Gibbs Knotts, Dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Dean Gibbs Knotts joined the College of Charleston Department of Political Science as chair in 2012 and has headed HSS since 2019.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” says Dean Knotts. As a senior in high school, he helped teach a geometry class to 9th and 10th graders. Then, as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, he encountered inspiring professors. At UNC, he became particularly interested in studying the American South: southern culture, southern history, southern literature, and of course, southern politics. He earned a B.A. from the University of North Carolina and his M.A. and PH.D. from Emory University.
Prior to arriving at CofC, Knotts served in a number of roles at Western Carolina University. While there, he received the 2004 Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the 2010 Board of Governor’s Teaching Award, and the 2010 University Scholar Award. Amidst all this success, Charleston called to him. Knotts’s mother grew up on Bull Street, and he has fond memories of visiting his family in the city as a child. He had always wanted to work at the College of Charleston, and it was a perfect fit.
Since arriving, he’s made many more great memories, like having a front row seat for the South Carolina presidential primary. He was a member of the College of Charleston Bully Pulpit Series team that hosted Republicans and Democrats in 2016 and all major Democratic candidates in 2020. Knotts’s ready knowledge and ease with journalists both on and off camera have made him a popular expert analyst and commentator, roles he says he enjoys. “Our conversations help me think about how the discipline of political science can inform contemporary political events,” he says. “I think it also helps me apply key course concepts to the current political environment.”
Knotts has published works on political participation, southern politics, public administration, and the scholarship of teaching and learning, and his articles have appeared in a variety of outlets. In addition, Knotts co-edited The New Politics of North Carolina and co-authored The Resilience of Southern Identity: Why the South Still Matters in the Minds of Its People. His most recent book, First in the South: Why South Carolina’s Presidential Primary Matters, was co-authored with CofC’s Dr. Jordan Ragusa. Knotts received the College of Charleston’s Distinguished Research Award in 2017.
Amid all of his accomplishments and the exciting events of which he has been a part, Knotts says he is most proud of helping students achieve their goals. He deems it an honor to play a small part in helping a student land a job or gain admission to law school or graduate school. Student success, he says, is his primary motivator.
As Dean, Knotts particularly values HSS’s exceptional faculty and the fact that they are accomplished teacher-scholars who have a passion for working closely with students. He also lauds the outstanding undergraduate research and mentoring opportunities offered in HSS, including the Women’s Health Research Team, the Environmental Policy Research Group, Crossing the Cistern HSS, and HSS LEAP. Knotts encourages programming that emphasizes inclusion, retention, and student well-being, with a particular focus on diverse populations.
Is there such a thing as “spare time” in the busy life of a Dean? Knotts says that one of the best parts of the job is having the opportunity to learn. He enjoys attending scholarly talks from his colleagues and seeing all the great undergraduate research being done by HSS students. While the life of the mind is important, he also loves relaxing outdoors, fishing on one of the many beautiful rivers of the Lowcountry, running, biking, and spending time with his wonderful family.