March 3, 2021
UCalgary Political Science interviews our own Dr. Rob Huebert
Dr. Rob Huebert is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary
Your work is broadly on Canadian foreign policy, with an emphasis on Arctic security. How did you become interested in this area?
The Arctic was just going to be a case study for my Ph.D. thesis. I knew that I wanted to do something on Canadian foreign and defence policy that involved maritime issues. Beyond that, I was a little bit lost on what to do specifically. One evening I was having a drink with another Ph.D. student have been complaining about my inability to get specific on the thesis. He then pointed out that recently an American icebreaker had gone through the Northwest Passage without asking Canadian permission. “Since it is so new, why don’t I do something on that?”, he said. I thought that was a good idea, but that the Arctic would only be a case study and I would move on. Little would I know how fascinating the subject was and here I am still working on it 30 years later.
Can you tell us about the research projects you have been working on?
I am now examining why there has been a return of Great Power politics in the Arctic. I am specifically looking at the evolving competition and conflict between the United States, Russia, and China. This region is now becoming highly militarised and increasingly includes the most sophisticated delivery systems for nuclear weapons. I am trying to understand why this is occurring.
You’ve supervised many Master’s and Ph.D. students over the years. What is the secret to your success?
This is easy to answer. Attract the best students. I’ve been very fortunate that the students who want to come to the University of Calgary are of such a high caliber that it makes my job easy. With the best students, all you need to do is point them in the right direction and let them flourish. I am proud to see so many of my students doing so well once they leave our Department and University. I do find that students do best when you both respect them and challenge them. I always had the highest expectation and I am never disappointed.
Finally, people might not know, but I hear you have been a guest on a number of Navy vessels, from submarines to aircraft carriers. Tell us about that!
This is one of the most fun parts of the job. People often laugh when I explain to them that I study sea power and live in one of the two landlocked Canadian provinces. But my area of study has allowed me to sail on a Canadian destroyer from Japan to Pearl Harbor; spend the day sailing on a Canadian submarine, surfaced and submerged; and be a lecturer on an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier for a week. One of the neatest parts of this is that on the Canadian vessels I have been allowed to fire small arms. I have been happy to come back to tell my sons that if they are correct and there is a zombie apocalypse, I actually am a good shot with a 50 caliber machine gun! They remain skeptical but strangely reassured.
Thanks to Dr. Rob Huebert for sharing with us.