As Acting Chair for the past academic year, I am happy to report news from the Department of Political Science to our alumni, students, and friends. This has been my third stint as department chair – having served previously in 1995-2000 and 2010-11. From my vantage point as a very experienced senior scholar, I have never been more impressed with the continued excellence and vitality of our staff, faculty, and students.
Our faculty is shrinking in numbers (due to budget cuts), but never has it been more uniformly strong in the quality of professional activity. We have a large number of award winning authors of books and articles; many faculty members regularly also publish op-ed pieces and blogs as well as conduct interviews for the press, on topics ranging from race and environmental issues to electoral and constitutional politics. This year we again organized three very well attended faculty panels on topical issues, including the recent spring panel on “Trump, Trade, and Tariffs.” Our many centers continue to produce high level research, intellectually lively colloquia, and public outreach.
Our faculty also is highly committed to excellence in teaching. Our classes generate some of the most positive reviews from students on the campus, and we have a number of award winners among our instructors. Just this past year, Associate Professor Megan Ming Francis was recognized with a UW Distinguished Teaching Award.
Our graduate program continues to thrive at a very high level, enabling us to place students in very good academic jobs or other careers. We placed Ph.D.s in tenure track jobs at University of Toronto-Scarborough and University of Massachusetts-Amherst, starting in fall of 2018. A number of students won prestigious post-doctoral fellowships, including at Harvard and Brandeis University. Our graduate students also continue to perform superbly as award-winning Teaching Assistants in our undergraduate classes and as our Research Assistants.
Finally, but not least, our undergraduate program is growing again in student numbers and, by all counts, delivering high quality instruction to those students. We have one of the oldest and most respected honors programs on campus, and many of our undergraduates continue to compete effectively for fellowships, awards, grants, acceptance to graduate and professional schools, and good job opportunities. We are especially proud that The Washington Center awarded the University of Washington as the Public Institution of the Year for 2017, recognizing the exciting internship program administered by out department.
I was asked to serve as chair this year because our previous chair, my good friend and colleague Dr. George Lovell, was asked to take a position as Divisional Dean of Social Sciences. George is the second of our chairs lured to dean roles in the last decade (Steve Majeski was the other), underlining the high quality of our faculty leadership. I am very pleased to announce that our new chair will be John Wilkerson, who has agreed to a five-year term, beginning in fall of 2018. Dr. Wilkerson is a distinguished professor who researches and teaches American politics, game theory, public policy, and statistical methods. I and my colleagues fully expect that he will continue the tradition of outstanding leadership in our department.
As always, we are grateful for the support we receive from our alumni and friends. We hope to see many of you at our aforementioned quarterly faculty panels; they have been a very successful way for us to reach out to our alumni and the broader outside community. We are particularly interested in learning more about what our alumni are doing, in large part because we believe that better knowledge about alumni careers can help us to serve our current students. Please send us updates and news through the alumni update link on our department webpage. You can also follow us on LinkedIn. We would love to hear from you.
Gordon Hirabayashi Professor for the Advancement of Citizenship
Chair, Department of Political Science