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Teaching in the Department of Social Sciences


Like those who preceded you, you must know military strategy, tactics and logistics. You must learn the lessons of leadership. but today, as never before, you will need a sense of history, a grasp of economic principles, an appreciation of science, a mastery of geopolitics and diplomatic conventions.
-- President Gerald R. Ford in an address to the Graduating Class, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, June 1975.
Some years ago the slogan of one of America’s leading manufactures was “Progress is Our Most Important Product.” Paraphrasing those words, within the Department, “People are Our Most Important Product.” Individually, each of you represents the outcome of a careful process of screening and selection that involved reviewing literally hundreds of records and competition against some of the most highly qualified officers in the Army. For some, selection probably represented the culmination of an extensive period of correspondence commencing almost immediately upon graduation from USMA. For others, it represented a briefer, but no less illuminating, correspondence that began as the department sought highly qualified officers with sources of commission other than USMA. The civilian faculty members that have been selected to join the Department undergone a different, but equally rigorous, competitive, and demanding selection process. In all cases your selection represented the considered judgment that you possess and exemplify the very intellectual, professional and ethical qualities we hope to instill in our students.
When you joined the faculty of the Military Academy, you joined both a military and an academic institution. As a military institution, West Point has an obvious military structure with which you are all familiar. A similar structure exists within the Department, and for most administrative control through the Deputy Head and Department Executive Officer. A close unit parallel, given the division into disciplines and general decentralization of operations, might be that of a headquarters company. But, the Academy also is organized as an academic institution. Not surprisingly, therefore, there also exists an academic hierarchy that is superimposed upon the existing military structure. In most cases there is a close fit between the two structures, but on occasion the structures are not coincident. In these instances, the academic hierarchy, in recognition of our primary mission, will generally take precedence. You as a member of this faculty are part of both hierarchies.
To clarify this structure, a brief description of the duty positions for faculty members at West Point follows:
  • Professors, USMA. The Department of Social Sciences is authorized two Permanent Professors (statutory). The senior Permanent Professor is designated as the Head of the Department. The other Permanent Professor occupies the position of Deputy Head of the Department. Permanent Professors are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate and may serve until reaching mandatory retirement at 64 years of age. Permanent Professors wear the branch insignia of USMA. The Permanent Professors typically serve as the senior raters for officers in the Department of Social Sciences.
  • Academy Professors. The department is authorized a number of tenured military faculty positions (currently seven). In addition to the two statutory professor positions, therefore, it is authorized a Academy Professors. Academy Professors are selected by an appointed selection committee and approved by the Academic Board and Department of the Army. Generally officers selected as Academy Professors may serve until reaching mandatory retirement at thirty years service. Academy Professors assist the Head and Deputy Head of the department in the oversight of the Department curriculum, in directing and developing the junior faculty, and in the management of designated extracurricular activities. Academy Professors serve as raters for virtually all instructors and assistant professors.
  • Civilian Faculty Members. The department is authorized a number of civilian faculty positions. The Department also is authorized a number of civilian professors (currently eight). Civilian professors hold the rank of professor, associate professor, or assistant professor based on their experience and qualifications discussed below. Based on their experience, civilian faculty members assist the Head and Deputy Head of the department in the oversight of the Department curriculum, in directing and developing the junior faculty, and in the management of designated extracurricular activities. We also have a civilian Visiting Professor, an Olin Distinguished Professor of National Security Studies, the Bernard Rogers Professor of Economics of National Security, and a Foreign Service Officer detailed from the Department of State. When possible, we also have a faculty member assigned to us as part of the CIA’s scholar-in-residence program.
  • Course Directors. While not an academic rank per se, course directors have an important role in the academic hierarchy. Individuals designated as course directors are responsible, under the guidance of a designated Academy Professors and senior civilian faculty, for the design, administration, and conduct of instruction of an academic course. Key among the course directors are those charged with the responsibility for the core courses in Economics (SS201), Political Sciences (SS202) and International Affairs (SS307). In addition to course design, text selection and administration, these individuals are charged with coordinating the teaching activities of a number of instructors assigned to that course. Core course directors are chosen on the basis of their academic capabilities and often will be junior in the military hierarchy to officers working with them as instructors in the course.
  • Instructor. Upon initial appointment, all officers assigned to the faculty hold the duty position and the academic rank of instructor.
