Visionary Leader

James Meernik
James Meernik (Photo by Ranjani Groth)

"Working on behalf of a collective interest, and working with a team to make it happen -- that's the key to effective leadership," says James Meernik, Regents Professor of political science and director of UNT's Castleberry Peace Institute.

He should know. Not only is Meernik an expert on international justice and post-conflict peacebuilding -- his areas of research include the former Yugoslavia and Colombia -- but he also knows a few things about steering people and departments toward success. He is former chair of the Department of Political Science, former associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and former acting dean of the Toulouse Graduate School -- roles that included recruiting senior scholars, developing a special focus on international relations and comparative politics, and rethinking graduate school policies to better support students. His accomplishments led to the 2018 Leadership Award, which he received at UNT's Salute to Faculty Excellence.

"The goal is to always look out for the best interests of students and faculty," says Meernik, who joined the UNT faculty in 1991.

He has long looked for opportunities to better his students' understanding of peacebuilding and help them build marketable communication and analytical skills. This semester, the two-time Fulbright Specialist Grant winner launched a project in his peace studies class that encouraged students to figure out the best way to gather and bring supplies to indigenous students affected by the violent civil wars in Colombia.

"I want them to come away with a sense that they did something to help," Meernik says. "I want them to see that their bit of work did something to make somebody's life better."

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