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Joan Johnson-Freese

Professor Emeritus, National Security Affairs, Naval War College & Senior Fellow, Women in International Security

  • Education

    PhD, Kent State University

Joan Johnson-Freese


GOVT E-1744 Women, Peace, and Security:

Program Areas

Why I Teach at Harvard Extension School

The students in my Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) class are amazing. Many of them have gone on to publish articles relating the class material to their own fields, creating artwork to share the Women, Peace & Security message, becoming activists in their local communities, and a dozen more ways. They stay in touch to network and support each other – men and women, Americans and across the globe – in support of spreading the message that while inclusive diversity and gendered perspectives are social justice issues, they also support national and international security.

For over two decades my work focused on space security and I taught security studies at a Professional Military Education institution. And then in 2014, I was invited to a Women, Peace & Security conference – and went only reluctantly to be polite to the colleague who invited me. It helped me realize how much I did not know about the role of women in security affairs. That conference changed my professional life. I realized how few security practitioners even know about the WPS framework – created by UN Resolution 1325 in 2000 – and how important it is, and have been focused on raising awareness ever since.

Student Collaborations

A WPS student contacted me after the class finished, saying he had been so affected by the material that he and his wife had started an online, women-owned and -run clothing company. They wanted to donate some of the profits to help promote WPS-related organizations and causes.

A short time later, one of the guest speakers in the class, a female woman from Uganda who survived an acid-throwing attack contacted me about seeking sponsors for a networking conference in Uganda for other acid-throwing survivors. I connected the two of them,  and the conference found its sponsor. My WPS student and his wife eagerly got involved in her work.

More about Joan

Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese is a Senior Fellow with Women in International Security (WIIS) and served as a University Professor and Chair of the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval War College (NWC) between 2002-2022.

As a political scientist, she has published multiple articles on aspects of Women, Peace & Security, particularly focusing on raising awareness regarding the framework generally and within security communities specifically, believing that you can’t implement what you don’t know about. She often provides webinar presentations introducing audiences to the women, peace, and security framework and is the author of Women, Peace & Security: An Introduction (2018) and Women v Women: The Case for Cooperation (2022). Over the arc of her academic career, her research also focused on space security, authoring seven books in that field and over 100 published articles, many with a particular focus on the Chinese space program.

She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions about space issues and served on the National Academy of Sciences Space Studies Board. Dr. Johnson-Freese has also published multiple articles and written a book, Educating America’s Military, on Professional Military Education (PME). She testified before a Congressional House Armed Service subcommittee on PME reform in May 2022, including discussion of the need for inclusion of Women, Peace & Security in PME curricula.