START Associate Research Scientist Dr. Elizabeth Radziszewski grew up in Gliwice, a city in southern Poland, during the Communist era, which led to her interest in irregular warfare. After taking history classes on the Cold War and the Vietnam War at Rutgers University with Dr. Lloyd Gardner, who she describes as “an incredible storyteller,” Radziszewski was drawn to conflict studies and ultimately also to the study of insurgencies. Her research thereafter led her to learning about START, and when a Senior Researcher position opened up she felt that START's work would be a good match with her interests, especially in the area of irregular warfare.
Who has been the most influential person during the course of your academic pursuits?
Hard to name just one person. My family for sure, nothing quite helps you regain motivation after a big professional rejection than having your niece and nephew bring you a stuffed animal toy to cheer you up! My colleague Seden Akcinaroglu from Binghamton University and I have formed a stable and productive collaboration on projects over the years, and this relationship has made me a better thinker, researcher, and person.
What’s been one of the more interesting projects you’ve worked on?
Doing field research in villages in southern Poland for my dissertation and first book on public support for European integration and the War in Iraq, “Social Networks and Public Support for the European Union.” There I discovered the enormous power of personal social networks in shaping attitudes on foreign policy. Collecting raw data from interviews and observations, finding contacts who helped me connect with small communities, and then seeing the bigger story that emerged from this process was an exciting and empowering experience for me. There's a certain special energy that you feel when you're in the field observing people in their natural environment as part of your study and then start connecting the dots.
Is there a specific research gap that you’re interested in studying?
There’s still a lot to learn about the short and long-term consequences of private military and security companies’ and mercenaries’ interventions in conflict and peace time. Since I have done research in this area in the past and have done work on international rivalries, I can also see the intersection of these two areas of research and implications for international competition and irregular warfare. This is something I am currently exploring.
What else are you currently working on?
My main project at START examines the effectiveness of global responses to asymmetric threats. I also have several side projects on private military and security companies at different stages of development and one on the sustainability of accommodation between international rivals.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Besides having an opportunity to pursue exciting and relevant projects that have the potential to inform policy, I work with kind, supportive, flexible, and smart people. I discovered over the years that the right group of people can make or break your job experience regardless of how interesting the project is. So I value being part of a supportive community.
What is the most exciting experience you’ve had as a result of your research?
This is a tough one because there have been several exciting moments. Overall, seeing the growth and evolution in most recent years in the way I approach my research/work so it fits into my life in a way that’s productive, healthy and balanced has been exciting to me on a personal level. Working with my editor at Oxford University Press on my book cover design was a lot of fun, seeing how it all comes together step by step. I cherish that moment because there were times when I didn’t think it would ever come.
Outside of work, what do you do for fun?
I spend time at the skating rink where I practice ice dancing to prepare for U.S. Figure Skating Association’s tests and for an occasional exhibition. Often, I put the music on and just love the feeling of flow on the ice. I’m also very much into the outdoors, everything from short walks in the woods to taking road trips to the national parks and exploring more challenging trails there.
Join START with Dr. Radziszewski for a virtual talk on her book, “Private Militaries and the Security Industry in Civil Wars: Competition and Market Accountability” on Thursday, April 7 at 12:00 p.m. ET.