Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Interview with Visiting Professor Jennifer Richard

By: Julia Lewando

Continuing its series on the 2014-2015 visiting professors, the Tulane Political Science Department interviewed Dr. Jennifer Richard. Dr. Richard earned her PhD from LSU in 2014. This semester she is teaching Political Thought in the West and two sections of Comparative Politics.

You’re teaching Political Thought in the West and Comparative Politics this semester -
do you have a preference?
Honestly, I love these two classes equally. The intro courses are survey courses; we look at a lot of concepts and/or thinkers over the course of the semester. Some professors prefer to teach the courses that have more depth as opposed to breadth. I love teaching those courses, as well. But, the intro courses are a blast because I get to introduce students to an entire field of study, which I happen to really love! I am like a kid in a candy shop with these courses.

Students sometimes shy away from Political Thought. Do you have any encouragement or advice for those considering Political Thought courses?
The things we teach in political theory are certainly more abstract, but that does mean that they are any less relevant. For many of us, taking a theory course will require that we think about things in a different and new way. This is valuable no matter what you study or what you plan to do with your life. It is valuable as a human being to think, and to think about different possibilities. That is what theory is about; it isn’t scary, it is uncertain. That uncertainty might be intimidating, but, for me, it is exhilarating.

What classes are you looking forward to teaching next semester and why?
I am very excited to be teaching a new course! It is POLC 4011, “Revolution and the Arab
Spring.” While it is a comparative politics course, it is also theory-heavy. So, it will be
fun to teach a course that brings together my two areas of interest.

If you could have dinner with any three political scientists or writers, who would it be?
Without a doubt, my first choice would be Hannah Arendt. Having studied her theory for
years, it would be great to ask her some questions, maybe get some answers! Second,
I would sit down with Rachid Ghannouchi, who is an influential Tunisian liberal Islamic
thinker. I am fascinated by his work and life. And, third, I would like to have a chat with
Albert Camus. His works are some of my favorites – The Plague, The Myth of Sisyphus,
The Rebel, The Stranger, and the list goes on!

Meeting President Bill Clinton

Tulane students in Professor Carville's Current American Politics course got the surprise of a lifetime when President Bill Clinton spoke to the class this week.  The course studies contemporary political issues, so an impromptu class trip was scheduled to hear the President speak at an event for United States Senator Mary Landrieu in Baton Rouge, LA.  

After the event concluded, the students were rushed to a private room to hear from their special guest speaker.

"We are fortunate that of President Clinton's many talents, brevity with young people is not one of them," said Professor of Practice James Carville.  "The President spent a lot of one on one time with the class sharing stories from his Presidential campaign and Presidency. What a great experience for our students and a terrific part of a Tulane education."

Nick Stone, a senior from Portland Oregon double-majoring in political science and political economy stated, "The whole experience was unbelievable, from getting the email about the opportunity right up to meeting the former President himself. There was even a moment when both Senator Landrieu and President Clinton were talking to us at the same time, which made the whole scenario completely surreal."

Adjunct Professor Mike Sherman who participated in the trip and assists with the course added, "Since its inception, this course has been about bridging the worlds of theory and practice.  After a semester of hearing stories from Professor Carville, we all enjoyed hearing President Clinton share stories about Professor Carville and the 1992 campaign.  It goes without saying our Tulane students represented the University proudly."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Interview with Visiting Professor Michael Tyburski

By: Jennie Barker

To welcome its visiting professors for the 2014-2015 academic year, the Tulane Political Science
Department interviewed Dr. Michael Tyburski about his background and research interests. Dr. Tyburski earned his doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 2014. This semester, Dr. Tyburski is teaching two sections of Scopes and Methods and two sections of International Relations. ​

What is your current research focus?
 I study the relationship between the international economy and domestic politics, focusing on issues in states with developing economies. I'm currently working on a number of projects that investigate how international migration  and migrant remittances influence corruption "back home." In this case, remittances are the transfers of money sent by migrant workers back to their home countries. Usually this involves sending money directly to family members or friends, but sometimes groups of migrants get together and send funds back to their communities as a whole. In the past, scholars argued that remittances made corruption worse by allowing governments to govern poorly without fearing political backlash. My dissertation, however, demonstrated that remittances can help mitigate corruption by increasing pressure on governments to reduce corruption. My current projects try to explain why remittances appear to make corruption worse in some countries, but seem to help reduce corruption in others. 

