From Iraq to Ireland

A young man fresh out of the University of Notre Dame wanders around the bustling U.S. Department of State building. His mission: make five photocopies and obtain several signatures on documents.

“I got lost,” recalls Kenneth Osgood of his summer internship in Washington, D.C., in 1995. “I always pestered them to give me things to do. One time I got to draft a letter to the president of Ukraine and by the time it was complete, all that was left of my work was ‘Dear Mr. President,'” he laughs.

This self-deprecating humor is a hallmark of Osgood’s approach to teaching history. “Ken doesn’t come to class to dispense information, but rather to challenge the students,” says Eric Hanne, his FAU colleague and collaborator on a U.S. and the Middle Easthistory course. “He brings something special: an engaging personality, a keen sense of humor and a passion for the subject matter.

Three years after Osgood moved to Boca Raton in 2001, he received the FAU Excellence in Teaching Award. “It was great,” he says. “There are a lot of committed teachers at this school, and it was nice to be recognized.” He was also nominated in 2005 for the College Award for Excellence in Research.

A jam-packed wooden bookcase in Osgood’s shoebox-sized office is evidence of the wealth of knowledge he uses to research, write and teach.

“It just got published,” Osgood says, as he picks up a black hardcover book titled Total Cold War: Eisenhower’s Secret Propaganda Battle at Home and Abroad. “It took me years to write.”

His expertise on the Cold War and U.S. foreign policy drove him to write the book, he says. He is also co-editing After Stalin’s Death: The Cold War as International History, 1953-1956, with Klaus Larres, a renowned historian in Northern Ireland. According to Osgood, the book will be published sometime this year.

Osgood grew up by the beach in Santa Barbara, California. After receiving a bachelor’s degree at the University of Notre Dame in 1994, he earned a master’s in 1997 at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He received his doctorate at Santa Barbara in 2001.

“As a child I had dreams of becoming a forest ranger,” he says. “My interests changed to history when I took a U.S. foreign policy class in college.” These days, he is still lecturing around the nation. After 9/11, he conducted a public forum at FAU titled, “Understanding September 11.”

“Terrorism is a real threat,” Osgood remarks. “It’s unfortunate that our country’s current administration has blurred the lines between the battle against Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.”

His knowledge of foreign relations as well as propaganda used during wars makes Osgood a keen watchdog of today’s society.

“Rather than relying on the he-said/she-said way of writing, journalists should delve into past interviews and records. Do the work. Most news these days is manufactured primarily from public relations agencies,” he says.

Osgood’s experience and passion for the truth led him to teach a FAU class abroad last summer on World War II history. “Half of the class time was spent traveling through Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium,” he says. “Some things we saw were Dachau, a former concentration camp, and the site of the Battle of Huertgen Forest. Many people don’t know that the death toll there was as high as Vietnam,” he says.

Osgood is currently teaching courses on U.S. foreign policy in Ireland at the University College Dublin this semester and will be returning to FAU in the fall. “We pack[ed] up and moved overseas for a year: me, my wife, my son and my dog,” he said. “[But] I’m definitely returning to FAU.”