header image

The Department of Political Science’s Dr. Gibbs Knotts received the 2017 Distinguished Research Award at the Celebration of Faculty ceremony on April 27. Established in 1977, the College of Charleston Distinguished Research Award recognizes one roster faculty member who has a significant research career and the award is based on the faculty member’s scholarly works within the past few years.

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Brian McGee presented the award to Dr. Knotts and noted, “Since hired as a chair of Political Science in 2012, Professor Gibbs Knotts has established an exceptional scholarly record while meeting the demands of leading a large department. As a scholar of Southern Politics, Gibbs has published a university-press book, fifteen peer reviewed articles, three book chapters, and over 30 op-ed pieces in local and national outlets that address timely and pressing issues related to local, state, regional and national politics.”

“Gibbs focuses on issues around the political impact of Southern identity,” said McGee. “His recently published coauthored book, The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People (UNC Press, 2017) is the culmination of analysis of how Southerners understand their Southern identity. As the Executive Editor of UNC Press noted, The Resilience of Southern Identity is ‘the first book in 30 years to use the tools of social scientists to investigate Southern identity.’ The committee tasked with selection for the Distinguished Research Award was also impressed with how Gibbs’ work reaches a wide audience inside academia as well as in the media.”

According to Dr. Knotts, his most recent book “documents the continuing strength of southern identity but also investigates why southern identity remains such a powerful force in the wake of in-migration, urbanization, and technological advancement.” He draws on literature in geography, history, American studies, sociology, psychology, and political science to explore this topic.

Dr. Knotts is the third political science professor to receive this distinguished award. Dr. Guoli Liu received this honor in 2005 and Dr. Jack Parson was recognized in 1987.

under: Faculty, Scholarships and Awards

Alumni Spotlight With Carmen Sessions Scott

Posted by: wichmannkm | May 1, 2017 | No Comment |

After graduating from the College of Charleston as a political science major in 1996, Carmen Sessions Scott earned her law degree at the University of South Carolina in 1999. She is currently a pharmaceutical mass tort litigation attorney for Motley Rice LLC. She has shared her expertise with well-known media outlets including The Associated Press, NBC News, Marie Claire, Mother Jones and The Safety Report. She has been named to the South Carolina Super Lawyers list and The Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Forty Under 40. The Political Science Department had the fortunate opportunity to learn more about Carmen’s successful career.

How did you become involved in pharmaceutical mass tort litigation and what types of cases have you managed?

Almost by accident. I clerked for a law firm in Columbia when I was in law school and the principal attorney at the firm was involved in the pharmaceutical litigation, Fen-Phen. Fen-Phen was a diet drug that was promoted to women and men to lose weight very quickly, but had devastating consequences, including a serious disease that required patients to undergo heart and lung transplants. Many of these individuals died. There was also a valvular issue of the heart that developed from taking this drug. That really began my love for this type of work because it involved not only my passion for helping people, but it sparked an interest in the science and medicine behind the law. I was able to go to work and not just read legal case law all day but also medical journals and explore a side of my brain I had not used. I didn’t have a science background, but doing this work made me realize I really loved it. There were a few other steps before I came to Motley Rice, but for almost my entire legal career, I have focused on pharmaceutical litigation. For the past 10 years, I have developed a niche in women’s litigation representing women who have been harmed by medical drugs and devices.

What background information do you need in science to be successful in medical cases?

A lot of it is self-taught. I spend a lot of time reading British Medical Journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Those journals are full of information about the current state of knowledge in the medical community about these drugs, how they interact with the users and the safety issues that might come up. I also work with experts who help me weed through the very complex issues that sometimes arrive in these cases. They help me understand the physiology and everything associated with how these drugs work in humans.

If I am going to present to a jury, I need to be able to tell them in three sentences what my case is about. I need to be able to process what is sometimes decades of research to reach a conclusion about how an adverse event can occur by the use of a drug or medical device and communicate that in very simple terms.

You have been quoted in well-known news media outlets and have served as speaker at various organizations. What kind of information do you share?

