MY OTHER LIFE
I don’t exactly lead a double life.
But I definitely have a Professional Life – with the accompanying professional persona that many people know as Dr. Johnson-Freese — and the “Other Me” my friends know and turned loose in this blog.
Professionally, I am a college teacher with 30+ years experience. (I started VERY young.) I began my teaching career in the Political Science Department at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando. I taught courses in International Relations, Constitutional Law and research methodology, officially named Scope & Methods of Political Science. My students called it S&M with the Dragon Lady (in the nicest possible way).
By complete serendipity – serendipity has been and remains a big part of my life – I was offered an opportunity to work on issues involving outer space, appropriate given that UCF is the closest University to Kennedy Space Center. My first book was called Changing Patterns of International Cooperation and Competition in Space. That led to an invitation to spend a year in Japan writing about the Japanese Space Program, and a book on that topic.
Wanting to know more about both the military side of space activity, I then went to work for the military, specifically, I taught national security affairs at the Air War College in Montgomery, AL. I wrote two more books on space while there, including one on the Chinese space program – beginning an arc of research that continues today. When China does anything of note in space, I have my fifteen minutes of fame being interviewed in the national media.
Because of my continued research on China, I then spent 4 years teaching at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu – livin’ the dream in paradise.
What was I thinking moving from Hawaii to Rhode Island?!
I tell people that I moved from one great island to another, but truth be told – the weather in Rhode Island isn’t my cup of tea. I had no problem with 12 months of great weather and never got “rock fever.”
I was the Chair of the National Security Affairs (NSA) Department at the Naval War College from 2002-2010, and am now a Full Professor on the faculty. Since being at the Naval War College, I’ve also written three more books – two on space and one on Professional Military Education (PME). The book on PME has raised some eyebrows as in it I’m critical of the military approach to education, but the intent was to begin a discussion on improvement, and I think that has happened. Also, so as not to profit from criticizing the organization that pays me, I donate my royalties from that book to the Wounded Warrior project.
I research and write on a wide variety of space related issues; China, missile defense, export controls, space weapons, Near Earth Objects (asteroids, like those that wiped out the dinosaurs) and something called space sustainability, which includes all things that can foul the space environment, including space trash.
I also teach Government classes at Harvard Summer and Extension Schools.
I have testified before Congress several times on various space issues, been a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Science, on the faculty of the International Space University, and on Advisory Board of the Secure World Foundation.
You can see that my professional life might be much, much too serious sometimes, hence the need for this creative outlet.
Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but asteroids and space weapons can be pretty “heavy.”
Beyond work, I volunteer at some great organizations, including Newport Hospital and the Potter League for Animals. Though little more than ballast on a boat in terms of my skills, I’m also on the Race Committee at Newport Yacht Club and enjoy summer evenings on Narragansett Bay. And, I play golf, with attitude. In my game there are no “bad” shots – only good shots (defined if it went forward and can be found) and funny shots. I recently hit a ball into an open pocket in my golf bag, sitting on the back of the golf cart. I choose to think of it as a trick shot.
Last year, I also started taking acting lessons at both Trinity Rep Theater and the GAMM Theater in Providence. What a hoot! Everybody should take acting – it’s cathartic, a great lesson in public speaking, a psychology class and you meet really interesting, creative people. Videos of my class “performances” are attached. Who has more fun than that?!
Whenever I can, I also try to work on what I think of as “giving back to the community” panels. In December 2013 and then again in April 2014, for example, I put together and chaired two “Strong Women” panels. Five women with non-traditional careers talked about the winding and sometimes uncertain paths our careers have followed, toward encouraging young people and those in transition, mostly but not exclusively women, to keep pushing forward, be flexible and not be afraid to take a chances once in a while. The Newport Daily News did a great front-page piece on one of those events.
So is there overlap between my professional life, my “beyond work” life and It’s Not Me, Right? Definitely. I write about funny things (haha funny, as well as quirky) that happen to me, and things I think others can relate to. When I go to Iceland to play golf or China to give a talk, you’ll hear about it. When I do something stupid, you’ll hear about it. When something makes me happy or makes me laugh at myself, you’ll hear about it. When something pisses me off, you’ll hear about that too.
And when I say something that resonates with you, I hope I’ll hear from you – because It’s Not Me, Right?