Fulbright Scholarship takes Dal graduate student to California

- October 20, 2016

John Mitton, on campus in the McCain Building. (Nick Pearce photo)
John Mitton, on campus in the McCain Building. (Nick Pearce photo)

Dalhousie graduate student John Mitton has gone from the east coast lifestyle to the golden coast to study at the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California.

Mitton set up shop at the Los Angeles-based university in August as part of a fully funded nine-month research term he was awarded by receiving a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.

It’s another mark of distinction on Mitton’s already stellar resume. In 2015, he was also awarded the Bernard Brodie Prize for an article he wrote for the journal Contemporary Security Policy on reputations and American coercive diplomacy after Syria.

Along with recognition for his individual work, Mitton received an $8,000 subvention from the Awards to Scholarly Publications program to publish a book he co-authored with his advisor, Dalhousie professor and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences Frank Harvey. Their book, Fighting for Credibility: U.S. Reputations and International Politics, will be published by the University of Toronto Press in 2017.

Mitton has achieved all this before even finishing his dissertation, which he is currently working on in California.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” says Mitton, who confesses he felt he had no shot at getting the Fulbright when he applied. “The faculty have all been welcoming and interested in my work.”

The Canada-U.S. Fulbright Program supports exchange opportunities for outstanding researchers, including graduate students, prospective graduate students and junior professionals.

Understanding international rivalries

Mitton is currently focusing his research on the persistence of international rivalries and why they sometimes escalate into war and violence. He is also looking into international interventions in civil wars from a historical perspective.

“It’s important because it’s something that has happened a lot over history, and continues to happen today,” says Mitton.

Dr. Harvey says watching Mitton’s success has been inspiring.

“John quickly emerged as one of the strongest graduate students I have worked with,” he says.

Mitton’s superb academic record and high quality research led Dr. Harvey to ask him to work as a research assistant on a project dealing with U.S. credibility and reputations in international politics. Impressed by his  excellent work, Dr. Harvey asked Mitton to co-author the aforementioned book.

“As any graduate supervisor will tell you, there is no greater sense of accomplishment than seeing your graduate students succeed and thrive,” says Dr. Harvey.

Mitton has always been drawn to broad questions about war and peace and the state. A political theory course during his undergrad at Bishop’s University introduced him to studying international relations.

“I was drawn to the idea of figuring out what was happening in the world today,” says Mitton. “I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Putting knowledge to work

After studying at Bishop’s, Mitton returned to his hometown of Halifax to complete his master’s degree in Political Science. After completing his MA, he spent a year abroad in Paris on a Canada-France Youth Exchange Program before returning home to complete his PhD.

At Dal, he was selected to make a presentation of his Brodie Prize-winning article on the Faculty of Arts and Social Science’s Cross-Currents panel, an event showcasing some of the brightest students from the department. He also made it to the final round of Dal’s Three-Minute-Thesis competition — the only FASS student to do so.

Additionally, he recently won a National Student Award Essay Competition for the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, which is published out of the University of Calgary.

On winning two prestigious awards, the Fulbright and the Brodie, Mitton says, “I was grateful and honoured.”

“I was able to see the full arc,” he says, “from having an idea to presenting it at a conference. To get the revisions and have them recognize me is gratifying because it is a long process.”

Mitton hopes to complete as much of his dissertation as possible before returning from California. While he is mostly working, he is hoping to take advantage of his time in LA. “It’s a great sports town,” says Mitton. “Any downtime I have I’m probably going to a Clippers or Kings game.”

After finishing his PhD, Mitton’s goal is finding a job teaching at a university or working in government policy. “I definitely want to use my degree and work in the field of international affairs.”


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