My speaking engagements have included community-oriented events where there is an interest in an issue that has arisen in the pharmaceutical community. For example, thousands of people who took a drug that was suddenly removed from the market may be unaware of the reasons why or the potential harm it may have caused. That’s why we sometimes sponsor and organize community events to educate people about these potentially dangerous drugs and devices.

When our firm takes on projects, we have to become extremely well-versed in those areas. Also, other attorneys often want to learn what we have spent a great deal of time studying, so I speak at attorney conferences about the current status of litigation, how to identify cases, and litigation strategies for various drugs and projects I am working on.

I have had the benefit of meeting some wonderful people in my work. However, the unfortunate part of what I do is that people don’t come see me on their best days; they come to see me on their worst days. Most people only come in contact with me when something really traumatic and devastating has happened to them or a family member. In one particular case, I represented a gentleman whose 32-year-old wife died in front of him and his children because she took a particular type of birth control. Her case was the first of its kind filed and, as a result, received a lot of local media attention in New Jersey where they lived. It also attracted attention from other news outlets like Mother Jones that were interested in learning more about how something as simple as a contraceptive choice could be a life-changing decision.

It sounds like you have an ethical obligation to educate people on these issues but also have to be very sensitive to the individuals affected by those cases.

Absolutely. One of the things I don’t think a lot of lawyers think about when they enter law school or the profession is that we are really called attorneys and counselors at law. I really think I use my counselor side more or equal to the amount of time that I actually operate as an attorney. I have to talk to people about awful personal issues that have occurred to them and their families. They need someone to talk to and someone they can trust. I have an obligation and duty to not only represent them to the fullest extent I can and be a zealous advocate for them, but to do so very sensitively and appreciate the sensitivity of the information that they are sharing with me.

A lot of what I do is also telling people that, unfortunately, we can’t help them, most often for a number of reasons. A lot of changes in the way our government works and some Supreme Court decisions in the past several years have affected individual rights. A lot of what I do is to help explain to people why it is so important to pay attention to what their government is doing, and to help them understand how these decisions trickle down and affect people on an everyday basis. It’s really hard to explain to someone that because they chose to take a generic drug versus a name brand drug that they may not have a claim. It’s hard for folks to understand.

The Department of Labor recently published that 36 percent of lawyers are women. Why do you think that percentage is low and what advice do you have for women who wish to pursue law?

I don’t know why that percentage is as low as it is. I will tell you that change is on the horizon. There has been a movement in the past couple of years on the federal court side to involve women in leadership roles and make sure that diversity is complete in representation before the court. I am involved in an area of law known as mass torts that is presided by federal court judges who appoint steering committees to represent the entire litigation. I serve on steering committees in several cases. A huge topic of discussion at judiciary conferences all over the country is that these panels have for far too long been made up of non-diverse individuals. Judges, and juries, want to see more women in these leadership roles particularly because many of the products that we are seeing in mass tort litigation are women’s products. It makes sense that women would be representing other women. I’m also proud to be part of a group called Women En Mass which is made up of over 250 women who litigate mass torts all over the country. This group is very much a part of this movement and very much a group that reaches down and pulls other women up, highlighting women’s achievements and making sure we are all prepared and have the resources we need to bust that glass ceiling wide open.

Can you talk about your volunteer work?

I have volunteered for a number of organizations over the years, but the main focus has been with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I’ve worked with the South Carolina chapter for nine years. Six of those years I served on the board for the South Carolina chapter. For each of those nine years, I have been a wish granter, which means I assist families and children who are eligible for wishes in making their dreams come true. It’s one of those organizations that really hugs you back. It has been one of the most meaningful things I have ever done.

under: Alumni

The College of Charleston Model United Nations Club recently participated in the Southern Regional Model United Nations (SRMUN) Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The sixteen member team secured two awards – “Outstanding Position Paper Representing China” and “Honorable Delegation Representing China.”

The awards are particularly impressive since this is the club’s second year as a campus organization. Senior Morgan Godfrey started the club as an extension of the Model United Nations course taught in the fall and as an opportunity for students who could not fit the class into their schedules. The club’s membership grew by 50 percent this year. Dr. Max Kovalov serves as the club’s advisor.

