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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Claire Curtis

Posted by: knottshg | March 9, 2018 | No Comment |

Dr. Claire Curtis has been teaching in the political science department at the College of Charleston for twenty years. Since joining the department, she has taught classes in political theory, including the required introduction to political theory course, contemporary liberalism, and utopia/dystopia. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Bowdoin College, Dr. Curtis’ is the author of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction and the Social Contract and is currently working on her second book. Her own research interests lie in utopia/dystopia and the intersections of political philosophy and fiction. In the Q&A below Dr. Curtis shares her own experiences from her time at CofC and elaborates on her current research.

So, you’ve been in the political science department at CofC for twenty years now.

That’s really weird.

What made you decide to become a professor?

I went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and I thought I was going to be a classics major. Then summer between high school and college I went to the Soviet Union on a high school trip and I came back from that like, “oh my gosh I have to study the Soviet Union this is so cool.” I got to college, and I took this upper level Soviet studies class and I started taking Russian and a couple of other classes. There was a guy in the political science department at Bowdoin who did soviet politics and so I took all the classes he offered and then I was like, “oh I kind of like this political science thing.” My junior year I went to Poland and when I [came] back from Poland I decided that “that was all really interesting, and I am no longer interested in Soviet Studies or behind the iron curtain, I have gotten that out of my system.” I went back to Bowdoin for my senior and was taking a political theory class and thought (a) I really like this political theory stuff and (b) I thought what many students think when they’re seniors in college and not sure what to do: I knew what I was good at, and I was good at school. So, I thought, “I’ll keep going to school.” I didn’t apply to that many graduate programs. I got in to Johns Hopkins. I went because I was good at school.

Was it research or teaching that drew you to the career?

I think it was more about teaching. I went to a small liberal arts college where people really paid a lot of attention to classes and most of my political science classes were under twenty [students]. The political science professors were very enthusiastic, everyone wanted to talk about various things. That was my model: you do research, but you’re also engaged in teaching. Between teaching and research, I was interested more in the teaching part.

Can you tell me a bit about the book you’re working on?

I wrote a book in 2010 about post-apocalyptic fiction and the social contract. That was a really interesting project, but it also told a story that I think we’ve moved past. We’re thinking about how and why we live together differently now. I think mirroring that theoretical point is that if you start thinking about post-apocalyptic fiction that has been written in the 21st century, there are a certain number of literary post-apocalyptic fictions that I think are thinking about the human experience of living together differently. One of the critics of the social contract that I find really compelling is Martha Nussbaum. She is interested in what’s called the capabilities approach, which comes out of the development economics of Amartya Sen. The idea is that when we think about humans living together instead of thinking about the distribution of particular goods to particular peoples, we instead should think about what human beings would like to do and be. Nussbaum comes up with the list of ten capabilities that we are aiming towards. The book is an attempt to explain the human capabilities from Nussbaum via these novels. The way that I categorize them is: capabilities that are particular to the human body; capabilities that are particular to human emotion and cognition; capabilities around our interactions with others; and [capabilities] around control over the political and material environment. The idea is to divide the book into four sections with each section looking into these kinds of capabilities. Nussbaum talks in many of her works [about] how we’ve not achieved these capabilities, and I think that makes it very hard to figure out what a world would look like that did have these capabilities. The novels that I’ve chosen sort of give an indication, even in this post-apocalyptic context, of communities that are providing these capabilities. Although I’ve been thinking about framing the book slightly differently, but I’ll leave it at that.

What do you think is the value in studying fiction in conjunction with political theory or philosophy?

Well I think people learn best through examples, but the problem with theory is that it can seem very abstract. You can talk about the construction of an argument, you can talk about the rhetorical moves being made in the argument you can talk about the logical movement being made from point A to point B in an argument, but it is political theory and so the argument has to come down to the ground at some point. That can be really hard to do. I think one way of doing that is to use robust empirical examples, but that can get really complicated in political theory because you get so caught up in the particulars of the empirical example [that] you lose the whole reason you we’re looking at the example. What fiction does is give you this closed space and then we can have a debate over the meaning of that closed space; but we don’t have to have a debate over the meaning or the empirical understanding of the reality or how it got there or all of the complications that come up when you look at actual empirical examples in the actual world. So, I like it because it has a beginning and an end. I like it because authors are putting people together in particular scenarios to think through how people would think and react.

