Keren Yarhi-Milo

Keren Yarhi-Milo

Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, and Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Relations

Keren Yarhi-Milo

International Affairs Building, Room 1414


Personal Details

Dr. Keren Yarhi-Milo is the dean of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Relations. She is a world-renowned expert in international security and crisis decision-making and the youngest dean in SIPA’s history. Yarhi-Milo joined the tenured faculty at Columbia University in 2019 after a decade at Princeton. Before becoming dean in July 2022, Yarhi-Milo served for two years as director of SIPA’s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.

As a scholar and teacher, Yarhi-Milo bridges the academic and policy worlds, focusing predominantly on how leaders make foreign policy decisions regarding the use of force. Her work draws on cutting-edge insights from psychology, organizational theory, and behavioral economics. Her research also delves into the complexities of signaling and (mis)perception in world politics, threat assessments and intelligence analysis, the role of secrecy and deception in foreign policy, and the importance of face-to-face diplomacy. She is the author of two award-winning books: Who Fights for Reputation? The Psychology of Leaders in International Conflict (Princeton, 2018), and Knowing The Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence Organizations, and Assessments of Intentions in International Relations (Princeton, 2014) and has published extensively in the top academic journals in the field of international relations and political science.

Yarhi-Milo’s singular expertise in the psychology of leadership and decision-making has made her a sought-after voice in the public arena. Most recently, she coauthored an essay in The Atlantic on what the intelligence failures of the 1973 Yom Kippur War teach us about the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks. She also coauthored an op-ed in The New York Times with her counterpart at Princeton, Dean Amaney Jamal, on the need for greater civil discourse on campuses. She is a frequent contributor to Foreign Affairs, including most recently authoring a piece, Why Smart Leaders Do Stupid Things: Is Foreign Policy Rational? (November/December 2023 issue), and an essay entitled The Credibility Trap: Is Reputation Worth Fighting For (July/August 2024 issue).

In 2023, Yarhi-Milo founded and launched the Institute of Global Politics (IGP), a new, world-class institute at Columbia SIPA with a faculty advisory board chaired by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In its inaugural year, IGP brought people together across geographic and political divides, created a space for open dialogue across ideological differences, inspired new ideas, and worked to advance necessary conversations and build the foundation for policy impact work addressing some of today's most pressing challenges. In March 2024, IGP launched its Women’s Initiative, centered around four main pillars: women's economic opportunity, women's health, women's safety and security, and women's leadership, democracy, and human rights. 

During the fall of 2023, Yarhi-Milo co-caught the course Inside the Situation Room with Secretary Clinton. The course of 380 students, chosen through a competitive application, discussed the psychological biases that influence crisis decision-making, including the role of advisors, emotions, reputation, domestic public opinion, and other factors, and drew from some of the major theories of international relations and merged them with prominent case studies drawn from history and from the Secretary’s own time as a decision maker “inside the Situation Room.”

Yarhi-Milo earned her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA, summa cum laude, from Columbia University. She previously worked with several NGOs promoting peace in the Middle East, including the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. She grew up in Israel, where she served in the IDF intelligence while completing mandatory military service. She lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Education

  • Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
  • B.A., summa cum laude, in Political Science from Columbia University

Honors and Awards

  • 2022 International Studies Association’s Emerging Scholar Award
  • 2016 Furnnis Award
  • Co-Winner of the 2016 DPLST Book Prize

Research And Publications

News & Media

Are you looking for one great book this summer — or maybe a few? We’re pleased to share recommendations from our faculty and staff.

Jun 10 2024
Meet the SIPA Community

Political scientist Ian Bremmer addresses new graduates, family, and friends.

May 14 2024

As a dean, member of the faculty, and alumna, I am heartbroken by recent events on our campus. I know they have affected all of you deeply, as well. 

May 02 2024
Meet the SIPA Community

Highlights included a keynote program featuring Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the 2024 Alumni Awards, discussion panels, and a reunion dinner at Low Library.

May 01 2024

Messages from the Dean

As a dean, member of the faculty, and alumna, I am heartbroken by recent events on our campus. I know they have affected all of you deeply, as well. 

May 02 2024

Following up on today’s statement from the Interim Provost, I’m writing to express my outrage and condemnation of the attack on Columbia’s campus last Friday, which directly targeted a pro-Palestinian protest involving members of the University community, including students from SIPA.

Jan 23 2024

Welcome back, everyone, and to our J-term students, welcome to SIPA! I hope the winter break provided you all an opportunity to relax with family and friends. As we resume classes this week, I hope that you share my excitement for 2024.

Jan 16 2024
Meet the SIPA Community

This has been a momentous year — for SIPA, for the world, for humanity. As 2023 draws to a close, I continue to be inspired by the intellectual energy and passion of our community. Nurture that spirit. It is what makes us SIPA.

Dec 21 2023