To prepare for the competition, the club met once a week for an hour to draft position papers and engage in debate practice. The SRMUN competition kicked off with opening ceremonies and a key note lecture and then progressed to the various committee sessions. According to Club president Sean Killion, “all members did a phenomenal job of engaging in the tasks at hand even if they had no prior experience with the organization.” He also noted that “club participation enhances public speaking, negotiation, and writing skills.”

Students interested in learning more about the Model UN Club can learn more at the fall annual club fair on campus. The Model UN Club meets on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm in Maybank 300.

under: Events, Scholarships and Awards, Student

Senior Reflects on Model African Union Experience

Posted by: wichmannkm | April 7, 2017 | No Comment |

This past February, Dr. Chris Day’s Model African Union class participated in the 2017 National Model African Union Conference at Howard University in Washington, DC. Senior political science major Jacob Docalavich reflected on his experience.

Model African Union, as well as Model UN (United Nations), Model ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), and other similar models have been among the most useful classes I’ve taken since coming to College of Charleston, as well as one of the most enjoyable. The skills I learned through navigating the often-chaotic world of African politics are skills that I can use throughout my entire lifetime. Conflict management, negotiation, debate, compromise, etc. are all packed into each model. As a student studying international politics, it’s clear that I am in the best position to benefit from a class like Model AU, but anybody wishing to enter the professional world would appreciate the class and what it has to offer.

On top of all you can learn from the regular class meetings, there’s also plenty to do when the class travels as a group to the nation’s capital.  My class traveled to Washington DC to do our model, and when we weren’t working, we were out exploring the city’s landmarks, food, and culture. Our delegation, representing the nation of Sudan, was even invited to visit the Sudanese embassy, talked directly with diplomats. Meeting with the diplomats of the country I was representing, knowing that I was in a way working with them to help further awareness for issues they currently face, was honestly one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had during my college career.

I would happily recommend to anyone at CofC that they should sign up for a Model African Union, or other similar courses. The friends and connections I made while participating will not only help to further my professional career, but improve my life in general. I will remember the time I spent in Washington with high regard, even long after I graduate from college. Ask your academic advisor to see if you are eligible to enroll, as sometimes there’s a waiting list to get into a Model course. While you may have to make time to travel in order to attend, the investment is well worth it in the end.



under: Faculty, Student

The 7th annual William V. Moore Student Research Conference took place on Friday, March 31, in the College of Charleston’s Stern Student Center. The conference is an opportunity for advanced high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to present research on a variety of topics including international relations, comparative politics, American politics, and public policy. Approximately 50 students from various majors presented in 11 panels. The conference co-directors were Chris Day and Mark Long, and the research panels were moderated by college of Charleston faculty Claire Curtis, Ali Demirdas, Lynne Ford, Phil Jos, Gibbs Knotts, Max Kovalov, Guoli Liu, Matt Nowlin, Robert Westerfelhaus, and Claire Wofford.

Each year the conference closes with a luncheon, keynote speech, and awards ceremony. Keynote speaker Kayla Gilchrist, Lead Organizer of the Central Midlands Justice Ministry, helped students understand her role as community organizer and inspired them to get involved with the local community.

Awards were presented to the following students for best presentations and papers.

Best Presentation Award
1st Place – Lauren Johnson and Deon McCray
2nd Place – David Ahnen
3rd Place – Janelle Green

Best High School Paper Award
Grace Ford-Dirks

Best Undergraduate Paper Awards
1st Place – Meredith Jackson
2nd Place – Victoria Butler
3rd Place – Taryn DiPalma

The conference is held in honor of longtime College of Charleston professor, William V. Moore, and reflects Professor Moore’s passionate commitment to undergraduate education and improving political discourse and educational and economic opportunities for all South Carolinians.

