New Faculty Profile: Aaron Hoffman, Political Science

January 09, 2019

Aaron Hoffman joined the Department of Political Science as Associate Professor this fall, bringing expertise in international security issues with a focus on emotions in counter-terrorism and foreign policy. He holds a PhD in political science from the University of Pittsburgh.

His interest in political science, psychology and terrorism comes from curiosity about the reactions people had to the 9/11 attacks in New York City, where he grew up. Prior to that event Hoffman’s work focused on the development of trust in international politics. His book, Building Trust: Overcoming Suspicion in International Conflict examined this theme in detail.

Since the 9/11 attacks, Hoffman’s work has focused on the role the mass media plays in the conduct of terrorist attacks and consequences of these strikes. He has published articles on the reasons groups claim responsibility for acts of terrorism, the role that opportunities for press attention play in the targeting of terrorist attacks, and the effects of counterterrorism coverage on the sense of security people have from terrorism. Currently, he is examining relationships between the economics of news and the coverage of terrorism. Hoffman has also done work on public support for US foreign policy and the contribution of laboratory approaches to studying emotion in international relations.

Hoffman joins SFU from Purdue University where he held appointments in the Departments of Psychological Sciences and Political Sciences. His teaching covers international relations, public opinion and foreign policy, and terrorism, at both graduate and undergraduate levels.
He is excited to be at SFU where his wife Laurel Weldon is also a recent faculty addition to Political Science, and where his father-in-law, Larry Weldon taught in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences.

This fall, Hoffman taught POL 445W: American Foreign Policy, which examines US foreign policy in the post-World War II era. In the class, Hoffman asked students if it is possible to make sense of US foreign policy in the era of the 45th American president. Their answer? Hoffman explains that “even though Donald Trump’s presidency is unusual in many ways, students concluded that existing theories are capable of explaining his foreign policy decisions.”

In the spring, Hoffman will be teaching POL 349 which covers international relations with an introduction to terrorism and counterterrorism. In this course he will ask students to consider the role that mass media plays in stimulating or magnifying terrorist threats when covering events.

With his academic interests addressing such a globally important subjects, Hoffman has been invited to present his work in the US and Europe, in addition to federal bodies such as the US Air Force and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He has also been interviewed on responsibility and the Boston marathon bombings, events in the Middle East, and the dilemma of counterterrorism.

Hoffman looks forward to completing a book length project that examines surprising ways the mass media helps people cope with terrorism and to many productive years working with SFU’s faculty and students.