Panel discussion: ‘America First’ in Action – Ambassador Nikki Haley, the United Nations and Political Leadership in Turbulent Times

Tuesday, Sept. 24, 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. McBride Gathering Space, Numen Lumen

In preparation for Fall Convocation, which will feature remarks by former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, students and the campus community are invited to a faculty panel discussion at 4:30 p.m., Sept. 24, in the McBride Gathering Space of the Lumen Pavilion. The event will provide an opportunity to learn how Haley positioned herself amid some of the decade’s defining events, domestically and internationally. This interdisciplinary panel discussion will contextualize Haley’s leadership in both American and global frames, and will offer multiple perspectives on the meaning of her record in politics so far.

Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, with President Donald Trump

Haley first rose to national visibility amid the 2010 Tea Party wave to become the first woman and first person of color elected as governor of South Carolina. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley drew attention again in 2015 as she led her state’s response to the murder of nine African Americans by a white nationalist terrorist at historic Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston — a response that culminated in the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the State House grounds in Columbia, where it long had been a divisive symbol.

Once a sharp critic of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, Haley declined an invitation to serve as U.S. Secretary of State but joined the Trump cabinet as ambassador to the United Nations. She served through 2018, further raising her profile through frequent media interviews and commentary. She is widely hailed as a “rising star” in the GOP and possibly, a future presidential contender.

So what does Nikki Haley’s remarkable trajectory mean for identity, political symbolism and leadership in a changing America? How did she represent the United States at the United Nations, where she carried Trump’s message of ‘America First’ even as she offered her own confrontational version of human rights advocacy? How did foreign policy observers and fellow diplomats receive her efforts at U.S.-led multilateral responses to crises involving North Korea, Syria, Iran and other challenges?


Jason Kirk is Associate Professor of Political Science. His research is in comparative politics and international relations, with a focus on India and Indian Americans.

Carrie Eaves is Assistant Professor of Political Science.  Her research is on American Political Institutions with a particular focus on Congress and the Presidency.

Sandy Marshall is Assistant Professor of Geography in the Department of History and Geography. He has been travelling to, living in, and researching the Middle East for over 15 years. As a political geographer and specialist on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, his research examines the impact of political conflict on the everyday lives of children, youth and families in the region.

Kaye Usry is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies. She studies American politics, with a special interest in political psychology and gender and politics.

Safia Swimelar and Baris Kesgin will serve as the moderators.

Event Sponsors: Council on Civic Engagement, International and Global Studies, Political Science and Policy Studies, and Peace and Conflict Studies