Judy Twigg

Faculty Spotlight: Judy Twigg, PhD

Professor, Department of Political Science

Written by Jason Ross Arnold, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science


When global health crises emerge, national health systems fail, or Russia threatens its neighbors or citizens, policymakers and influencers call upon Judy Twigg for analysis and advice. At the end of the year, when I look back at all she has done, I’m always struck by the mountain of accomplishments. World Bank reports by the dozen, plus a few dozen more for other organizations. Fifty or so media interviews, not to mention the op-eds, blog posts, policy briefs, and presentations to policymakers. And then, somehow, she still finds time for an ambitious book project, or some other major endeavor she’s cooking up.

A partial list of Judy’s professional memberships and affiliations reflects Judy’s high standing in the academic and policymaking worlds: the Council on Foreign Relations, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the World Bank, the Wilson Center (Kennan Institute), the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, UNICEF, and the Social Science Research Council, among others. I’ll stop with the name dropping after this, but it’s also an indication of her influence that you can find her ideas at The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and other leading sites. All of that work, and all of the success that comes from it, seems driven solely from an unshakeable will to – simply put – help people, to do what she can to make vulnerable populations more healthy and secure. I presume most who have had the good fortune to work with her would agree.

After delivering reports, presentations, or other products to leaders at the national and international levels, Judy seamlessly shifts into star teacher mode, giving students – who overwhelmingly admire and appreciate her – her full, undivided attention. In the spaces in between, she energetically and ungrudgingly leads committees and otherwise delivers abundant, important service work at all levels. She leads our Curriculum Committee. She initiated and led VCU into a partnership with the Kyiv School of Economics weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine. She served as a member of the Richmond World Affairs Council’s Academic Advisory Council. Etc.

Judy just finished her 30th year at VCU. We are lucky to have her as a colleague here. Opportunity knocks with that kind of record. Still, the main risk I’m worried about as the POLI Chair is not losing her to the State Department or some resourceful university. It’s more likely that she’ll take off on a world tour to follow some amazing new Pat Metheny quartet, or put together a Bach concert of her own. On second thought, she’d probably manage to fit them into her schedule somehow.


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