Meet John Griffin

Published: Feb. 8, 2017

Professor in Political Science and Faculty Director of the Conference on World Affairs

Six years ago, John Griffin contacted CU professor Scott Adler about an open position at the University of Notre Dame, where Griffin was teaching at the time.

“We reached out to Scott and he politely declined,” Griffin said. “Perhaps coincidentally, around a year later, he contacted me to inquire about whether I might be interested in a position that would be opening up at CU.” Griffin applied for and eventually accepted the position in CU’s political science department.

Griffin took a somewhat circuitous path to becoming a faculty member. After finishing his undergraduate studies in political science in 1990, he did not begin graduate studies in political science at Duke until 1997: “I spent a year in China, I went to law school, and I practiced as a lawyer for a couple of years,” he said.

By the time he went back to school to earn his graduate degree, he “was pleasantly surprised with the differences between the undergraduate and graduate study of the field at that time.” 

“I was attracted to the kinds of questions that are asked in political science,” said Griffin, “and the way the field goes about answering those questions.”

In 2014, Griffin took his interest in political science one step further and became CU’s Faculty Director of the Conference on World Affairs (CWA). This tradition of nearly 70 years invites around 100 guest speakers from around the globe to the CU Boulder campus. Speakers, students, faculty members, and members of the community are all invited to attend a wide range of sessions held over this five-day conference, which will run from April 10th to April 14th this year.

“It’s a real collaboration between the university and the broader community,” Griffin said. “We have about 500 community volunteers who recruit our speakers, design the program, moderate sessions, and host our speakers in their homes.”

The CWA covers a myriad of topics, including technology, science, human rights, food, space exploration, and politics. It was called “the conference on everything conceivable” and “one of the most remarkable events in America” by film critic Roger Ebert.

As faculty director, Griffin hopes to engage even more students and faculty in the CWA and find ways to keep the conference financially sustainable.

“As an extension of that, I’d like the conference to have a tangible impact on the reputation of the university,” he said, “and its ability to offer solutions to the technological, social, and moral problems facing the country and the world – so, pretty high aspirations.”

Read more about the CWA here.