What has been the most challenging part of the research and writing process so far?

Finding time to do it.

How have the classes you’ve taught at CofC influenced your research or have they?

Some of the classes that I’ve taught have come out of specific research interests that I have. The class I taught on gender, theory, and law actually came out of an NEH summer seminar where I was doing some research around issues of sexual harassment. The utopia/dystopia stuff that I do, I’ve always been interested in that. I took a class on utopia/dystopia in college and I think it’s a really interesting way to think about political theory. I’ve published on The Dispossessed and it’s really great to talk to students about that. I’ve published on the Parable books and Octavia Butler. I like the opportunity to talk about things that I’m interested in writing on. Once I tried to do an FYE around post-apocalyptic fiction and reading the social contract after I’d written the book. I think there are definitely connections; it’s just not always super linear. Nothing I ever do is really linear.

What do you love about research compared to what you love about teaching?

I love to read books so it’s always nice to be doing research. In a sense that’s somewhat [truer] when I’m getting to read a novel, but it’s equally true if it’s a theorist that I’m particularly interested in. I love the reading part of research and I love putting together the puzzle. I think in teaching, it’s about back and forth and the sharing of ideas and the energy of the classroom. Because research, at least the kind of research that I do, is a lot in your head. You spend a lot of time thinking to yourself and talking to yourself. It’s good to go into the classroom and get some energetic conversation about ideas instead of just the conversation inside my head.

How do you keep up the energy in the classroom?

I drink a lot of coffee. Sometimes there are classes where the class itself produces its own energy. I really think this stuff is interesting; so, my goal is to get other people, even if they don’t love it, to at least find it interesting. One of the ways of doing that is to be super enthusiastic about it. And to drink lots of coffee.

What has been your favorite experience at CofC so far?

My favorite experience is probably teaching POLI 150. I love teaching the social contract. It’s a story that is deeply familiar to us, but we don’t have the vocabulary to understand its familiarity and understand the differences between what Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Rawls are saying and why that matters. Probably every class that I teach there’s a certain portion of that class that I’m like “oh I can’t wait till we get to that part.”

What do you think has been the experience that has had the most impact on you?

I mean in some sense this is probably the more honest answer about why my book has been sitting unexamined. In 2006 or 2007, a woman who was then the Director of Women’s and Gender studies, a woman who became the director of African American studies, and I started a writing group. We met every single week and we had rules for our writing group. Coming out of the writing group, I published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the rules for a perfect writing group. Both of those women in the last year and a half died. It was personally very hard because they were both really my best friends here. One died very unexpectedly, but the other had a brain tumor so there had been a long time talking about death and [saying] “How are you going to redo that writing group?” And I’ve yet to figure it out how to redo a writing group. In the 20 years here, that was definitely the biggest challenge.

 Dr. Curtis’ article on the “Rules for a Perfect Writing Group”: https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Rules-of-Writing-Group/126880

under: Uncategorized

Department Welcomes New Administrative Coordinator

Posted by: knottshg | February 14, 2018 | No Comment |


The Department of Political Science welcomed their new Administrative Coordinator, Tracey Andrews, on January 29, 2018. Tracey has spent the majority of her working life in higher education. She began her career at Manchester Community College as a student worker for the Continuing Education Division’s Credit-Free programs, while earning her associate degree. Tracey received her bachelor’s degree from University of Connecticut while also serving as the Program Coordinator for the Department of Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She held the position for more than 10 years and in that capacity served as an advisor to students and as a representative of the department on the CLAS Undergraduate Council. She most recently served as the Administrative Assistant to the Associate Provost at the University of Hartford in Hartford, CT. Tracey moved to the Charleston area in August, 2017 to be closer to her daughter Nina and is thrilled to be out of the cold and here with us at the College of Charleston.


