized crime, served as Ridgway Center director from 1992 to 2001 and from 2007 to 2020 and as the Wesley W. Posvar Chair in International Security Studies since 2009.
Kenney's appointment began August 1.
The Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies was established at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988 under the auspices of GSPIA and UCIS. Dedicated to the American general whom many historians credit with saving the U.S. position after China's intervention in the Korean War, the center addresses in innovative ways new security challenges facing the United States and the international community.