Many political science majors are unsure of what they will do after they graduate. How did you choose to go to graduate school and become an academic?
I am probably the worst person to ask this question! I did not declare my major in political science until my senior year because I was more interested in pursuing a theatre degree. My parents suggested that this would not be a good career move for me, and I eventually agreed. I did not, however, want to pursue law school because I didn't think I would enjoy being a lawyer. To make a long story short, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I applied to graduate school. Do not be like me. I ended up loving graduate school and academics, but I often think about how reckless that decision was. 

What class are you most excited about teaching next semester? Why?
Next semester I will be teaching two sections of the same course: Scope and Methods of Political Science. It's a new course for me this semester and I am looking forward to applying the lessons I've learn to improve next semester's offering. This semester has been great, but you learn what works well for you and what does not.

If you could teach any class, what would you teach and to whom would you teach it?
This is a tough question. If I could teach any class, I think it would be a seminar on how the international economy influences corruption. I think it's important to think about what corruption is and why international economic activity, like trade, foreign investment, migration, remittances, foreign aid, seems to affect countries in different manners. I'd offer the course to anyone who is interested, but I think it'd be useful to have some background in international relations and economics. 

What are your favorite things about Tulane/New Orleans so far? ​
I am enjoying New Orleans, but my favorite aspect of being here has been being at Tulane. The other professors have been incredibly supportive of me, which I am incredibly grateful for. I enjoy working with my students too. Everyone is energetic and interested in learning. I couldn't ask for a better experience thus far!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Scholarship and activism with a global reach


Professor Sally J. Kenney recently lead a workshop for women judges in Georgia as part of the Judicial Independence and Legal Empowerment Project.

The Tulane New Wave has a nice writeup on Professor Kenney's recent work.

What's really stalling the Israel-Palestinian peace process


Tulane Associate Professor of Political Science, Christopher Fettweis has an op-ed in today's LA Times.

Interview with Professor Remer on New “Politics and Morality” Course


Julia Lewando

Fall 2014 will be the first semester teaching Politics and Morality (POLT3010). How did the idea for this class develop?

“I had previously taught Rhetoric and Politics and was interested in rhetoric as a model for political thinking and political theory. Acting politically raises questions of morality, and so this class is designed as a special topic focusing on political morality. Rhetoric will be discussed, but the focus will be on morality in politics.”

How will the class be organized?

“There will be a mix of discussion and lecture, and the class will be organized thematically. The class will discuss topics that fall under “politics as normal” and political decision making under extreme conditions.”

What are some of the questions the class will deal with?

“It will deal with the question of is there a difference between morality in general and in politics? Is there a separate standard for politicians? Whether it is possible to be a politician and be moral; can you be both or do you have to choose? There will also be questions about everyday politics. When politicians speak to the public, they attempt to emotionally manipulate their listeners. The same is true for political ads. Politicians have to sacrifice principles for efficiency. The class will address a range of topics, from torture, drones, the issue of collateral damage versus purposeful destruction that we have seen throughout history, today and with the bombing of Hiroshima, for example.”

When politicians attempt to manipulate the public, they can do so without the public even noticing it.

“And that brings up the question of to what extent is the public responsible for being aware of what they’re being presented? Where is the culpability, the responsibility? Is it the responsibility of the public to know what they’re seeing and do something, or of the politician to alter what they present?”

For students who have never taken a Political Thought class, what would you say the main difference is between Political Thought and other subfields of Political Science?

“In Political Thought, rather than taking norms and values as given, there is discussion of the values themselves. In terms of looking at, understanding and judging morality, we have to look at the consequences of an action, whether it promotes the greatest good.”

