Kelly Atkinson

Kelly Atkinson
Political Scientist


Ph.D. in political science, Ohio State University; M.A. in political science, Ohio State University; M.A. in strategic intelligence, American Military University; B.A. in anthropology, University of Virginia


Kelly Atkinson (she/her) is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Her research interests include human security, international security, gender policy, the Women Peace and Security policy agenda, diversity equity and inclusion, childcare, and military personnel readiness issues. She has published peer-reviewed research on gender and conflict, refugees and development, women in the military, extremism in the military, the future military force post-Afghanistan, and Women Peace and Security as human security policy succeeding "winning hearts and minds" COIN doctrine.

Atkinson is an Air Force Reserve officer and previously served fifteen years as an active duty Air Force intelligence officer, including assignments as Commander of the Air Force's human intelligence unit in the Pacific and as Assistant Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Air Force Academy. She is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member and holds a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University.

Atkinson earned her BA in Anthropology from the University of Virginia, MA in Strategic Intelligence Studies from American Military University, and MA and Ph.D. in Political Science and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies from the Ohio State University.

Selected Publications

Kelly Atkinson, "Mission Injury: The Force After Afghanistan," Æther: A Journal of Strategic Airpower & Spacepower, 2(1), 2023

Kelly Atkinson "Hearts, Minds, Women, and Peace: Militarized Human Security and its Discontents," in Andree-Anne Melancon and Max Thompson, The Women, Peace and Security Operations in Military Operations, Howgate Publishing, 2023

Kelly Atkinson, "Displacement, Gender-Based Development, and Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict: The Case of Iraq," Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, 17(1), 2021

Kelly Atkinson and Alea Nadeem, "Warrior Braids and the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team – The Invisible Labor behind Diversity, Inclusion, and Institutional Change," Wild Blue Yonder, 1(1), 2021

Kelly Atkinson, "Refugees and Recruitment: Understanding Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict With Novel Data," Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, 15(1), 2020

Kelly Atkinson, "Policy and Possibilities of Humanitarian Development: Displaced Women and Peace-building Features of the UNHCR," Refugee Survey Quarterly, 37(4), 2018

Lynne Chandler-Garcia and Kelly Atkinson "Diverse Service and Pathways: Military and Civilian Academics in Defense Institutions," in Kerry Crawford and Leah Windsor, Chutes and Ladders: The Hidden Curriculum that Makes or Breaks Academic Careers, Georgetown University Press, 2024 (forthcoming)