Alumnae: Alumnae Profiles

Alumnae Profiles: Kiron Skinner, C'81

Kiron K. Skinner is a heavy hitter in international relations and politics, with prestigious academic posts at two leading universities on different coasts, bestselling books on what some might consider a surprising topic for an African-American author, and an impassioned commitment to smashing stereotypes and opening minds.

At Carnegie Mellon University, she is founding director of the Center for International Relations and Politics; university adviser on national security policy; associate professor of international relations and political science; and director of the international relations and politics undergraduate major.

Skinner is also a Distinguished Fellow at CyLab, a research center in the College of Engineering, and holds courtesy faculty positions at CMU’s Heinz College and the Institute for Software Research, an academic department in the School of Computer Science.

She has also taught political science courses at Hamilton College, Harvard University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. At Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Skinner is the W. Glenn Campbell Research Fellow and a member of the Shultz Stephenson Task Force on Energy Policy.

*Portions of this profile can be found in the Spring 2014 edition of the Spelman Messenger*

For more information on Kiron K. Skinner,  visit

Follow her on Twitter  @KironSkinne

Skinner on Leadership

A self-described “conservative,” she prizes independent thought and Skinner she doesn’t vote strictly along party lines.

Leadership, for her, is closely tied to power in governance. “I’m really involved in trying to help shape the attention and conversation in the American political scene.... I always like to work in many venues at one time,” she says, noting that her research is the common thread that ties everything together.

The central component of leadership, she says, is “Living and meaning what you say. Having a moral compass that others see you put into action.”

Her formula for achievement is to “keep moving and keep doing what is interesting, and being prepared when opportunities come. I am fairly assertive about being in the arena where Black women hadn’t traditionally been.

”One of her driving passions is to get African Americans deeply involved in all aspects of American politics. “We need to be everywhere, in all parts of the conversations, on all types of issues,” she says. “It’s vital for the future because to be hijacked with one party or point of view is
to lose.”

Writing the Vision and Making it Plain

Skinner is an award-winning and best-selling author. Her coauthored books Reagan, In His  Own Hand (2001), and Reagan, a Life in Letters (2003) were New York Times best sellers. Reagan, In His  Own Hand won the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Book Award and was serialized in the New York Times Magazine on December 31, 2000. Reagan, A Life in Letters was selected as one of the best books of 2003 by the Los Angeles Times, was Time magazine’s cover story on September 29, 2003, and was the subject of a September 29, 2003, editorial written by the New York Times editorial board.

The Strategy of Campaigning: Lessons from Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin (2007), a book Skinner coauthored with Serhiy Kudelia, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, andCondoleezza Rice, was excerpted on the opinion page of the New York Times on September 15, 2007.

A frequent contributor of opinion essays, Skinner has written for, Foreign, National Review Online, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. She also regularly provides scholarly commentary on national and international televisionand radio programs.

Among Skinner’s numerous awards are the Truman Scholarship for the State of California (1979); Glamour magazine’s Top Ten College Competition for Women (1981); Harvard University’s Sidney Matz Prize for excellence in advising undergraduates (1989); Delegate to the Bellagio “New Faces” Conference sponsored by the Arms Control Association and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (1989).

Serving the People of the United States

Skinner’s government service includes membership on the US Defense Department’s Defense  Policy Board as an adviser on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (2001–07); the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) Executive Panel (2004–present); the National Academies Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security (2009– 11); and the National Security Education Board (2004–11).

In 2010, Skinner was appointed to the advisory board of the George W. Bush Oral History Project. She served as a foreign policy surrogate for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004,a senior foreign policy adviser in 2011-12 to Speaker Newt Gingrich during his presidential campaign, and a senior foreign policyadviser in the fall of 2012 to the Governor Mitt Romney for President campaign.

In 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett appointed Professor Skinner to the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs.Skinner serves on the boards of the Atlantic Council of the United States in Washington, DC; Propel Schools in the Pittsburgh area; and Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. She is a life member of the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Professor Skinner holds MA and Ph.D. degrees in political science and international relations from Harvard University and undergraduate degrees from Spelman College and Sacramento City College. She received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Molloy College, Long Island. In her leisure time, she enjoys hiking in California’s foothills and mountains.