What do you like most about living in the Charleston area so far?

I came to Charleston to be closer to my daughter who moved here in 2016 after she got married. The warmth of the people of Charleston has been by far the greatest gift of living here. I think the pace is a little slower here and people are generally more apt to smile and start a conversation with you. Of course, I also love the warmer temperatures and the beaches too!

What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned in your experience working in higher education?

I guess the most important thing I’ve learned personally is how to be a good resource for people. I am an excellent listener and can help others problem-solve so they can get their needs met in the best way possible.

If you could go back and do one thing differently in your life what would it be?

At the age of twelve, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but I allowed my mentor to discourage me because I wasn’t fond of math or science at the time. I now know that if you have great passion for anything in life, you must pursue it and the universe will get behind you and help you turn your dreams into reality.

What excites you most about joining the Political Science Department and becoming part of the College of Charleston community?

I visited the College of Charleston on my first trip to see my daughter and immediately fell in love with the campus. The minute I saw the advertisement for this position I knew it would be a great fit for me personally because I have ten years’ experience running a similar-sized department. And where better to be than this department with the current state of affairs in our government? I have not been very political for much of my life, but I am genuinely interested in the work that the faculty and students here are doing to propel us toward a future where truth is respected, diversity is embraced and the needs of our people and our planet are met.

What advice would you give to our current students?

First and foremost, I would encourage them to pursue all things that bring them passion and to especially pay attention to their own inner voice. Now is not the time to say that your parents always wanted you to be X, Y or Z. Now is the time to acknowledge that you were put on this earth as a unique individual with a destiny that only you can pursue so don’t let anything or anybody stand in your way. I would also encourage them to read Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book “I Can See Clearly Now” which will help put it all in perspective.

How would you want to introduce yourself to the students in the department?

I am here for you! If you’ve got any questions or problems, please don’t hesitate to stop by and see me. If I can’t help, I promise to find some resources or put you in contact with someone who can. You are always welcome here.

under: Uncategorized

Political science majors learned how dynamic careers in the public sector can be at the November 3rd Career Café Public Sector luncheon. Alumni panelists included Kevin Limehouse (’05), Project Officer at Charleston County Government; Leah Schonfeld (C’04), Director of Human Resources at The Citadel; and Peter Wiggins (C’12), Revenue Collections Manager at Charleston County Government. Dr. Phil Jos, Professor of Political Science, also spoke about public administration graduate programs and provided information about the Master of Public Administration (MPA) Program at College of Charleston.

Panelists discussed how they navigated their careers after graduating from the College and how their political science degrees helped prepare them for the working world. Limehouse emphasized helping people through local government efforts and described the work he has done with organizations like Boeing, NASA Space Launch System, the Army Corps of Engineers, and currently the 2021 PGA Tournament scheduled to take place at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course. Schonfeld credited her critical thinking skills and ability to work with people as a human resources administrator to her political science degree. She also encouraged students to study abroad and intern on Capitol Hill. Wiggins explained how political science helped him understand how South Carolina government operates and has helped when working with departments such as the Department of Natural Resources and the State Legislature. He added that his degree was especially beneficial in navigating the “other duties as assigned” in his own job description.

In response to student questions, the panelists noted that those interested in the public sector should be passionate, willing to learn, and a good cultural fit for the organization. When asked what the panelists would have done differently in their college careers, they recommended taking advantage of the resources on campus like the Career Center, gaining experience through internships, working to build relationships, taking part in extracurricular activities like Model United Nations, and studying abroad.

under: Alumni, Events, Faculty, Student

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

Student Spotlight with Alexandra Helfgott

Posted by: wichmannkm | October 24, 2017 | No Comment |

Junior political science and Spanish double major Alexandra Helfgott is a member of the Honors College and was recently elected President of the Student Government Association (SGA). Our department had the fortunate opportunity to interview Alexandra about her college experiences.

What has your Involvement in student government been like?

