Director/Advisor, Master of Defense and Strategic Studies (MDSS) and Lecturer in Security Studies
Dr. Paul Ashby has been teaching in the Master of Defense and Strategic Studies (MDSS) program at UTEP since 2015. He grew up in the United Kingdom and moved to El Paso, where his wife is from, that year.
His background is in International Relations; he has a Ph.D. in that subject from the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. He has since taught a variety of subjects, in both countries. His biggest area of interest and expertise is U.S. security cooperation with Mexico, but he also researches security cooperation within U.S. grand strategy more broadly.
Subjects he teaches:
I most regularly teach the MDSS courses in Global Security, and have taught all our Strategic Survey classes, such as Strategic Survey of Europe and Strategic Survey of Asia, which are based on the geographic Combatant Commands and the Department of Defense’s Unified Command Plan. We get into the history, politics, economics, and strategic challenges of those regions in those classes – they are fascinating and dynamic! I also teach face-to-face here at UTEP in our sister Intelligence and National Security Studies program, including the course Intelligence and National Security Policy and Procedures.
On what ignited his passion for these subjects:
I was always fascinated by "America" living in the UK, especially through films. American Studies was part of my undergraduate degree at the University of East Anglia. I did some amazing courses in that degree: on the history of U.S. foreign policy, the Vietnam War, the U.S.’ expansion and how that shaped its national security culture. That is what got my passion going and led me to go back to university to study International Relations, where I often focused on the U.S.’ foreign policy. I remain deeply interested in how U.S. national security and grand strategy “works”, especially in the changing world of the 21st century, where it is forced to adapt–something we emphasize in the MDSS program.
His proudest accomplishment and biggest challenge as an online instructor:
I don’t necessarily have a singular moment. However, I am very proud of helping several online students facing challenges of their own get to the degree and graduation they have earned. We all know life can throw us curve balls, and you need help to get through those and keep taking steps forward towards your educational and career goals. I am very happy I got to help students to do that.
That is really the challenge of online teaching too. How do you make sure you keep the connection between the professor or advisor and a student in another state – or even country? I’ve learned over time how to make sure connections and communication are established early so students know they can call on my help if and when they need it. I am still working on improving that because nothing is ever perfect, but I am proud of the system we have and the results it has helped produce with some of our fantastic students.
On what makes a successful online student:
I think the keys are self-motivation, balanced with taking advantage of the [available] resources, and communication with professors. There’s no doubt online learning is different and more individual. We know many of our students are looking for that kind of experience and work very well on their own. We create innovative courses for them – and off they go! However, we also encourage them to communicate with us where necessary – and we are always available to help! When a student can meld their self-motivation to learn with getting the best advice and resources we can offer where they need it, that’s the perfect combination.
His advice to his students:
Check in with your professor or advisor if you need to! Often, you’ll be successfully plugging away independently, getting to your goals. However, if you do need some advice about the course you are in, a subject, your next steps in your career, or anything else, we are here to help.