Joel H. Westra

Joel Westra


  • B.A., Political Science, University of Houston
  • M.A., Social Sciences, The University of Chicago
  • Ph.D. Political Science, The University of Chicago

Professional Experience

  • Professor of Politics (2024–present)
  • Associate Professor of Politics, Calvin University (2012–2024)
  • Assistant Professor of Politics, Calvin University (2007–12)
  • Post-Doctoral Fellow, John G. Tower Center for Political Studies, Southern Methodist University (2005–07)
  • Visiting Lecturer, Committee on International Relations, The University of Chicago (2004– 05)


I grew up in various rural communities within the central United States as the son of a church pastor. Wanting to experience something bigger, I attended the University of Houston, where I received my B.A. in political science in 1998. After briefly considering law school, I went on to study international relations at The University of Chicago and received my Ph.D. in 2004. I joined the Calvin University faculty in 2007 and have served as Pre-Law Advisor since 2008.

Outside of academia, I enjoy traveling, cooking, and dining out with my family, playing the piano, working out, and renovating our Prairie Style home in East Grand Rapids.

Academic interests

My teaching and research interests include international organizations and law, international security, international relations theory, and US foreign policy. My research focuses on multilateral and regional security institutions as instruments of international order, specifically on questions pertaining to institutional design and to mechanisms of legitimation and restraint on the use of armed force within the international system.

Office hours

by appointment

Additional open hours and appointments can be arranged, on request.

Research and scholarship


  • Calvin University Advising and Mentoring Award (2019)


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