I started in student government when I was a freshman. I served as Freshman Senator and then I had the privilege of serving as the Chief of Staff for President Michael Faikes last year. It was a formative experience being able to see behind the scenes of the SGA and to learn more about the executive branch. I had the opportunity to run for President this year, and I’m very appreciative and grateful to have won. To be able to empower and encourage other members of SGA to succeed and complete initiatives they are working on is probably the most meaningful aspect of the role. It has been such a gratifying experience and I’m so appreciative to give back to the College because I have gotten so much from this school. To be able to give back like others have done for me has been the most meaningful part of it.

What types of initiatives is SGA currently working on?

I’ve focused on a few key initiatives.  When I was a freshman, SGA President Zach Sturman started a policy having to do with grade redemption. The proposal was to allow students the option of redeeming a class if they earned a C- or below. Faikes worked on the issue during his term as President, and he passed the baton to me this year. We are thrilled that it just passed through the Faculty Senate and it is scheduled to be implemented in 2019, but this is contingent upon the Registrar’s Office and Information Technology designing the business process to implement the new policy. Second, the College’s Physical Plant just approved our pilot project to provide dispensers for free feminine hygiene products on campus. We are hoping to demonstrate that there is a demand for these products. Third, one of our directors is working on an initiative called “Ban the Bottle” which would ban the sale of single use plastic water bottles on campus. We are still researching this project and trying to gauge student support. Schools that have implemented this policy have received positive national recognition and if it is implemented at the College, we would be the first school in South Carolina to do so. This initiative goes nicely with the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) for sustainability literacy and it’s something that is gaining a lot of traction.

How did you decide to major in political science?

I came in completely undecided and not knowing what I wanted to do. I went to the Majors Fair my freshman year and I met Dr. Knotts. It was that moment that I said I should probably consider political science which I had never imagined picking when I was in high school. The experiences that I have had in the Political Science and Spanish Departments, and the Honors College have been formative. It’s been a great opportunity to learn and grow. It’s okay to make mistakes because it is a learning environment. The support and mentorship I receive has been absolutely incredible. It’s been exciting to watch myself discover where my passions are within political science because I had no idea that this was something I was interested in until I came to college.

Every professor that I have had in the Political Science Department truly has been stellar. Everyone is willing to help and so passionate – Dr. Knotts, Dr. Creed, Dr. Wofford. I cannot say enough about this department.

Can you tell us more about your interest in becoming a lawyer?

This past March I went to a conference at Harvard University on public policy and leadership that really opened my eyes.   I am thinking about pursuing a joint master’s degree in public policy and juris doctorate with a focus on employee and labor rights. I am interested in helping undocumented immigrants who face discrimination and abuse by their employers as a result of their undocumented status. My interest in this actually goes back to Dr. Creed’s honors world politics class I took as a freshman. We read a book called The Devil’s Highway which was about Mexican immigrants crossing the border illegally and that really sparked my thinking about it. Everything that we learn in the classroom comes full circle.

What is your involvement in the Honors College?

I was a member of the inaugural Honors College Entrepreneurship Living-Learning Community which was a really great experience. Though I’m not pursuing the field of entrepreneurship, I learned some great tactics like networking, being able to make an elevator pitch, and becoming a more well-rounded individual. I am a Swanson Scholar and William Aiken Fellow so I received additional mentoring and guidance through that program. I serve as an Honors Engaged Liaison for Trident Literacy Association and St. Matthews English as a Second Language which pairs CofC students in the Honors College with these organizations and they go and volunteer weekly. I currently serve as a Student Representative on the Honors Advisory Board.

What inspires you to be so active and engaged on campus?

I was involved in high school and I think it just trickled over to college.  I am so appreciative of everything that I have received from my professors at the College – all the guidance and wisdom, so if I can give back in any way that’s what drives me. There are opportunities to make tangible impacts. There are resources and networks available to college students and I think that’s so powerful and it drives me to make the student experience better. I want students to feel how I do about the College. I absolutely love it.

What advice do you have for current students?

