Author: Dr. Emily Stacey, Rose State College
While I won’t claim to be the Pied Piper of Political Science, I’m fairly popular on my small community college campus.
I’m also popular within the community of students beyond just my majors because I make politics accessible and, dare I say, sexy (topical), to my students. I’m passionate about my field and want that to transcend my students for not just a few weeks or months, but beyond.
The following are some ideas I’ve implemented in my department to engage students with the politics around them.
Tip 1: Establish a book or discussion club on campus.
I inherited the Political Science Book Club from a colleague as an adjunct. I’m still running it as a third-year full professor.
I choose a book from Political Science/Theory I think my students should be exposed to before they reach a 4-year university. We parse over the selected title over the course of the semester. Typically, the club will meet on Fridays at noon, and with some help from departmental funds, we’re able to provide lunch and a learning experience.
I’ve had students from various fields, including Microbiology, join the book club and engage in intense political discussions. It’s tons of fun!
Tip 2: Make sure students know each other.
If your institution’s degree plan is set up to group students together in a cohort that take classes together (like most do), take the lead in getting students together and introducing them to one another.
At the beginning of each fall semester, I ask our amazing division academic advisor to pull a list of newly declared majors to add to my list. I invite all of my majors to a meet-and-greet type of event. I usually serve cookies and coffee, and my faculty partners join.
This allows the students we’ll interface with for the next two years to not only get to know each other, but their faculty as well.
Tip 3: Create a distribution list of majors.
Keep your students in the loop! I update my Political Science majors distribution list each semester. I make sure I’m notifying them of events, job and internship opportunities and other information a Political Science student would need or want to know. That fosters the cohort-mentor relationship.
Tip 4: Establish a mentoring program within your department.
My colleagues and I split the list of new majors at the beginning of each academic year for basic guidance on their Political Science education. However, if we can identify students in each other’s area of expertise then we’ll direct students to that faculty member for more individualized guidance. We aim to meet with our students at least once per semester to check in and assist.
Tip 5: Commit to engaging with students.
As a Political Science professor, we’re always in-demand and always relevant. I make myself available to students on campus—this helps make a name for the field and our department.
If I participate in election coverage events on Facebook Live or around campus, I make sure if there’s an event on the campus mall, that I’m seen and interacting with students. This makes other students more likely to engage with you and what you’re selling: The Political Science field.
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