Faculty Spotlight

Meet Your Professor: Former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty, Warburg Chair

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

I went to Brown and studied English and History in the American Civilization program. (I really liked everything about Brown except that it, unfortunately, wasn’t in Boston).

Can you give us a brief synopsis of your career?

Former US Senator Tom Dougherty, Warburg Chair of International Relations

After college, I tried to make a living as a freelance writer but ended up paying most of my bills by waiting tables and tending bar. Then I worked as an editor and translator in Germany and taught in international schools in Belgium and Switzerland. After that, I spent 27 years as a Foreign Service Officer in a dozen countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East. Then five years as executive director of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, and now Simmons!

What was the most daring move you’ve made in your career?

Volunteering to work in Congo/Brazzaville and then later in the DRCongo during periods of great unrest. The moves were probably more daring than I realized at the time, but the work was as satisfying as it was challenging.

What inspired you to work in foreign affairs?

There's nothing more exciting than the opportunity to live and work for extended periods of time in a foreign country. It's even better when the opportunity includes time to study the culture and history of the country, learn its language, and meet people from a broad range of backgrounds.

It's exciting to have the opportunity to join a community as vibrant, diverse, and welcoming as Simmons...

Tell us about your role as Warburg Chair at Simmons.

The role involves teaching in the faculty of political science and international relations, mentoring students potentially interested in an international career, and helping to organize events that can bring to campus practitioners in international affairs. Simmons is fortunate to have received generous funding from distinguished alumna, Joan Melber Warburg '45, for the program. For almost thirty years now, the Warburg Chair has evinced Simmons' commitment to global cooperation, and it is a unique privilege to contribute to that effort. 

Why are you excited to join the Simmons community?

It's exciting to have the opportunity to join a community as vibrant, diverse, and welcoming as Simmons — just as it is to be at a university that puts students first and includes the improvement of the human condition among its principal mission goals. 

What are you most looking forward to in your classes?

Recent international challenges such as the "forever wars," Covid-19, climate change, terrorism, transnational crime, human rights, and persistent poverty have underscored the need for international solutions and collaboration. I'm very much looking forward to working with a new generation of emerging global leaders who, I hope, will have success in addressing such challenges. 

Do you have any advice for students who are interested in pursuing a career in foreign affairs?

Definitely go for it! Even if one only works internationally for a short period of time, the experience is uniquely enriching and life-changing.

If we visited your home office, what would we see?

Stacks of books waiting to be read "someday" that I've carted from country to country for years.

What's the last book you read?

Facing a cross-country drive to get to Simmons that included all of Nebraska from west to east, I re-read The Prairie Trilogy by Willa Cather. I hadn't read Cather since high school, and she was even better than I'd remembered.

Tell us one fun fact about yourself.

I paid for grad school in Italy and California from winnings on "Jeopardy."

Moments from Professor Dougherty's Career

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