In 2009, Bill’s family began the William V. Moore Endowed Scholarship Fund that provides a renewable scholarship to a student who demonstrates a commitment to improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians. Other contributions from colleagues, family, and many friends and supporters have also established the William V. Moore Memorial Fund in Political Science which supports the student research conference and other initiatives.  To make a donation to either the Memorial Fund or the Scholarship Fund, please visit our web site (http://polisci.cofc.edu/giving/index.php) or contact the Department of Political Science Office (843-953-5724).

under: Events, Faculty, Scholarships and Awards, Student

From left to right – Carmen Scott (’96), Kenny Gardner (’08), Les Blankenship (’05), and Michael Bender (’00)

The Department of Political Science and the College’s Pre-Law Advising Program hosted the third luncheon in their Career Café Series on March 24. The event focused on legal sector career opportunities, and featured political science alumni participants Michael Bender (’00), Corporate Counsel at The InterTech Group, Inc.; Ronald “Les” Blankenship (’05), Deputy County Supervisor and Special Counsel at the Berkeley County Legal Department; Kenyatta “Kenny” Gardner (’08), Associate at Nexsen Pruet; and Carmen Sessions Scott (’96), Attorney at Law at Motley Rice.

The panelists represented a variety of specialties within law and provided excellent insights into their fields and career paths. They emphasized the importance of taking undergraduate classes that focus on critical thinking, writing, and reading skills to prepare for law school and an eventual career. They also recommended that students gain valuable experience by seeking internships with the state and federal courts along with victim advocacy groups. In addition, law school applicants can make their applications more competitive by taking courses in other disciplines such as science, business, and engineering.

As the field of law changes and less cases actually go to trial, the alumni noted that future lawyers will need to be creative and seek alternative ways to solve problems. They also mentioned that it is essential to be able to process large volumes of information and communicate findings effectively. Pursuing a law career is demanding and students were encouraged to make sure that they are passionate about the field before embarking on this profession.  The panelists also reminded students to take time for family, friends, and hobbies.

“We were so thankful that four of our outstanding alumni were willing to take the time to share their journeys with our students,” said political science department chair, Dr. Gibbs Knotts.

The Career Café Luncheon Series is an opportunity for students to learn from alumni about the various types of careers political science majors pursue. Based on its success, the department plans to focus on the private and public sectors for the next academic year.

under: Alumni, Events, Student

Faculty Spotlight With Dr. Andy Felts

Posted by: wichmannkm | March 14, 2017 | No Comment |

This May Dr. Andy Felts will retire from teaching at College of Charleston. Professor Felts joined the Department of Political Science in 1989 and served for a decade as the Director of the Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Center for Public Affairs and Policy Studies. Dr. Felts earned his Ph.D. and M.A. in Political Science from The Pennsylvania State University and his B.A. from Miami University in Political Science and History. We were fortunate to talk with Dr. Felts about his time at College of Charleston.

How did you decide to pursue a career in academia?

I knew I wanted to teach, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach in high school or college. I decided to pursue college because I had the impression that students who would register for my class would want to be there.

What courses have you taught at the college?

One of the first courses I taught was Introduction to American Politics. I really enjoyed teaching this course because it was the first exposure students had to American government. For the public administration program, I taught a course that focused on public budgeting. More recently I have taught courses on political thought and a special topics class that discusses the influence of technology in politics. In the technology course, students are suddenly becoming aware of the fact that social media can make a difference in how you can see the world. I try to help them think of things objectively and understand how much their worldview is influenced by what they read on the Internet.

What has been your research focus?

My current focus is on social acceleration, the idea that communication is accelerating at a pace much faster than people are. I’m particularly concerned with where students are getting information and how quick that information is getting to them.

What are your favorite CofC memories?

There are many because I have been here a long time. My favorites are when students who come back years after graduation and say that I have made a difference in their lives.

What do you see for the future of our students?

Our students are going to have to be agile and anticipate changes in their profession.

What are your plans for retirement?

I plan to travel. I would especially like to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and also to travel to Iceland. I will continue to be a lifelong learner.

under: Faculty

The 7th annual William V. Moore Student Research Conference will take place on Friday, March 31 in the Stern Center. Student presentations are scheduled at 9:00-10:15 am, 10:30-11:45 am, and 12:00-1:15 pm. A list of panels can be found below. All are welcome to attend the presentations.

