Eurasia Foreign Area Officers (FAOs)

The M.A. Degree Program for REECAS, administered by CREECA, provides interdisciplinary area studies training for emerging professionals and future leaders in business, development, government, journalism, law, publishing and the military. Since its inception in 2001, the M.A. Degree Program in REECAS has trained a number of Eurasian Foreign Area Officers (FAOs), who are now serving in leadership roles in the US military, as defense attaches in US embassies in Eurasia, and at other agencies within the Department of Defense.

Why Wisconsin for FAOs?

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Internationally-Renowned Faculty Specializing on Eurasia

Currently 34 tenure-line professors at UW-Madison have a primary teaching and/or research interest in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies, including a recent hire in the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics.

Faculty represent 13 different disciplines, including Communication Arts, Economics, Geography, History, Law, Political Science, Slavic Languages and Literature, Sociology, and Theatre and Drama.

Wide Range of Area Studies Courses

Some of our recent and future course offerings include:

  • Political Science courses and seminars on Russian and Eastern European politics; Nuclear Weapons and World Politics; Social Identities; Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict
  • History courses and seminars on Russian Social and Intellectual History; Soviet History; History of Poland; History of the Second World War
  • Geography courses on the Geography of Nationalism and Geopolitics
  • Also classes in Sociology, Economics, Law, Slavic Languages and Literature, Theatre and Drama

Training in Eurasian Languages

During the academic year, we offer Czech, Finnish, Kazakh, Persian, Polish, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, and Turkish (Turkish-Azeri)

UW-Madison is home to one of only four Russian Flagship Programs in the US, meaning increased Russian language course offerings, extracurricular activities, and assessment programs. This includes courses in Russian culture taught in Russian, as well as graduate-level Russian language courses with targeted, intensive instruction in grammar, reading, speaking, and listening.

During the 8-week summer session (mid-June through early August), UW-Madison sponsors several summer language institutes, among them:

Funding is available for most summer language programs at UW-Madison.

Networking Opportunities & Engaged Alumni

CREECA hosts a weekly lecture series during the academic year and over the 8-week summer session, affording an opportunity for its students to meet and learn from scholars and practitioners on a range of topics and with a wide array of area expertise. See the CREECA Events page for a list of upcoming lectures and panel discussions.

Our REECAS alumni, including many FAO alums, are leaders in their fields. See section below for a list of notable FAO alumni.

In addition:

  • FAOs may enter in the summer, fall, or spring and complete the program within 12 calendar months
  • Active military personnel pay resident tuition rates, making UW-Madison a low-cost campus
  • Madison and the surrounding area offer excellent public schools, a range of housing options, a wide variety of activities and organizations for families and children

Notable FAO Alumni

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Panaro completed the M.A. program in REECAS in fall 2015 and is currently assigned to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, where he serves as an Escort Team Chief for Russian delegations verifying the provisions of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. He has also served as the Country Desk Officer for the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan at the Headquarters of U.S. Army Central. He has traveled extensively and participated in FAO internships in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and has held numerous other military assignments in the United States, the Middle East, Germany, and Kosovo. In addition to his M.A., LTC Panaro holds a B.S. in International Politics from the United States Military Academy (2000).

Major Courtney Olson graduated from the REECAS M.A. program in 2014. At present she is the Deputy Chief of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency Eurasia Region in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Dr. Daniel L Burghart is Dean of the College of Strategic Intelligence and a professor of National Security and Eurasian Studies at the National Defense Intelligence University in Washington, DC. A specialist in Russian, CIS and Central European Affairs, Burghart has a B.A. in Political Science from Illinois, an M.A. in Political Science and Graduate Certificate in Russian Area Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Ph.D. in Russian and International Studies from the University of Surrey. Over his 30 years of service in the Army, he served in a variety of Foreign Area Officer assignments before retiring as a Colonel in June 2003.

Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Steven Johnson is a Regional Desk Officer at U.S. Army Europe in Wiesbaden Germany.  A career Army officer with extensive international experience focused on Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, LTC Johnson has served as the Executive Officer to the Director for International Affairs and the Eurasian Regional Manager for the Missile Defense Agency in Ft. Belvoir, VA.  He previously served as an Inspection Team Chief and Team Deputy at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency – Europe, Operations Officer to the Arms Control Inspection Unit, Defense Threat Reduction Office at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, and as Chief of the Government of Iraq Operations as part of United States Forces in Iraq. LTC Johnson received his M.A. in REECAS from UW-Madison in 2004.