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Karen Wilhelm

Adjunct Professor


Dr. Karen Wilhelm is an Adjunct Professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She teaches courses on policy makers using history, public speaking, and civil-military relations.

Prior to joining the faculty, Dr. Wilhelm served on active duty with the US Air Force for nearly 29 years and retired with the rank of colonel. Her Air Force assignments included duty as a strategic planner on the Joint Staff, J5, Strategy Division where she was the primary action officer in producing the Chairman’s vision document (Joint Vision 2020), was part of the writing team for the National Military Strategy and the Joint Staff inputs to the National Security Strategy, and led working groups in producing various strategy review documents. Additionally, her Joint Staff tour included assignment as a speech writer for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dr. Wilhelm’s Air Force career also included duty on the faculties of the USAF Academy and the National War College. While at the Academy, she taught core courses in military theory and the foundations of the military profession, and a senior military leadership elective. She also served as a core course director and deputy department chair. At the National War College she served as a department chair and director of the core course, “War and Statecraft.” She also taught a core course in military operations and developed an elective titled “Analyzing Counterinsurgency Strategy.” Within her primary career field of aircraft maintenance, she served in both flight line and staff positions, including command of two squadrons. In her final operational assignment, she commanded the B-52 maintenance group at Barksdale AFB, LA where she led approximately 2,500 people comprising five subordinate units. While there she deployed in command of an expeditionary maintenance group supporting combat missions for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon retiring from the Air Force, Dr. Wilhelm attended Georgetown University and was awarded her doctorate in Liberal Studies. Her doctoral thesis focused on the nature of mobilizing for war in the twenty-first century, from an American perspective. She also holds an MS in National Security Strategy from the National War College; a master of military arts and science from the School of Advanced Military Studies of the US Army Command and General Staff College; an MA in history from Louisiana Tech University; an MS in Logistics Management from the Air Force Institute of Technology; and a BS in Military History from the USAF Academy.