I would say if an opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it. If you feel that you’re not qualified or maybe need more experience, just go ahead and apply. If you see someone and think “I should go introduce myself to them,” you should just go ahead and do it. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. It’s not going to be comfortable but at the end of the day you will be glad you did it. I don’t think anyone wants to have regrets about what could have been. Go see your professors, take that class that you are scared about because it’s only a couple of years. Before you know it, we will be out of here.

under: Faculty, Scholarships and Awards, Student

Alumni Spotlight with Second Lieutenant Logan Fitchett

Posted by: wichmannkm | October 19, 2017 | No Comment |

Second Lieutenant Logan Fitchett graduated from the College of Charleston as a political science major in 2015. Originally from Newport News, Virginia, Fitchett just completed her first year of service with the United States Marine Corps. The Political Science Department had the fortunate opportunity to learn more about her career.

Can you talk about your decision to join the Marine Corps?

After I graduated from College of Charleston in 2015, I moved back home and was applying to jobs. My mom suggested I look into the military which was not anything I had really considered. However, when I met with the Marine recruiter and started the application process, I could not believe I had not thought of this option sooner. As I became more exposed to what Marines do, I learned that the lifestyle really worked for me. The challenge and physical demands of the Corps, along with the great individuals that join, made me realize I really wanted to be a part of it.

What training have you received in the Marine Corps?

Officer Candidate School (OCS) is a ten week boot camp for officers which consists of physical and mental screenings. After finishing as a Second Lieutenant at OCS, I spent six months in Quantico at The Basic School to learn how to become a basic rifle platoon commander. In the Marine Corps, you acquire a military occupational specialty but you also need to be able to pick up a rifle in combat. At The Basic School, I received training in the use of weapons, tactics, and leadership. At the end of this training, I compiled a list of my preferred military occupational specialties. I was assigned as a combat engineer, and I am currently at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina for this training. I am learning about wood framing construction, urban breaching, constructing obstacles and survivability positions. After this training, I will be stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.

What has been most challenging and rewarding about joining the Marine Corps?

The most challenging aspect of being a Marine is that it continuously forces me to be out of my comfort zone. You have to do things you are not comfortable with but then you start to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. For instance, during OCS, you may get up early to go for a hike but then be thrown into an activity where you are leading your peers through the woods on a mission.  It’s made me a stronger person and I am grateful for that. During my time in the Marine Corps, I have enhanced my leadership and problem solving skills along with my ability to adapt and make decisions under pressure. The most rewarding part of this experience so far has been the Marines I have had the opportunity to work with. I am surrounded by great people including my peers and higher-ranking Marines who inspire me to give 100 percent each day.

How has your college education prepared you for your career as a Marine?

Traditionally the College of Charleston does not seem like a school where graduates would go on to the military, but it was a great stepping stone to get here. It’s such a special place with so many opportunities for unique experiences. I especially benefited when my professors incorporated the City of Charleston into learning. I brought a well-rounded perspective to my career. My liberal arts courses have given me a lot of information on different topics. For example, my knowledge of sociology was helpful because as a Marine you work with people all the time. Most people who study political science have an interest in what is going on around the world and current events. Having a global understanding is also critical in the military.


under: Alumni

Political science is a versatile degree and it is important for majors to be open to the many and various career opportunities available. This theme emerged during the Political Science Department’s Career Café Series Kickoff Luncheon on September 15, 2017.  Once again, departmental alumni spoke with currents students, sharing how they navigated their careers after graduating with a political science major from the College of Charleston.

Alumni panelists for the September Career Café were Emily Gooding (’13), Product Coordinator at BiblioLabs, LLC; Dustin Haynes (’12), Employer and Public Relations Office at Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union; and Sam Spence (’08), Web Editor at Charleston City Paper. In addition, College of Charleston Career Counselor, Emma Waugh, shared the myriad of services offered by the Career Center (for more information on these services, please visit careercenter.cofc.edu).

Panelists also talked about how they were drawn to their current positions because of their ability to stay involved in the community. They also emphasized the importance of networking and lifelong learning. Students also had an opportunity to ask questions.

