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Mershon News

Each year, the Mershon Center for International Security Studies holds a competition for Ohio State faculty and students to apply for research grants and scholarship funds.

Research Grants

Applications for Faculty Research and Seed Grants and Graduate Student Research Grants must be for projects related to the study of national security in a global context. We are also interested in projects that emphasize the role of peace-building and development; strengthen the global gateways in China, India and Brazil; relate to campus area studies centers and institutes; or address the university's Discovery Themes of health and wellness, energy and the environment, food production and security, and the humanities and arts.

In recent years the center has funded several dozen faculty and graduate student research projects with grants for travel, seminars, conferences, interviews, experiments, surveys, library costs, and more. To learn more about the types of projects funded, please see faculty project summaries on the Mershon Center website under Research and graduate project summaries in past Annual Reports.

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Christopher Gelpi

Christopher F. Gelpi, professor in the Department of Political Science, has been named director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at The Ohio State University effective Jan. 1, 2018, to June 30, 2022.

The mission of the Mershon Center is to advance the understanding of national security in a global context. The center was founded in 1967 as the fulfillment of a bequest by Ohio State alumnus Col. Ralph D. Mershon for the civilian study of national security.

The Mershon Center encourages interdisciplinary faculty and student research and organizes speaking events, conferences and symposia in three primary areas:

  • The use of force and diplomacy
  • The ideas, identities and decisional processes that affect security
  • The institutions that manage violent conflict.

“I am so pleased and honored to be able to serve as the next director of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies,” said Gelpi, whose primary research interests include the sources of international military conflict, strategies for conflict resolution and American public opinion on foreign policy issues.

He is currently studying public sentiment surrounding the use of military force and working on experimental methods for the study of war and crisis bargaining.

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Dakota Rudesill

Ohio State interdisciplinary exercise offers real-world experience

It’s 9:53 on Saturday morning and Dakota Rudesill is about to cause an earthquake in San Francisco. That’s bad. The North Korean nuclear missile test coming next might be worse.

Welcome to the Ohio State National Security Crisis Simulation. The simulation is a two-day exercise at The Ohio State University that immerses students from law, policy, intelligence and media in real-world roles as they confront a seemingly never-ending series of crises.

Rudesill, a law professor at the Moritz College of Law, is the simulation’s architect, instructor and puppet master. He and a control team operated behind closed doors, injecting chaos at every turn to challenge the students to work through problems.

And the problems are legion. Over the course of the simulation last week, the crises included terror attacks, natural disasters and cyber warfare. The examples are often drawn from real life.

“If while we’re working through the issues we are coming up with today, we come up with a brilliant policy response or legal response to something, that’s wonderful,” Rudesill said. “But what this is really about is professional skills development.”

A roster of real-world experts advise the students throughout the simulation. Senate President Larry Obhof, former Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy and journalist Philip Bump were some of the professionals guiding the students from crisis to crisis.

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Mark StewartJohn Mueller

Since 9/11, airline passengers have learned to put liquids in 3-ounce containers, take off their shoes, and go through full-body scanners, all in the name of protecting themselves from terrorism. But are these extra measures making us any safer?

About $10 billion is spent each year to deal with terrorist attacks to aviation, yet these expenditures are rarely subjected to cost-benefit or risk analysis. Are We Safe Enough? Measuring and Assessing Aviation Security, by Mershon affiliates Mark Stewart and John Mueller, seeks to fill that void.

The book, published by Elsevier, explains how standard risk and cost-benefit analysis can be applied to aviation security in a systematic, straightforward, and fully transparent manner. It constructs a full model of the security system, describing the effectiveness, risk reduction, and cost of each layer, from policing and intelligence, to checkpoint passenger screening, to armed pilots on the flight deck.

Stewart and Mueller conclude that it is entirely possible to attain the same degree of safety at far lower cost by shifting expenditures from measures that provide little security at high cost to ones that provide more security at lower cost.

For example, the air marshal program in the United States costs more than $1 billion per year, but reduces risk of a terrorist attack by only 0.2 percent. Installing secondary barriers to cockpits would see a greater reduction of risk while saving hundreds of millions of dollars to both taxpayers and airlines.

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Peter Mansoor

Poke around on the website for Ohio History Connection, and you are likely to run across their digital collections including Ohio Memory, a collaborative statewide digital library with content from over 360 cultural heritage institutions representing all 88 Ohio counties.

Within this online library is the Ohio Veterans Oral History Project, an initiative to collect and preserve the stories of Ohio’s veterans. So far the project features videos with about 30 Ohio veterans including an interview with Mershon’s Peter Mansoor, Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair in Military History.

Mansoor’s interview is a prime example of oral history, which features a person describing his or her own experiences. It is considered a primary historical source, preserving the past and connecting history with the present by documenting life as it unfolds.

In a video lasting almost six hours, Mansoor describes his life growing up in California; attending college at West Point; marriage and family; station stops at Fort Bliss, Fort Hood, and Fort Irwin; deployments to Germany; command experiences in Iraq; serving at the Council of Foreign Relations, Counterinsurgency Center at Fort Leavenworth, and Council of Colonels at the Pentagon; and as executive officer for Gen. David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq.

Throughout, Mansoor reflects on lessons during military training exercises, live combat, and at the front seat of history in Iraq after the United States had deposed Saddam Hussein, facing a growing insurgency, and taking the first tenuous steps toward democracy.

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