Adjunct to Professor: Michelle Black


The Gateway is running an ongoing special feature on members of the University of Nebraska at Omaha adjunct staff. They are the underserved backbone of our University, and we thank them for their effort. These stories have been contributed to us by students within the UNO School of Communication.
–Jared Kennedy, Editor-in-chief

Jaclyn Notaro

From an early age, Michelle Black had an interest in research and facilitating knowledge, a passion she is fulfilling at UNO.

Black began working as an adjunct professor in the political science department at UNO in 2007. She said she started as an adjunct professor to see if obtaining her doc-toral degree, which she did from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in international relations, was something she would be interested in pursuing. The first class she taught at UNO was Middle East Politics.

“I taught it and I loved it,” Black said. “So, I kept coming back.”

In August 2016, Black began her first semester as a full-time professor in the political science department.

Jody Neathery-Castro, an associate professor and department chair, said, “It is rare to find a part-time professor who has a terminal degree in the department.”

Castro said Black has the experience and background that the program was looking for, but the department didn’t have funding to bring Black on as a full-time professor until this year. Castro said she applied for grant funds to bring Black on full-time.

“We had to file a waiver to prove that they didn’t need to do an international search for a professor,” Castro said. “There was no one more qualified.”

Black graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology. In 2001, she joined the U.S. Army and served one tour of duty. During her four years in the Army, she was deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar. During her time in the Middle East she worked as a psychological adversary during Operational Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

Black said teaching part-time “gave me a taste of the lifestyle.” After earning her doctoral degree, she continued teaching part-time. Black is involved with several organizations on the UNO campus. She is a mentor to the IC Scholars and she is on the committee of the Islamic Studies group. Black said because of the programs in the political science department at UNO, she is inspired to continue learning. She said her students challenge her, and that motivates her to keep going.

Black teaches security studies specifically centering on U.S. foreign policy, insurgency-terrorism, intelligence-national security, and deterrence analysis.

Black’s research focuses on violent extremist organizations and she is working on having her first book published based on her dissertation and why insurgency in Iraq started.

Black said leaving the Department of Defense as a government civil-ian was a difficult decision, but her governmental leadership inspired and encouraged her to take the leap into teaching full-time.

“I made a choice, I’m sticking with it, I keep going.”