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Faculty Spotlight with Dr. Phil Jos

Posted by: wichmannkm | October 30, 2017 | No Comment |

In May 2018, Dr. Phil Jos will retire from his highly impactful career at College of Charleston. Professor Jos joined the Department of Political Science in 1986 and served as the Director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program on three separate occasions: 1999-2002, 2007-2008, and 2016-2018. He helped grow graduate program enrollments and has overseen the program’s successful Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) accreditation efforts.  He also served as the Department Chair from 2008-2012 where he oversaw several key faculty hires, helped the department establish tenure and promotion criteria, and created the William V. Moore Student Research Conference. He has taught undergraduate courses on public policy, ethics and politics and political philosophy as well as graduate courses in public administration. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from University of South Carolina and his M.A. and B.A. in Government from Western Kentucky. Dr. Jos’ research has focused on whistleblowing, professional ethics, administrative responsibility and public administration theory. We were fortunate to talk with Dr. Jos about his time at College of Charleston.

How did you decide to pursue a doctorate in political science?

I would say very serendipitously. I would like to say that it was planned but it wasn’t. I was not a good student in high school. I was not a good student at the outset of my college career. But, by the end of my sophomore year, I took a political philosophy class with Dr. George Seitz at Western Kentucky and for the first time in a long time, I was excited about learning. I enjoyed the class, found that I was pretty good at it, and had matured a little by that point so I took some more political science classes. After graduation I was still unsure of what I wanted to do.  I started working construction, mostly basic laboring, framing, pouring concrete but after a 4 month stint putting up attic insulation I jumped at the chance to get a graduate assistantship at Western Kentucky and pursue a master’s degree in public administration. Several faculty encouraged me to think about the Ph.D., including Dr. Fred Carter who would later become chair of the political science department at the College. While at a conference, I met Dr. Mark Tompkins from the University of South Carolina and he, along with Dr. Dan Sabia, became my mentors at USC.

What made you decide to pursue a job at a teaching oriented school? At that point in my life, there wasn’t a whole lot of planning involved. I taught a lot in my master’s program and Ph.D. program and really came to like it. After earning my Ph.D., I was really open to anything. The economy wasn’t good in 1986, but I was fortunate to come to the College. At that time, there were 4,500 students and less of an emphasis on research than there is now. My career at the College turned out to be a nice mix of teaching and research. I was able to publish regularly, and I was profoundly influenced by the teachers who were here and the teachers we hired after I arrived. They were just really good and incredibly dedicated. I feel lucky to have been in a department where I have learned as much as I have about teaching and advising students.

Can you talk about your roles as the MPA Director and Chair of the Political Science Department?

My first term as MPA Director was a logical progression. The number of faculty within the MPA department is small and it’s important for everyone to take a turn as Director. I had always thought I would do this, although I didn’t anticipate directing the program on two subsequent occasions. I care a lot about the program and feel good about stepping in to provide leadership at various times.

I did not anticipate serving as Chair and following Lynne Ford was a bit intimidating, but I appreciated the Department’s confidence in me. It was a challenging but good four years. I learned a lot from it.

What classes have you taught at the college?

I started out teaching American government and methods classes. I have also taught political inquiry, public policy, public administration at the undergraduate level and graduate courses in public policy and administration. Over time I developed a political theory and ethics course and taught the introductory political thought class. I also developed accountability in ethics classes at the graduate level.

What has your research focused on?

My research focus for most of my career has been on administrative accountability and professional ethics. I started this research early on in my dissertation and focused on the idea of moral autonomy, or the retaining of one’s capacity for thinking critically about ethical issues under organizational pressures. I did some early research on whistleblowing. I worked with colleagues on ethical controversies in medical ethics such as the treatment of pregnant women addicted to cocaine. I also did a fair amount of work on ethics codes and what they can and cannot accomplish, questions about moral judgment in a variety of organizational contexts. I worked with several collaborators on publications. Most of my research has been occupying that space between political theory, ethics, and public administration and policy.

What drew you to focus your research on ethics?

Probably the same thing that drew me to graduate work. Political philosophy connected with me, particularly those political philosophers who developed strong critiques of existing society and offered  somewhat utopian but powerful visions of how it could be better.  The idea of challenging injustice struck me pretty powerfully. Part of that was becoming politically aware in the late 1960’s, part of it was teenage rebellion against authority and an exaggerated feeling of being misunderstood and not taken seriously, part of it was working in a variety of manual labor jobs where my co-workers and I were treated badly.   I was drawn to political philosophers, writers and activists who were willing to stand up for their beliefs and challenge authority, probably because I personally was often lacking in that kind of courage and usually avoided conflict.  That no doubt explains why my own research has focused on ways to act boldly and with integrity in difficult circumstances.  I guess I was working on myself while I was working on my career.

What are your favorite College of Charleston memories?

There are a lot of them. So many things come to mind. I’ve always enjoyed graduation. Many of my most positive memories are from graduation – the opportunity to meet parents and the opportunity to see young adults of various talents and capabilities make it across the line. You get the feeling of having made a difference and I think it’s easy to lose track of that.

I also enjoy working with students on individual projects like independent studies and bachelors essays or graduate research.  As a research mentor, you get to see a progression of students’ ideas and I like helping solve research and writing puzzles.  I take a lot of pleasure in the William V. Moore Student Research Conference for some of the same reasons.

I have also always enjoyed my colleagues exchanging ideas about teaching, supporting one another, and trying to understand more about how students learn.

What advice do you have for our students?

For most of my career, I have most often told students to “follow your passion.” I do think students from an early age hear many expectations from parents and popular culture about what their options are as liberal arts majors. They are inundated with information about what options are attractive because they pay well.  In our society, many of the jobs that are important and rewarding, and allow you to work with like-minded people, do not pay as well.  There are a wide variety of trades, work in human service organizations, nonprofit organizations, and teaching of various kinds that are too often invisible to students because they only hear about private sector work.  Starting with your passion doesn’t mean you have to figure out the one thing you are passionate about. Instead, students should focus on a few basic question. What type of work makes me feel good? Do I like challenges? Do I like to work part of a team or by myself? What is going to meaningful and help me grow as a person?  The advantage of political science is that it really prepares you for writing, speaking, and thinking well and thinking clearly so there are many options out there.

The second bit of advice I find myself giving more often lately is about patience. Students often want a wonderfully financially rewarding and challenging job right away. When they have a less exciting challenge and tasks before them, they mentally bail out of that position before they learn enough about that job. A lot of things take patiently working over a long period of time to reap the full benefits. When students hop from job to job I worry that they don’t learn enough about themselves before moving on. Some positions are impossible but I think a little more patience and working with what they have for a little longer can be good. Of course I have had the same job for 32 years so I suppose I would be the one needing to sing the praises of patience so students should probably take that advice with a grain of salt.

What are you retirement plans?

Maybe I’m graduating like our students do. I always hear from students that once they have graduated they are going to take a year off and decide what they want to do. I’m going to retire and take a year off and decide what I want to do. I’m a fairly active person and will be embracing more music playing, kayaking, and yard work. I hope to be more politically active on issues I care about and to help out more in church than I have done before. I want to keep in better touch with friends who live at a distance. I’d like to travel in and outside of the US. That may be enough. I’ve also got some other ideas. I suspect I will take advantage of my retiree status to audit some courses taught by my former colleagues at the College of Charleston.

under: Faculty

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