    In addition to these duty positions, there is a roughly parallel academic rank structure. The details are contained in the Dean’s Policy and Operating Memorandum 5-3, but the following paragraphs present a brief summary:
  • Professor. General qualifications for initial appointment as Professor are normally an earned doctorate or an equivalent degree (LL.M. or J.D.), approximately six years of exemplary full-time college-level faculty experience at the rank of associate professor, an established record of scholarship and college-level teaching excellence, and extensive involvement or contribution in service activities.
  • Associate Professor. General qualifications for initial appointment as an Associate Professor are normally an earned doctorate or an equivalent degree (LL.M. or J.D.), approximately six years of outstanding college-level teaching experience, a sustained pattern of scholarship, and evidence of a pattern of involvement in service activities.
  • Assistant Professor. General qualifications for initial appointment as an Assistant Professor are normally an earned doctorate or an equivalent degree (LL.M. or J.D.) and a strong commitment to outstanding teaching, scholarly achievement, and service. General qualifications for promotion to Assistant Professor will include evidence of excellence in teaching, cadet development, and scholarly achievement beyond the master’s degree. Frequently instructors who have demonstrated excellence in teaching, cadet development, and scholarship are nominated for promotion to assistant professor before their departure from West Point.
  • Instructor. General qualifications for initial appointment are normally an earned master's degree and a strong commitment to outstanding teaching, scholarly achievement, and service to the Military Academy.
    Selecting the future faculty may be the most difficult chores faced by the senior faculty; difficult because the quality of the applicants for the 12-14 positions available annually is uniformly high. Accessions to our military faculty can generally be divided into two categories. The first category includes applicants who already possess a graduate degree in an appropriate discipline and are seeking direct appointment to the faculty. The second includes applicants seeking selection for the fully funded graduate education program, with subsequent duty in the department. In the normal course of events the majority of the officers arriving in a given year will come directly from a funded graduate program. In either case, the major criteria for selection remains for the same. Among the criteria considered are the following:
  • Academic preparation and/or indication of an ability to complete graduate education successfully at the best academic institutions available. Among the factors considered are:
    • Undergraduate (Graduate) Transcripts.
    • GRE/GMAT scores.
    • Letters of recommendation.
    • Publications.
  • Military performance. Of particular importance is branch approval/recommendation. During the selection process the department normally reviews all evaluation reports. Selectees must be highly competitive in their branch and capable of serving as effective role models for the cadets.
  • The third major requirement is professional development. Duty with the Department of Social Sciences should contribute to the continued professional development of the officers assigned. Care is taken to ensure that officers selected will be able to meet the important gates to remain competitive within their branches. In practical terms this requirement means that officers selected for the fully funded program are normally chosen between their fifth through seventh years of service. Somewhat more flexibility exists for the selection of direct appointees, but we also exercise care to ensure that the officers, particularly in the combat and combat support arms, retain sufficient time to serve with troops as a field grade officer.
  • Recommendations from the field. Every applicant is asked to provide at least two recommendations from individuals who have served with or taught the officer. Particular attention is placed upon the ability of the officer to each, motivate soldiers, and work with peers. Evaluations by department alumni are particularly important source or information.
  • Selection criteria for civilian professors focus on scholarly achievement demonstrated teaching ability, and potential for growth to the rank of professor.
    Once the prospective uniformed instructors have been chosen and approved by PERSCOM, the personnel officer, in conjunction with the Academy Professor for whom the prospective officer will teach, begins the process of coordinating applications to appropriate schools. Schools are chosen on the basis of over-all evaluation of their graduate programs, identification of specific programs that support department requirements, and the desire to ensure adequate representation from the major schools within the three primary disciplines we teach. A representative list of the schools we use includes most of the Ivy Schools, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Chicago, Michigan, Duke, Stanford, University of California at Berkeley, Cornell, and others. Based upon our disciplinary needs and the desire to achieve program diversity, we generally will provide to the officer a list of four or five schools to which to apply. One school must be a state school in the officer’s home state, or one that grants the military a reduced tuition rate. This requirement is not meant to discourage applicants from indicating other schools that they might wish to attend. Ultimately, however, for the reasons stated above, the final decision as to whether a program is acceptable resides with the Department.
