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As prestigious Marshall Scholar, IU Bloomington alumnus will advance nuclear nonproliferation

Dec 11, 2023

Kyle Tucker has been consumed by the possibility of nuclear war for as long as he can remember. Growing up, he absorbed every tidbit of Cold War media he could get his hands on, including books, movies and even nuclear-related pop songs. This preoccupation eventually led to an intellectual interest and professional goal of working in nuclear nonproliferation and arms control.

“I had to understand why society accepts this existential risk,” he said.

Kyle Tucker Kyle Tucker, a Hamilton Lugar School and College of Arts and Sciences 2023 graduate, is a recipient of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship. Photo by Jon Tucker

Now, the Indiana University Bloomington alumnus will further cement his spot in the next generation of nonproliferation and global security leaders as a recipient of the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, offered through the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission.

The scholarship, valued at nearly $50,000 per year, pays for graduate study at any university in the United Kingdom. The scholarship was founded by the British Parliament in 1953 to commemorate the Marshall Plan, in which the United States helped the countries of Western Europe rebuild after the destruction of World War II.

Tucker — who completed his degrees in international studies and Slavic and East European languages and cultures, with minors in intelligence studies, Russian and East European Studies, and world political systems in May — has spent this fall working on nuclear security issues for the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, D.C., as a Scoville Peace Fellow. The fellowship recruits and trains the next generation of policy and advocacy leaders on a range of international peace and security issues and was established in honor of longtime nuclear arms control activist Herbert Scoville Jr.

As a Marshall Scholar, Tucker plans to spend a year studying cross-cutting global security challenges in the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, one of the top institutions in the world to study international relations. He will follow this with another year in the Strategic Studies program at the University of St. Andrews, a program jointly conducted by the School of International Relations and School of History that uses a historical approach to the subject of strategy and conflict.

Tucker’s experiences at IU and mentorship from faculty in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies have prepared him for success during his Marshall Scholarship and beyond. During the 2021-22 academic year, he participated in a course on climate change with associate professor Jessica O’Reilly that allowed him to travel abroad for the first time, representing IU as a student observer to the United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

Additionally, Tucker enrolled in a capstone course with associate professor Emma Gilligan. With guidance from his capstone advisor and associate professor of political science Dina Spechler, he had already chosen nuclear weapons as his thesis topic when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

“Unfortunately, the topic of my paper was timelier and more topical than I would have liked, but it was interesting to study such an important topic live as the situation on the ground developed,” Tucker said.

His thesis, “The Evolving Nature of Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Doctrine,” received the 2021-22 Daniel Armstrong Memorial Research Paper Award for Best Undergraduate Paper during the IU Robert F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute’s fall reception in September 2022.

During the summer of 2022, Tucker completed a fellowship at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, where he conducted research on the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and received training on issues related to the spread and control of weapons of mass destruction.

Kyle Tucker in Uzbekistan Kyle Tucker in Uzbekistan during his capstone year of IU's Russian Flagship Program. Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Lugar School

This prepared him for the 2022-23 academic year, which he spent at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Kazakhstan as part of IU’s Russian Flagship program and with the support of a prestigious Boren Scholarship. Tucker was also a project intern at the Nuclear Technology Safety Center in Almaty, Kazakhstan, during the spring 2023 semester.

One thread that has run through Tucker’s research and professional experiences is the legacy of the late U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. He said he could relate to Lugar, who, like Tucker, was an Eagle Scout from Indiana. Tucker said the soft-spoken man with a penchant for diplomacy and bipartisanship ignited his passion for public service and will inspire the work he does during his time as a Marshall Scholar.

“I want to collaborate with my professors and classmates from around the world in thinking of ideas to take Senator Lugar’s Cooperative Threat Reduction model into the future,” Tucker said. “There will come a time when the world will be ready to embrace arms reductions and dismantle nuclear infrastructure. We need to maintain the institutional knowledge and preparedness for that day in the future, especially as Cold War-era professionals retire and pass away.”

His mentors across the university agree that there is no better Hoosier to represent Indiana University as a Marshall Scholar than Tucker. During his time at IU, he received five scholarships for Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarships — more than any other IU student. He has also participated in the Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s Atomic Legacy Study Program in Vienna, Austria; the Kissinger Summer Academy on Nuclear Weapons and American Grand Strategy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

“Kyle embodies characteristics many of his peers at Hamilton Lugar share: curiosity and adventurousness,” said Nick Cullather, interim dean of the Hamilton Lugar School. “He came to IU never having been overseas, or even on an airplane before, and now he is on his way to King’s College. We look forward to learning of his journey as he pursues what we know will be an amazing career. Send us a postcard, Kyle!”

Tucker said the opportunities afforded to him by IU — like teaching Russian to elementary students as part of the Bridges: Children, Languages, World program, helping with IU’s annual America’s Role in the World Conference, and acting as a crisis director for the Model U.N. team — were invaluable to his success.

“I still can’t believe that an education with such niche programs exists in Indiana of all places,” Tucker said. “As a native Hoosier, I’m very thankful that I could study in my home state and take advantage of IU’s underappreciated and incredibly valuable international connections. The legacies of Lee Hamilton and Richard Lugar have inspired me to follow in their footsteps and learn everything I can about making the world a safer place.”


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