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Letter from the Chair

Submitted by Jerome Kohl on October 15, 2018 - 4:24pm
John Wilkerson, Department Chair
John Wilkerson

It is a privilege to serve as the new chair of the Political Science department.  I have spent my entire academic career at the University of Washington. Our family also has a long Husky history – my grandmother earned her B.A. from the UW in 1928 (!) and my son earned his in 2015. The main things I have come to appreciate so far is our capable and dedicated staff and the valuable advice of several former chairs.

The department is doing well despite broader budgetary challenges. Undergraduate majors are up by 50 percent since 2014. In 2017–18, over 900 undergraduates majored in political science, and almost 6,000 students enrolled in our courses.  

Certainly an important reason is stellar teaching. Associate Professor Megan Ming Francis joins six other university-wide teaching award winners from our department. The 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award specifically recognizes her “tough but fun” teaching style. Courses such as Professor Mark Alan Smith’s Seeking Truth in an Age of Cynicism and Political Polarization also help students make sense of a turbulent world. Finally, we try to prepare students for what comes next, through career workshops and exceptional internship and research opportunities including the Washington State Legislative Internship Program, the Honors Program, the CAPPP Undergraduate Research Fellows Program and the Mary Gates Undergraduate Research Symposium.

This year is distinguished by the largest entering class of graduate students (11) in quite some time. Autumn quarter is also when Ph.D.s or soon to be Ph.D.s go on the academic job market. It’s a stressful time with a lot of uncertainty, but our placement record has been quite strong in recent years. Another recent development is that tech firms are increasingly interested in our graduates. Former students are now employed at Google, Microsoft, and Airbnb among others.

I hope that you enjoy the articles in this newsletter and I invite you to visit our department website for more stories and information. Finally, if you are in the Seattle area, there are a number of public events happening this fall. For example, on October 30th, former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will lead the first of three Doug and Maggie Walker Conversations sponsored by the Center For Environmental Politics (space is limited). On November 1st, The 2018 Midterms and their Consequences will have faculty members Chris Parker, Mark Alan Smith, and Sophia Wallace looking ahead to November 6th and discussing why they are so important from a policy perspective. And on November 14th, University of Michigan Political Scientist and NYT contributor Brendan Nyhan will present his research examining the political consequences of fake news as part of the graduate school’s public lecture series.  We hope to see you there!

 John Wilkerson

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