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The Triangle Institute for Security Studies started out as the Duke-UNC National Security Policy Seminar (DUNC). Founded in 1958, the seminar brought together historians and political scientists with a shared interest in military issues and the study of international security. That mission has remained constant over the years.

DUNC—an acronym which amused founding member Ted Ropp and which stuck despite raising eyebrows with its preferred pronunciation, dunce—was a relatively informal association with no fixed budget and modest goals. Members started meeting in 1958 on a periodic basis to discuss research and listen to distinguished speakers. It might have been a small effort, but it remained unique. It was, as one study noted, “the only academic effort in the field conducted jointly by two large universities”—and the only one in the South.

The seminar expanded in the late 1970s with financial support from the Ford Foundation. Its operations and activities flourished to include regular conferences. In 1984, it expanded once more to become the Triangle Universities Security Seminar (TUSS) after North Carolina State University joined the consortium. In 1995, reflecting a growing research agenda and a series of successful external grants, the consortium changed names again to become the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (TISS).

TISS has evolved over the decades, but its vision and working assumptions have remained constant. From its creation in 1958, it has assumed that the study of national and international security is vital. The development of an enlightened national security policy in a democracy depends upon the fruitful exchange of ideas—among scholars and practitioners, and among experts and citizens. These assumptions continue to drive the TISS mission and guide its approaches.

In pursuit of that mission, TISS has historically engaged in three types of activities: programs, research, and outreach. Since the 1950s, TISS has brought outstanding speakers to the Triangle and sponsored a wide array of workshops and conferences. Even in its most informal days, the consortium brought distinguished guests, such as Sir Michael Howard and Henry Kissinger. TISS has taken on a number of high-profile research projects, including the Study of War Project, the Civil-Military Gap Project, and the Wielding American Power Project. Since 2000, TISS has hosted New Faces, a conference designed for early-career scholars preparing for the academic job market in the field of security studies.