A UChicago master’s degree shaped Andrew Twomey’s career, from professor to Brigadier General
By Sarah Fister Gale
Andrew Twomey, AM’86 has spent much of his adult life tackling problems that have life and death outcomes. The former Brigadier General spent years leading teams in combat zones, coordinating strategic plans against terrorist organizations, and overseeing training of the Afghan National Security Forces.
His path began with the decision to attend West Point for his undergraduate education. “I had no military background or family military history,” he says., “But West Point was a good school, I had a general desire to serve, and the price was right.”
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in the mid-1970s, Twomey served five years in the United States Army, where he was selected for a program that sends promising candidates to graduate school so they could return to teach at West Point.
“While I didn’t envision a career on an academic track, I was excited to go back to school,” he says.
Twomey chose The University of Chicago to study political science, which he felt was relevant to a military career while offering a stark contrast to his engineering-focused undergraduate work. “I came to UChicago because it had such a strong reputation for international relations theory ,” he says.
The decision had a powerful impact on his life.
He recalls studying under renowned UChicago faculty members, including Morris Janowitz, John Mearsheimer, Gary Orfield, and Susanne Rudolph, each of whom encouraged him to pursue a deep analysis of political theory and social science. “All of them had differing approaches to social science that I found useful in analyzing problems,” he says.“Their academic approach, in different ways all emphasizing the use of theory and data, shaped the way I approach problems to this day.”
He had intended to complete his PhD but left before completing his dissertation, and spent three years teaching political science at West Point.
While he enjoyed teaching, the pull of service continued and he returned to a career leading Army units, rising in rank to Brigadier General. Over the next 18 years, he applied the lessons he learned at UChicago to dealing with crises abroad, including the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia that left thousands of people dead.
Twomey recalls walking through the city in the aftermath of that disaster, when he realized the biggest challenge his team faced was not dodging snipers. It was how to foster a culture of reconciliation among people who had committed such gross atrocities against each other.
“It forced me to step back and focus on what we were really trying to do, what were the variables, and what path would lead us to a reasonable outcome,” he says.
His time at UChicago helped him address these questions in Bosnia, and again later in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Afghanistan, where he was tasked with supervising training of the Afghan Army and Police units. He also spent a few years applying those skills as a speech writer for the Army Chief of Staff.
“I had a tremendous advantage in having an engineering background and a broad liberal arts education that focused on history, politics, science, and philosophy,” he says. “I relied on my understanding of politics and military history to think through all of those challenges.”
In 2008, he retired from the military. After spending a few years in start-up companies that were developing biofuels, he was recruited by ManTech, a government contractor and software firm that handles cybersecurity and data analysis. Today, he oversees more than 2000 employees supporting US Department of Defense missions worldwide, who do everything from providing maintenance for mine resistant vehicles to supporting rocket launches for SpaceX.
He continues to rely on his UChicago training to get it done. “The most interesting work I do is find ways to insert new technologies to support DoD missions. Connecting the military problems to digital solutions is an exciting way to continue to support our country.”