9:00-10:15 SESSION

Panel 1: (SSC 409) Donald J. Trump & the 2016 Presidential Election

Panel 2: (SSC 201) New Research in Policy Issues

Panel 3: (SSC 205) Fear & Hope in 2017 (Political Science Capstone Research)

Panel 4: (SSC 206) Politics Through Media & Fiction

10:30-11:45 SESSION

Panel 5: (SSC 409) Executive Power at Home & Abroad

Panel 6: (SSC 201) Dynamics of Conflict & Post-Conflict

Panel 7: (SSC 205) Understanding War I (FYE Panel)

Panel 8: (SSC 206) Democracy & Democratization

12:00-1:15 SESSION

Panel 9: (SSC 409) The Politics of Marginalized Communities

Panel 10: (SSC 201) Politics & Policy in Charleston (MPA Panel)

Panel 11: (SSC 205) The Micropolitics of the Local

Panel 12: (SSC 206) Understanding War II (FYE Panel)


under: Events, Scholarships and Awards, Student

Moore Student Research Conference Accepting Applications

Posted by: wichmannkm | January 20, 2017 | No Comment |

The 2017 William Moore Student Research Conference will take place on Friday, March 31. Students interested in participating can apply at http://goo.gl/forms/qbkNf0hNgC. Applications are due Friday, February 17. The conference is an opportunity for advanced high school and undergraduate students to present research on a variety of topics, including Southern and South Carolina politics, civil rights, political extremism, educational opportunity and economic development, political communication, human geographies and world politics. It is held in honor of William V. Moore, Ph.D., and reflects Professor Moore’s passionate commitment to undergraduate education and improving political discourse and educational and economic opportunities for all South Carolinians. Questions about this conference can be directed to Dr. Mark Long (LongM@cofc.edu) or Dr. Chris Day (DayC@cofc.edu).  Additional information about the conference can be found at http://polisci.cofc.edu/student-ops/student-research-conf.php.

under: Faculty, Scholarships and Awards, Student

grad-schoolOver the past six years, approximately 20 percent of senior political science majors indicated in their graduation surveys that they planned to pursue a graduate degree. To help students prepare for graduate school, the political science department offers an annual graduate school advising session. At this event, professors provide an overview of master’s and Ph.D. programs and discuss the application process for students interested in continuing their education.

Since master’s degrees can be expensive, professors urged students to look at their ideal job’s resume to determine if further education is needed. For example, a master’s degree is an entry-level qualification for NGOs in Washington, D.C. but not necessary for many other careers. They also emphasized the importance of viewing the degree as an opportunity to build a solid skillset and not just a credentialing exercise.

When it comes to pursuing a Ph.D., all professors agreed that students should be passionate about their subject matter and not see themselves doing anything else but that type of work. Ph.D. programs can be pursued after completing bachelor’s or master’s degrees and have academic and non-academic career options. Professors cautioned that the job market for academic careers is declining because professors are delaying retirement, the continued negative effects of the 2008 financial crisis, increasing reliance on part-time faculty at some institutions, and limited institutional funding.

Ph.D. programs take four or more years to complete and some programs award students master’s degrees while enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Drawing from their own experiences, professors noted that there is a high dropout rate for Ph.D. programs, and students typically feel overwhelmed especially the first year. They recommended that those pursuing these types of programs treat themselves with kindness and compassion. All professors agreed they were glad they persevered for the end result.

Whether political science students decide to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D., the professors recommended thoroughly researching programs and visiting campuses to speak with current students and faculty. They also stressed the importance of understanding the program’s average completion and success rates along with the job placements of alumni. Students should also be knowledgeable on what types of funding and assistantships are available.  Ph.D. programs often provide tuition waivers as well as research and teaching assistantships.

“To be clear, none of this is to discourage students from seeking a graduate degree, which is a highly rewarding experience,” noted Assistant Professor of Political Science and event organizer Dr. Chris Day. “We encourage students to understand the terrain and go in with their eyes open. Graduate school is not a place to warehouse yourself while you figure out your life. It should be part of a plan.”

under: Events, Faculty, Student

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »


Skip to toolbar