By Julie Ernst
Rider’s associate provost and counsel James Castagnera will be taking the call of American duty a step further than most citizens with his plans for summer 2007.
Castagnera has been awarded an academic fellowship with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), an organization that aims to promote a wide-reaching system of beliefs, defend democratic values and fight against the driving forces of terrorism.
“Terrorism is a topic of intense concern to many, if not all, Americans since 9/11,” said Castagnera. “It has been the topic of many of my own weekly newspaper columns and magazine articles in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.”
For 10 days, Castagnera will live and study in Israel, along with 44 other fellowship recipients. According to the FDD Web site, www.defenddemocracy.org, the fellowship is “an intense course on terrorism and the threat it poses to democratic societies.”
The fellowship is intended to provide university professors “with a detailed understanding of the terror threat that faces our nation and sister democracies.”
Castagnera noted that the FDD is a conservative organization whose board includes such figures as publisher and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
“However, in the five years that FDD has been sponsoring these academic fellowships, you will find the academics and journalists chosen are drawn from across the political spectrum, from all around the U.S., and from numerous colleges and universities including many of the most prestigious,” Castagnera said.
“I have been critical of the current administration and Congress, when I felt that criticism was appropriate. The FDD knows this and still chose me to be one of its fellows.”
Castagnera is also an associate professor in the Business Policy Department. He sees the fellowship as a great opportunity for teaching purposes as well.
“Dr. Jonathan Mendilow, chair of Political Science and a Middle East scholar, and I teach a BHP course called ‘Theories of Justice and the American Common Law,’’’ said Castagnera. “I hope that when we teach it again next spring, we can include some of the recent federal court cases on terrorism, and that I can bring to bear what I learn as an FDD fellow.”
During his 10 days of study, Castagnera will learn about the latest news in terrorist ideologies, motives and operations. The course will take place in the classroom and in the field, with visits to military bases, border zones and other security locations to see the actual physical elements involved in deterring terrorist attacks.
Professors interested in pursuing the fellowship must meet three general criteria: a full-time affiliation with a U.S. or Canadian university; service in a full-time teaching capacity, preferably international affairs, political science, history or criminal justice; and an ongoing involvement in student affairs.
Although Castagnera is not a full-time faculty member at Rider, he has taught full-time at other institutions.
Accepted professors must be willing to adhere to the following responsibilities: full participation in the 10-day program in Israel; assistance with the recruitment of future candidates for the fellowships; and willingness to aid undergraduate fellows who may attend his or her university.
Castagnera said he feels some of his personal connections are what led to his receiving the fellowship.
“I believe one reason I was among the faculty to be selected was my interest in covering terrorism rather frequently in my weekly newspaper and bi-monthly magazine column,” he said.
Rider’s associate provost has also written a novel that discusses much of what the fellowship will cover. The novel is called Ned McAdoo and the Molly Maguires and was co-authored by Castagnera’s daughter, a freshman creative-writing major at Washington College in Maryland.
“The novel is about 19th century and modern domestic terrorism,” said Castagnera.
The FDD was founded shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, by a group of philanthropists and policy makers, in order to involve themselves and others in worldwide ideas and provide support for the defense of democratic societies. The board of directors includes CEO of Forbes Magazine Steve Forbes; the former Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp; and former ambassador to the U.N. Jeane Kirkpatrick.
“I’m grateful that the provost, Don Steven, is as enthusiastic as I am about my participation as an FDD Fellow, 2007,” said Castagnera. “I believe this honor reflects well on Rider University, as well as on me.”