During the summers I love to travel. In 2006 I hiked the Inca Trail as part of a visit to Machu Picchu, a World Heritage Site.
|In 1969 and 1970, the campus at the University of California, Santa Barbara experienced a series of tumultuous events: an oil spill just off the coast, the first Earth Day observance, and anti-war protests that brought National Guard troops to shut down the campus. I was fortunate to be a student at UCSB then because it shaped, at least in part, my lifelong interest in current events. I had never heard of political science at that point in my education, but a friend advised me to enroll in a course on Congress “because that’s where all the cute guys are.” The idea of becoming a university professor had never occurred to me then.
After a circuitous route that life route that started in southern California, then went to Boston, back to southern California, then on to northern California, back to southern California, and back once again to northern California, I became a political scientist. After my first two-year stint teaching at a small liberal arts school, I entered the political realm, became an unemployed political scientist, developed programs to help victims of crime, started a small consulting company, and then went back to teaching, this time in Oregon. Fate and a broken heart brought me to Flagstaff, Arizona in 1997, and once again, I was a political scientist.
The story is important because it illustrates the varied paths that one can take with an interest in politics. You won’t find classified ads searching for “political scientist wanted” but there are incredible opportunities that await. It is a discipline that builds skills as much as it builds a base of knowledge: the ability to speak to an audience, to write well, to become engaged in society, to conduct research and analyze, to think critically, to organize, and to understand.
I met a few cute guys in my courses when I was a student, and I am forever touched by the images of student protesters. I have been able to travel widely, memorizing the moments I have spent in the twilight on the Inca Trail in Peru, in the long dawn of the Irish coast, and in the poppy fields of France and Italy. But my most fond memories are built each semester at commencement when I watch former students graduate and move on to the next exciting chapters in their lives. That’s why I teach.