Gibbs Knotts, Political Science Department Chair, stressed the department’s commitment to helping students prepare for life after College.  According to Knotts, “The political science department has been producing high quality graduates since the 1970s and it makes perfect sense to connect our currents students with our distinguished alumni.”

The focus for the next Career Café Series Luncheon in November will be on job opportunities in the public sector.  Political science alumni will discuss why they decided to pursue careers in the public sector and how the political science major has prepared them for their positions. Additional luncheons will take place in Spring 2018.

under: Alumni, Events, Faculty, Student

As Texas recovers from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, Dr. Matthew Nowlin, assistant professor of political science, is working with colleagues to bring together members of the public, natural resource managers, and other decision makers to discuss issues important to South Carolina’s coastal community. Our Coastal Future Forum will focus on environmental health pollution and contaminants of water ways, offshore energy production, coastal biodiversity, climate change and rising sea levels. According to Dr. Nowlin, “The purpose of the forum is to gain insight into how people on the coast think about these issues, how to better communicate about these problems, and how we can move forward in making decisions about these complex issues.”

Our Coastal Future Forum is possible because of a two-year grant that Dr. Nowlin, Dr. Susan Lovelace from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, and University of Oklahoma Assistant Professor Dr. Justin Reedy received from the National Academies of Sciences Gulf Research Program.  “The overarching question of the project is to determine if a deliberative forum is an effective way of decision making,” noted Nowlin. “For instance, how do we engage all stakeholders to address complex problems like climate change which is greatly politicized and how do we break through the political gridlock that exists?”

Collaboration has been key to success in the project thus far. Dr. Nowlin credits the diverse array of environmental experts that Dr. Lovelace has assembled. Dr. Kendra Stewart and Dr. Bob Kahle at the Joseph P. Riley Center for Livable Communities have also assisted in surveying South Carolina’s eight coastal counties to help recruit for the event. They have also fielded a statewide survey and are currently preparing a national survey addressing coastal issues. One of the main challenges Dr. Nowlin’s team faces is recruiting a significant number of public participants willing to spend a day and a half to participate in the forum but it is a challenge that they are embracing.

Dr. Nowlin joined the Department of Political Science in August of 2013. He currently teaches an undergraduate environmental policy course, a graduate level public policy course, and a sustainable resource management course for the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan. He has also taught courses in research methods, American government, the political science capstone, and first year experience.

Dr. Nowlin earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma in May 2013. He also holds a B.A. in Psychology and a M.A. in Political Science from the University of Central Oklahoma. His research is focused on the policymaking process and linkages between public policy and public opinion. In addition, his research addresses substantive questions in climate change and used nuclear fuel politics and policy. His work has appeared in Policy Studies Journal, Risk Analysis, Social Science Quarterly, and Weather, Climate, and Society. He is currently writing a book that focuses on ways in which the United States can address climate change given how environmental policies and politics have evolved.

under: Events, Faculty, Scholarships and Awards

First Jordan Rively Scholarship Awarded

Posted by: wichmannkm | August 31, 2017 | No Comment |

Junior political science major Gabrielle Williams is the first recipient of the Jordan Rively Scholarship. The scholarship was recently created by political science alum, Joseph Rively ’89.  He established the scholarship in memory of his grandparents, who funded his College of Charleston education. Mr. Rively is the Director of International Development at University of Pennsylvania and resides in Philadelphia.

Williams expressed considerable appreciation after being notified of the award. “Getting this scholarship allows me to focus on my schoolwork and extracurricular activities instead of having to focus on affording my tuition,” noted the aspiring criminal law attorney. “It will help me relax and spend time enjoying this whole experience,” Williams added.

The annual scholarship is intended for students pursuing their B.A. at the College of Charleston in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and provides $2,500 support. Preference is given to Political Science majors.

under: Alumni, Scholarships and Awards, Student

Sapa, Vietnam stands at an elevation of 4,921 feet, and has been fondly coined by visitors as “the city in the clouds.” With just one week left of our summer study abroad experience, we sat on the side of a mountain, overlooking the lush green rice paddies that dress the Valley and snacking on some $0.75 pho ga. It was the perfect moment for us to reflect on the six cities that we had already traveled to, and all of the growth that our time in Cambodia and Vietnam had already afforded us.

