School of International Affairs welcomes retired Navy admiral to faculty in fall 2017

Dr. David Titley
Dr. David Titley

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The School of International Affairs will further expand its diverse and accomplished faculty in fall 2017 with the addition of David Titley, retired Navy rear admiral and founding director of the Penn State Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk.

A self-proclaimed “lifelong weather geek,” Titley earned his bachelor of science in Meteorology from Penn State, where he also joined the Navy ROTC program as an undergraduate. The four years of military service he intended turned into 32 years with the U.S. Navy.

His tenure there included duties as commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command; oceanographer and navigator of the Navy; and deputy assistant chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance. He also served as senior military assistant for the director, Net Assessment in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. While serving at the Pentagon during his last three years on active duty, Titley initiated and led the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change. Upon his retirement from the Navy, Titley served as the deputy undersecretary of commerce for operations, the chief operating officer position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

SIA interim dean James W. Houck and Titley served in the Navy at the same time, where they worked closely together, and upon both coming to Penn State, they quickly realized the possibility for collaboration. They have already held several workshops and seminars regarding the strategic and legal regimes of a changing Arctic. Most of Titley’s work lies in understanding how changes in the physical environment can affect national security and international affairs policies, which is where he sees his most valuable contribution to the School of International Affairs.

“This is an effective way, in an academic environment, to encapsulate both the science issues and the national policy and security issues,” Titley said.

He views the challenge of climate change for current SIA students to avoid a failure of imagination, though he recognizes that it is not intentional.

“The earth’s climate is going to a place we have not seen before in the context of human civilization. We can’t just look to the past to solve the problem. It requires thinking deeply and challenging assumptions, to think through what the future may look like, and what we might want that future to look like,” said Titley, who will join SIA as a professor of international affairs.

He also currently holds the position of professor of practice with the Penn State Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Titley serves on numerous advisory boards and National Academies of Sciences (NAS) committees, as well as being active in several Washington, D.C.-area think tanks. He recently chaired the NAS Committee on Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Attribution, and he sits on the Science and Security Advisory Board at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which enables him to participate in the discussions that determine the position of the Bulletin’s Doomsday Clock, among other things.

“Climate change is, and will increasingly be, one of the critical factors driving international affairs,” said SIA Director Scott Gartner. “Given his remarkable experience as both an admiral in the Navy and deputy undersecretary in the Department of Commerce, I can think of no one more qualified to lead the School of International Affairs in this area than Dr. Titley.”

In addition to his bachelor’s degree from Penn State, Titley holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Meteorology from the Naval Postgraduate School.