So more philosophical.

“Yes. There’s analyzing and questioning norms and values, not just accepting them.”

What are you most excited about teaching this class?

“I am most excited because these issues aren’t new. They are inherent to political systems going back to the ancient Greeks. These questions of morality are part of the political condition and the human condition.”

Interview with Alumnus Ali Vitali: Digital Journalist at MSNBC


By Amy Brown
The following is an interview with Tulane graduate, Ali Vitali. She is the first to participate in a series of career-related interviews with current and former Tulane Political Science students. Ali is presently a digital journalist with MSNBC and Vice President of Sweet Lemon Mag, a digital magazine and blog.

Have you always wanted to be a journalist?

I always knew I wanted to be in media. At first -- after a stint interning with Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon -- I thought that might mean producing late night TV. But then during one particularly heated, yet informed, debate about politics with some friends (at The Boot, no less!) I realized that this was what I loved. So I started delving into journalism with my honors thesis and I guess I liked what I found! I'm constantly finding new things I love about this field and the many ways we now have to report news.

How did you begin working for MSNBC?

I started here (as an intern!) in September 2012-- right before the election. Actually the infamous Romney '47 percent' tape was during my first or second week, so it was a really exciting time. I flipped over from intern to staff with a staff offer after Hurricane Sandy and so it goes.

What have been your favorite stories to write about?

I've been lucky in that I've been able to explore a lot of different beats during my time here, but I've always been passionate about foreign relations, gun control, and equal rights. There was one story I found about a Turkish man who started a Kickstarter campaign during the #OccupyGezi movement in Istanbul, Turkey and the role that social media is playing in these round the world hashtag crusades; another few reporting on state by state cases of gun control legislation, especially in the aftermath of the horrible Sandy Hook shooting. I remember I felt strangely proud when I got to write the headline that Colorado was passing comprehensive gun laws, especially after all of the violence that state had seen, or when I reported on a story that Delaware became the 11th state to legalize gay marriage. I also love writing about Millennials and being a female 20-something, not usually on MSNBC.com, but with SweetLemonMag.com, a digital magazine and lifestyle blog of which I am the Vice President and host of their YouTube channel series, "Sweet Lemon TV."

What have been the most difficult stories for you to write about?

Shootings are particularly hard for me and unfortunately they seem to be becoming a more frequent occurrence. There's this crazy chart from The Rachel Maddow Show (attached) that hits this point home that this is happening so often; it really makes you sit back for a second and think "wow, really? How is this OK?"

What do you find to be the best part about your job?

I get to read, tweet, talk about news and issues that I'm passionate about all day. Oftentimes, talking about those issues elicits some negative response, but I decided early on that if I'm getting hate-tweets about something I wrote it probably means I'm doing something right. Plus, I watch at least 5 hours of cable news a day-- which probably sounds miserable to normal people but I kind of like it, haha.

Where do you hope your career with MSNBC will take you?

This industry is amazing in that it moves so quickly and you never know where, when, or with who your next opportunity is going to come from. I've been with msnbc digital for about a year now and in a few weeks I'm embarking on a new chapter with a move to be a Graphics PA on The Cycle. If someone were to ask me today what I want to be when I grow up, the answer would probably be different if they asked me tomorrow. It's good to be driven and ambitious (I'm pretty Type A, so I am those things) but those traits aren't mutually exclusive with being open to new things and opportunities.

What advice would you give to students wanting to pursue a career in journalism?

Write as much as you can. The Notes app in iPhone, or anything equivalent to that, is your friend because life throws potential stories at you often. The Internet, and the blogosphere more specifically, has given everyone a forum to voice their opinions. And while sometimes that can be used for evil (I see you, hate-tweeters!), it can also be used for good, constructive conversation on blogs, or in YouTube videos, or on Twitter. Start those conversations! Interact with big voices or people you're interested in on social media and who knows what kinds of discussions you may spark. Some social media advice: always think before you tweet, post, comment, Facebook. I keep that reminder on a Post-It on my desk just for the extra emphasis.