The CofC Summer Program in Cambodia and Vietnam, co-run by Dr. Jen Wright and Dr. Christopher Day, offers six credits in psychology, political science, or environmental studies. The program utilizes an interdisciplinary academic approach, combining class discussions that cover post-conflict governments, international intervention, and humanitarian aid, with an individual research project that is entirely of the student’s own creation. Cambodia is a country with a corrupt government recovering from a genocide in the 1980s.  Conversely, Vietnam is a rising regional power experiencing rapid economic growth, offer excellent opportunities for personal and academic growth.

As the trip comes to a close, we thought we’d reflect upon our experiences so that we could share them with you:

What was your favorite part of the trip?

Patrick: During our stay in Cambodia we had a free weekend, so Eric and I went to Koh Rong, an island in the Southwest.  While we were in Koh Rong, we rented kayaks and went to a small island where we found an abandoned Buddhist temple.  Exploring the ruins of the temple was surreal and incredible– definitely a highlight for me!

Eric: Like Patrick, Koh Rong was the highlight of my trip. We were grabbing dinner around dusk at a beachfront restaurant, and our waitress told us to wade out about a meter deep into the ocean once it was completely dark, then swish our arms around the water. We waded out, and as we churned our arms through the crystal clear Pacific, we realized that we were surrounded by tens of thousands of electric blue, bioluminescent plankton. It was unreal.

What was the most valuable lesson we learned on the trip so far?

Patrick: I learned to be more mindful of my environmental impact.  I saw so much litter in all of the cities, so much deforestation, and so much smog. It’s heartbreaking and disgusting to watch people destroy the environment like this, and it made me pay more attention to how my privileged position as an American gives me the ability to make choices to preserve the environment.  I also learned that I pay too much for coffee in America.  Vietnamese coffee is ten times better (and cheaper) than Starbucks!

Eric: During this trip, I became acutely aware of the impact that nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and aid groups have on local communities. That being said, it is ESSENTIAL that you volunteer with and support organizations that do meaningful work. The sad reality is that there are many nonprofits that are marked by corruption or are working counterintuitively against their service population. Avoid putting time and resources into these organizations by heavily researching nongovernmental organizations before you donate and volunteer, especially abroad!

What is challenging you the most so far?

Patrick: Seeing such widespread poverty is really difficult. Even though poverty certainly exists in the U.S., it’s more frequent and visible in Cambodia and Vietnam.  Watching children dig through trash next to emaciated street dogs and seeing entire homes without electricity and plumbing opened my eyes to global inequality and suffering.  Although this was devastating, we visited NGOs working to break the cycle of poverty for entire villages, which gives me a lot of hope and optimism.

Eric: Each afternoon, we had a four hour block to traverse the cities we visited and interview locals for our research. This was intimidating at first, especially considering that I did not speak any Khmer or Vietnamese prior to the trip. After your first couple of interviews, however, this anxiety vanishes–everyone in Cambodia and Vietnam is incredibly friendly.

What was the craziest food you eaten (or plan to eat)?

Patrick: I tried to order scorpions but the restaurant was out, so instead I tried red tree ant soup.  The flavor wasn’t bad, but picking wings and legs from my teeth wasn’t too fun!

Eric: I ate a live snail off of the jungle floor in Mondulkiri. Always respect the sanctity of the double-dog dare. Also, thanks for the $20, Dr. Day!

Cofc’s Summer Abroad Program to Cambodia and Vietnam will provide students with both the structure of a holistic curriculum and the autonomy to make the trip their own. To find out more information, email Dr. Day at dayc@cofc.edu or Dr. Wright at wrightJJ1@cofc.edu.

Patrick is a sophomore political science and economics double major with a minor in Asian Studies.  This is his first study abroad experience.  Eric is a senior international studies and psychology double major with minors in Spanish and political science.  This is his fifth study abroad experience.

under: Faculty, Student

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