    Under the fully funded program, officers are normally sent for two years of graduate education to complete a Masters degree program. Because these officers are preparing to assume the role of college instructors, their programs should be designed to take maximum advantage of the time allotted and to gain the widest possible academic exposure. The primary focus of the prospective instructor should be on the seminal courses in the given discipline in order to be able to successfully teach the core courses at West Point. While most instructors ultimately will teach one or more of the department’s elective offerings, everyone will teach a substantial load in the core programs. Preparing to accomplish this task should be regarded as the primary mission while at graduate school.
    From the standpoint of the Department mission, flexibility is enhanced, and the cadets are far better served, by a faculty possessing a strong interdisciplinary focus and a firm grasp of the relevant theoretical material in political science, comparative politics, international relations and economics, as opposed to a faculty with a highly specific and narrowly defined expertise in some relevant sub-discipline. While individual degree requirements may preclude solid grounding in all of the sub-disciplines mentioned, officers should try to obtain the broadest grounding possible.
    Summer courses often provide an important opportunity to broaden one's curriculum. The Department expects each officer to maximize academic opportunities during the summer. In some cases, officers are required to attend CAS3 during one of the graduate school summers. Others who have not completed the course will attend while at West Point.
    For many of the reasons discussed above, officers are encouraged when possible to pursue a course of study leading to an "all but dissertation" status (ABD). This course of action may require the applicant to seek entry into the PhD program initially--although many schools will allow subsequent entry from the masters program. Most schools award an interim Masters degree or Masters of Philosophy for students who have completed all but their dissertation. Over the last several years approximately one-third of the non-tenured faculty within the department have been actively involved in some aspect of a PhD program.
    Each program, of course, has to reflect the individual, his or her desires, school constraints, etc. It is important that these programs be worked out in close coordination with the Academy Professor for whom the officer is programmed to teach. We encourage officers in school to stay in close contact with the department and to keep us advised of their progress. Each semester the department requires a formal report of courses taken, grades received, and proposed courses for the next semester. These reports help the department forecast teaching assignments, and alert the tenured faculty to potential gaps in the planned academic program.
    For most instructors, arrival at West Point represents the first plunge into college-level teaching. Even for those with prior teaching experience, teaching in the Department requires mastering the intricacies of both the Department's and the Academy's academic administrative systems. Despite your substantial academic preparation--and your obvious capabilities to meet the challenge--you may be somewhat anxious about this new endeavor. New Instructor Orientation (NIO) is designed to minimize these anxieties. In general, it is designed to familiarize you with the Department, the USMA curriculum and the Military Academy as a whole. Among the specific areas that will be covered are:
  • Techniques of teaching in the Academy milieu.
  • Classroom procedures and administration.
  • Organization and standing operating procedures of the Department.
  • The Honor Code and Honor System at West Point.
  • Academic and tactical requirements for cadets.
  • The cadet and the contemporary Academy environment.
  • The West Point curriculum.
    Many of the briefings will be open to spouses and we encourage them to attend. There also will be several opportunities to meet the senior faculty socially.
    The orientation itself, conducted in three phases, is approximately three weeks long. The first phase, coinciding approximately with the first week, consists of department-run orientations and panels and is designed to familiarize incoming instructors with the Department, the curriculum, the academic support facilities and cadet life, particularly as it relates to academics. The second phase consists of formal USMA briefings conducted by members of the West Point Staff and will focus on life at West Point. Inevitably, there will be some redundancy between these two phases, but every effort is made to ensure that the time is productive. The Post briefings also include an opportunity to observe cadets during summer training. The last phase might be termed the "teacher preparation" phase. This phase is conducted under the direction of the course directors and focuses on teaching skills and insights. This phase includes opportunities to practice teach, video-taping of classes, and course orientation.
    Your primary responsibility while assigned to the Department of Social Sciences will be teaching in the classroom, and in a broader context, participating in all those activities that relate to the education and development of the students in our charge, to include support of extracurricular activities (see Chapter 11). However, you also will be required to perform other major additional duties. Some of these duties, like summer military details, are directly related to the Academy mission to train cadets for a career of military service, and to our own implicit mission of continued professional development; others are more directly related to the operation of the Department and our immediate academic mission. All play a critical role in the accomplishment of our overall mission and require the same enthusiasm and level of professional commitment associated with our primary responsibilities. Briefly described below are the major additional duties performed by faculty members:
    Summer details. All military faculty members can expect to be assigned to a summer detail in support of Cadet Basic Training (Beast Barracks}, Cadet Field Training (Camp Buckner}, Summer Term Academic Program (STAP} or other Academy summer requirements. Generally this detailwill be performed at the end of the first academic year on the faculty. Uniformed faculty members should plan to schedule continuing academic requirements or research during their second summer at West Point. Summer details average 40 to 50 days in length and generally commence in mid-June/early July.
