JTHS Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Jeffrey Stevenson Murer, Joliet Central High School Class of Class of 1985

Jeffrey_Stevenson_Murer.pngCareer & Education At-a-Glance

  • University of Wisconsin – Madison, B.A.  in Political Science - Graduated with Distinction (1988)
  • PhD University of Illinois at Chicago, Political Science (1999)
  • Assistant Professor Swarthmore College (2001-6)
  • Lecturer and Research Fellow St Andrews University (2007-present)


When growing up in Joliet, Dr. Jeffrey Stevenson Murer followed his passion and took advantage of all the opportunities available to him, leading him to pursue and obtain a doctorate in political science and moving across the ocean to Scotland, where Dr. Murer now works a researcher and academic studying terrorism and political violence. 

Dr. Murer grew up attending John J. Pershing (Dist. 86), Caroline Bentley (New Lenox), and Oakview (New Lenox) prior to attending Joliet East High School and transitioning to Joliet Central High School, where he graduated in May 1985.

As a high school student, he delved into many musical and leadership opportunities. For all four years, he participated in Kolage, Choir, Speech Team, Class Committee, and the Operetta. An enthusiastic performer, Murer also participated in Autumn Drama Play for three years and in the Contest Drama Play his senior year. He also developed leadership skills as a Student Leader in the Transition Committee JT East to JT Central, as Student Council President, and as a National Honor Society member. He was recognized as Exchange Club Student of the Month.

During his high school years, he also participated in other leadership experiences including Illinois Boys' State in 1984, the Illinois Council on Youth (Illinois State Legislative Advisor Committee) from 1984-1985, and as a Century III Leadership Representative. He served as the Illinois Representative (1982) and the National Representative (1983) for the Hugh O'Brien Leadership Foundation.

He had several inspirational high school teachers. He fondly recalls, “I was fortunate enough to have three truly inspirational teachers. Jim Talerico was one of the first teachers I ever met at Joliet East. He taught me how to truly read a text: how to get inside of a story and meet the characters, to understand their relationships beyond simply the plot narrative. Mr. T, as all of his students called him, showed me how a teacher can help a student find his own inner strength, to hone his voice, and to develop his own intellectual path.  Mr. T showed me what it means to help nurture a student, and in many ways he shaped me to become the teacher I am today. 

Ms. Arlene Nuti taught me discipline and patience. She guided me through four years of choir, Kolage, and operettas, all the while emphasizing the importance of practice and preparedness. Most importantly she showed me how the supporting cast is as important as the central characters, for the whole requires all of its parts.  Every voice in the choir contributes to the music, and each voice is as important as that of any soloist. 

Finally, James Maloney helped me hone my love for history, which I share with my father, to become more than a passing interest, and to see it as integral to my high school studies and beyond. 

Much of my current research explores both the impact of the past on the present as structural and historical legacy, as well as the narratives of history as the means of making sense of the present world around us. “

He went on to receive a B.A. in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and graduated with Distinction in 1988. Prior to receiving his B.A., he studied political science at the Budapest Economic Sciences University as part of the Univ. of Wisconsin/Univ. of California Exchange Program in 1987. Murer then studied Philosophy through Northwestern University’s Consortium for Institutional Cooperation Exchange in 1994 before receiving his PhD in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1999 to allow him to now work as a researcher and academic.

Previously, Murer taught at Swarthmore College outside of Philadelphia. In 2007 he moved to Scotland, and he is currently a Lecturer on Collective Violence and a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews. In this role he conducts research on the motivations and self-understandings of people involved in group violence, ranging from ethnic conflict to street gangs.

He also teaches undergraduate and Masters students on identity politics, and supervises PhD candidates writing their dissertation.  He has supervised eight PhD students to completion. Murer has written numerous journal articles which have appeared in "Terrorism and Political Violence" and "Psychoanalysis, Culture, and Society", among others. Murer has edited two collected volumes and has a monograph on far-right violence in Central Europe coming out in the fall. 

He is also happily married to Trenholme Junghans for 15 years.  She is a Research Fellow to the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) at Cambridge University. 

He has received a multitude of professional awards or accolades, including that of Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2017); Member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh's Young Academy of Scotland (2016); Contributions to Excellence in Education Award (2016); National Fellow of the American Psychoanalytic Association (2006-2007); Academic Fellow to the Psychoanalytic Centre of Philadelphia (2004-2006); Associate Research Fellow to the Doctoral School for Research on Psychoanalysis and  Psychopathology, University of Paris VII (2003-2005); U.S. State Department Specialist and Speaker Award (2003); Annual Graduate Dissertation Award for Best Thesis in Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago (2000).

When asked what advice he’d like to share for current high school students, Murer said, “Find your passion! It is important to think about your future, and to consider your options, but, whenever given a choice or an opportunity, follow your heart.  Allow your passion to lead you from within, and open yourself to the world to allow it to transform your world view.”

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