A fascination with politics from an early age brought Professor Robert Patman into the field of International Relations. "I grew up in a family which actively discussed current events and that certainly spurred an interest in great powers like America and Russia and how these giants interacted with other countries on the international stage."
Patman began his academic training at the Department of Politics and International Relations the University of Lancaster. He followed on with a Masters degree from the University of Warwick, and then a PhD in Russian foreign policy - which involved learning the Russian language - at the University of Southampton. His particular area of interest was Russian policy in the Horn of Africa (which includes Ethiopia and Somalia). "I became absorbed with both the tragedy and promise of the African continent," he says.
In spite of his success, Patman once thought the academic world wasn't right for him and, after his PhD, he stepped into the commercial world for three years, selling property for a large British company. "What I learned there, which has been invaluable to my teaching, was the importance of good communication skills. If you've got something to say, then don't hide it behind jargon or obscure language."
Patman's approach to teaching certainly reflects this view: "I'm a bit old-fashioned I suppose, in that I am convinced by the power of good teaching. I still recall some of the electrifying lectures I was lucky enough to hear as a student. The ability to communicate clearly is fundamental to good teaching. And good teaching can expand people's horizons and empower them."
It's this clarity and sharp insight, as well as his sense of humour, that makes Patman a popular media commentator. He appears regularly on TVNZ Breakfast News, National Radio and Newstalk ZB radio and is perhaps most well-known nationally for his analysis of the events of September 11.
"I've become a bit more pessimistic since then. While I felt the terrorist attacks were an appalling tragedy and that those responsible must be brought to account, I also believed it presented America and the world with a fresh opportunity to look at the causes as well as the symptoms of such violence. I've now reached the conclusion that America is likely to squander this opportunity."