    Functional Requirements: The Department of Social Sciences is one of the largest academic departments at West Point, and there are a number of functional additional duties that must be performed. Additional duties usually are not assigned until after an officer has served at least a semester on the faculty. While most of these responsibilities are not particularly onerous in terms of time, they do require attention and continuity if department operations are to be conducted smoothly. All officers can expect to be assigned one or more additional duties during their tenure. Officers with an interest in a particular area are encouraged to volunteer for related duties. Among the major departmental duties that must be performed are:
  • Assistant Executive Officer
  • Supply Officer
  • Information Technology Officer
  • Personnel Officers
  • Budget Officer
  • Security Officer
  • Library Officer
  • Department Counselor(s) (See Chapter 4)
  • Textbook Officer
  • Individual Advance Development Coordinator
    External Taskings. Periodically the Department also will be tasked to provide officers to perform a myriad of related military functions. These taskings include reports of survey, selection boards, formal inquiries, inventories, Survival Assistance Officer, etc. Assignments to these tasks are made by the Executive Officer in coordination with the appropriate tenured faculty member.
    Upon assignment to the Department, you will be placed by the Personnel Officer against a designated TDA space. Within the Department TDA the Department will assign military faculty against either an 01A position (branch immaterial) or against a position associated with a specific functional area. The Department has positions associated with 45 (Comptroller), 48 (Foreign Area), and 49 (Operations Research and Systems Analysis), and 59 (Strategic Plans and Policy). Every effort will be made to assign you to a position that supports your personal career plan. You should make your preferences clearly known, and we will make every effort to accommodate your needs.
    Beyond the issue of specialty alignment, however, there is much you can do during your tour in the Department that can serve as a link to secondary specialty development. Additional duties, extracurricular activities and summer assignments, may all help in this regard. A number of officers have been able to bolster their secondary development by summer assignments that include FAO-sponsored foreign area travel, intern positions in DCSOPS and other Pentagon and Washington assignments, duty at the National Training Center, and troop assignments with units in the field. Consistent with the earlier comment about summer duties during the first summer, the department will assist in every way possible to identify meaningful summer positions during the second year. In some instances TDY support is available, but as a rule officers should seek outside funding. At West Point itself there may be opportunities for secondary specialty improvements such as language improvement for foreign area officers or work on some aspect of Department research such as the manpower analysis being done in the Department's Office of Economic and Manpower Analysis. The responsibility for identifying and developing these opportunities resides primarily with the individual officer, but the Department encourages efforts to link the tour in the Department with continued professional development.
    Continued faculty intellectual development is obviously an essential component of an open, inquiring academic environment. Such growth is also a major component of professional development. Within the Department there are numerous opportunities to participate in individual or on-going research projects. There is also an active colloquium program that taps the expertise of both our own faculty and many of the prominent visitors who come to West Point. Both these programs are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 10.
    The Department also encourages faculty to participate in academic conferences. Conferences are an important link to academia and serve the dual purpose of upgrading our faculty and simultaneously publicizing the quality of our faculty. Participation is normally on TDY basis. Because of the restricted nature of TDY funds, however, priority is given to those who are presenting papers, serving as discussants or in some major capacity beyond mere attendance. Requests for TDY should be identified as early as possible, coordinated with the appropriate associate professor and submitted through the budget officer to the Executive Officer. The Executive Officer, in coordination with the tenured faculty, recommends to the Deputy Head of the Department the TDY requests to be funded.
    Service on the USMA faculty is an extraordinary opportunity to contribute to the central mission of developing outstanding future Army officers. It is also a time of unusual professional growth. As officers move from company level responsibilities in their primary branch through West Point to subsequent assignments, the range and orientation of future responsibilities changes dramatically. Service on the faculty provides a rare chance to reflect on future professional choices and to combine academic insights with professional experience to expand the potential for future service. Teaching itself in many ways demands that you learn more about yourself. Within the Department of Social Sciences you will find an environment that encourages you to reach your full potential as a teacher and an officer. You will, of course, be the final judge of your own performance-–and you will never have a tougher rater.