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Doctor of Arts Graduate Stories

The Doctor of Arts (DA) program in Political Science at Idaho State University (ISU) started in the late 1960s with the first student graduating from the program around 1971. The DA program started nationally in the 1960s and was initially funded by the Carnegie Foundation. The genius of the DA program was to address deficiencies in how doctoral students are trained for position in higher education. At Idaho State University, the DA degree is a Political Science degree grounded in interdisciplinary thought. The first placement in academia of a DA graduate was in 1972 and the most recent placement was in 2016.

In the ISU program's forty year history, over 85 students have graduated from the program. Our graduates have primarily end up teaching at colleges and universities throughout the United States and even some internationally. DA graduates are deans, chairpersons, and many (who graduated in the 1970s and early 1980s) are now retired or retiring. Other graduates have ended up working in state and local government administration, non-profit organizations, or even private enterprise. In the spring of 2013, the department started a project to post some stories of our DA graduates. We hope to add several graduates each year as a continuing project to capture the history of this unique doctoral degree.

If you want to read a comprehensive list of DA placements since 1996, please visit the graduate placements page.

Dr. Kacee Garner, D.A. 2016

 Kacee Garner

I am just finishing up a term adjuncting at Wartburg College, a small midwestern liberal arts college. I taught a writing-intensive course on social entrepreneurship. I am in the process of moving to New York state and plan to pick up adjunct slots at SUNY-system schools and/or Colgate University in the future. I hope to also continue my dissertation research into the citizenship attitudes of social entrepreneurs, and more particularly, if engaged citizenship attitudes can be increased via classroom exposure to social entrepreneurship principles.

When I chose my undergraduate major at ISU (international studies) I did so because it felt like the closest I could get to a traditional, classical education at a large state university. The DA program was a natural extension of that experience given the diversity of available courses, high level of individual choice, the social science cognate requirement and the foci on both pedagogy and research. For me personally, the DA was a long road that included countless part-time semesters, three kids, two family moves and ultimately, an intense dissertation timeline. However, it is, and will continue to be, one of the defining endeavors of my life.

I have several favorite memories of the DA program. Mostly, I remember the 600-level small-group seminars with many, many pages of reading and preparation in an effort to keep up with, or stay ahead of (I will admit to my academically-competitive nature) my classmates and attempt to contribute something intelligent to discussions. There's no place to hide a lack of preparation when in a class of 3 or 4 people! These seminars are where I most-frequently experienced the exhilarating, almost physical sensation of new synapses connecting in my brain, as I assimilated new ideas and conceptual breakthroughs. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of team teaching as part of the DA. The opportunity to work with and learn techniques from some of the best professors I ever had gave me the confidence to be successful and professional as I stand in front of my own classrooms today.

The best advice I can give DA students is to not academically pigeon-hole yourself as you start or proceed through the program. A student's subfields and interests may shift over the course of the program depending on the courses they choose and the professors with whom they have the opportunity to work. I think it's important to be open to those changes. My dissertation and current research niche ended up being completely different than I would have ever expected. However, it is an area I feel very passionate about, and it has also opened up a wealth of teaching and mentoring opportunities beyond the traditional subfields included in the DA and my anthropology cognate.

Dr. Adam Clapp, D.A. 2015

Adam Clapp 

I am an adjunct professor teaching both lower and upper division courses at the University of Akron and Notre Dame College as well as working on a few research projects concerning human rights abuses. I intend to go into teaching full time and carry out a reasonable research agenda in my field of interest.

I chose the DA and Idaho State University because of the focus on teaching and how to improve my pedagogical skills to adapt to an ever changing classroom. The DA program encourages their students to cultivate a wide variety of interests through the interdisciplinary elements of the program. The opportunity to study American government, comparative/international relations, and history were very appealing to me and made my choice to attend ISU and easy one.

My dissertation took a comparative look at four African nations and the human rights abuses that occur within them; more specifically the human rights abuse of child soldiering. The DA program allows for students to look for topics of interest to them and research those issues, thus allowing academic curiosity and growth. The best piece of advice I can give to students is to explore a topic that will maintain your interest and find that topic early in your graduate career. By finding a topic early it will allow you to actively work on your dissertation with the faculty gradually, this ensures the best possible research and by the time your course work is completed you will have a good portion of your research ready to be adapted into a dissertation.