Greetings from the Chair
Dr. Sean K. Anderson
Department of Political Science
Welcome to the Department of Political Science at Idaho State University!
I am beginning my second year as the Chair of our Department. We look forward to another productive and rewarding academic year serving our students, our profession, and our community. As in life, change and continuity continue to define our department as well as Idaho State. We continue to be a significant presence within the College of Arts and Letters, with over 110 undergraduate majors and the third largest graduate department.
Throughout our campuses we are in the midst of a major transition as the administration of President Arthur Vailas implements an university-wide reorganization. As part of this process the former College of Arts and Sciences has given way to two new colleges: the College of Sciences and Engineering, and the College of Arts and Letters, which is the home of our department. The new College of Arts and Letters has benefitted from the energy and vision of our new Dean, Professor Kandi Turley-Ames, formerly the Chair of the Department of Psychology. The College has an Arts and Letters Division, headed by Associate Dean Randy Earles, and the Social Sciences Division, headed by Associate Dean Ron Hatzenbuehler, in which are found Political Science, History, Socoiology, Psychology and other related disciplines. In order to expand faculty input into College-wide decision-making processes the University mandated the creation of a new College Executive Committee which is currently chaired by Professor Mark McBeth, who is also a senior faculty member of our Department.
As for the department of political science, we are also in the midst of a transition as we witnessed Dr. James Newman leave ISU for a promising position at Western Carolina University in Callowhee, North Carolina. This summer Dr. Robert Forbis left ISU for a position at Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas. Last year we welcomed Dr. Angela Narasimhan who, in addition to her teaching and research in U.S. Constitutional Law, reinvigorated our Pre-Law Advising program and revived and re-energized the ISU Student Law Club. Sadly she had to leave us to join her family in New York state where she has accepted a position at Keuka College in Penn Yan. While she is much missed by her students and colleagues Angela has made a lasting contribution to improving Pre-Law Advising and in encouraging the revival of the Law Club. We wish Angela, James and Robert the very best in their new positions.
We are fortunate to welcome Jeffrey Callen as our newest faculty member who, as Visiting Professor, will be teaching Administrative Process, Urban and Metropolitan Studies, Research Methods for Public Administration, as well as the Introduction to American Government course. Currently our Department is recruiting new faculty to fill the positions vacated by our departing colleagues. It should be noted that one of our Professors Emeriti, Dr. Douglas Nilson, continues to teach courses when the need for an additional instructor arises and that he continues to advise students.
More Opportunities for Quality Education For Our Students:
First, during the past year our Department has put a number of courses entirely on-line, including several sections of our basic Introduction to American Government course and also the Introduction to Politics course. Our Department members are considering how best to put higher division courses on-line. Second, through the forward-looking work of Dr. Donna Lybecker, an agreement was concluded between ISU and Brigham Young University-Idaho that will allow seniors in BYU-I's Political Science program to begin Political Science graduate coursework as part of a program of pre-graduation acceptance into our Masters of Arts program.
This is likely to be the first of several such programs to give students graduating from other Idaho or regional colleges the opportunity to transition into graduate programs at ISU. Third, the International Studies Program, which has been closely associated with the Political Science Department, is being upgraded by the hiring of a full-time Director and fundraiser into a Center of Excellence for the teaching of International Studies.
During the 41st annual Frank Church Symposium on International Affairs, named in honor of the late U.S. Senator from Idaho, Idaho State University's International Affairs Council featured the theme of "Democracy in a Changing World," which lasted from February 29 until March 2, 2012. Margaret Daly Hayes, the first director of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University and adjunct professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., delivered the keynote address "Challenges to Democracy in a World of Change." The symposium's panels covered a range of topics, including women and gender, technology, media and trends, the future of democracy, economics and countries in transition.
This year's theme was especially relevant given the challenges to freedom and democracy around the world, from the Middle East to Asia to our own democracy in the United States. It should be noted that the International Affairs Council is entirely a student-run organization whose members pick the annual topic, invite expert speakers and panelists, and who manage the entire event. The IAC faculty advisor was Dr. Donna Lybecker who is also a former Director of the International Studies Program.
Dr. Mark McBeth, Professor of Public Administration who is also a prolific researcher of public policy issues related to environmental affairs, was selected as one of five top Master Researchers of 2012 at ISU. In addition to his research activities Dr. McBeth was elected Chair of the newly-organized College Executive Committee in which capacity he has served not merely our department but our entire College of Arts and Letters. Dr. Donna Lybecker was also similarly recognized as a Master Teacher at ISU in 2011. Members of our faculty have won outstanding teaching, research, and/or public service awards for the past several years. Dr. Lybecker currently serves as Director of our Graduate Programs.
Our graduate programs continue to be productive and to place their graduates into teaching and service positions. We currently have 10 graduate students in our Master of Arts program, 23 students in our Master of Public Administration program (MPA), and 22 students in our Doctor of Arts (DA) program. In Spring 2011 one of our doctoral students, Dr. Jason Blazevic, was recognized as the Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year and received this award just days after he earned his Doctorate of Arts degree.
Our adjunct (part time) faculty are much valued by our department, bringing invaluable practitioner experience into the classroom. This superb group of instructors includes attorney Mr. Tom Eckert, who teaches criminal law, and our own Doctor of Arts (DA) graduates Dr. Earl Phippen, a former Air Force Academy instructor, and Dr. Seth Kellam, who teaches courses at our Idaho Falls facility.
Some words of advice to new undergraduate majors and minors:
Be pro-active, creative, and entrepreneurial in planning and completing your programs! Currently the employment scene for a newly-graduated liberal arts major is daunting. Public sector employment is no longer a given in an era of increasing fiscal restraints and likely cutbacks in public spending. When picking electives to complete your BA requirements you should consider acquiring skills in demand in the changing job markets, e.g. internet technology, accounting, computer information assurance, and the like. Any political science graduate with a strong foundation in statistics will be more desirable than one lacking such a background. But most of all your potential employers will be interested in whatever practical experience you have acquired: Many are skeptical of four-point GPAs and praise-filled letters from your instructors. They are much more impressed with letters of recommendation from people whom you worked for as interns, campaign workers, service organization volunteers, or private sector employees.
When your former supervisors can vouch for your having a strong work ethic, good social skills in dealing with fellow workers, effective service of their clients, and also effective communication skills, then the doors of employers are more likely to welcome you than if you appear before them with only a diploma in hand. Similarly if you are among those who have already decided to pursue some sort of post-graduate studies or law school acquaint yourself with the facts regarding the job market for graduates of post-graduate academic or professional programs. In a nation whose law schools are producing more lawyers per capita than anywhere else in the world, or even more than in our previous history, you will be a more attractive candidate to potential employers if you have extra skills and work experience, such as some International Studies background, multi-lingual fluency, or some previous work experience in a law office or in an internship. These are just the hard facts of our job market . . and making yourself aware of your job market and economic environment is also a part of the discipline of political science.
Overall I am enthusiastic about where our department currently is and where we are headed. Please feel free to visit the other links on our website to learn more about our programs, our faculty, and our students. We are especially interested in hearing from former students. Send us an email to let us know what you are doing now.