On Tuesday, October 16, the department hosted the first Inklings gathering of the semester. Dr. Ionut Popescu, gave a talk on “The Rise of Offensive Realism in American Grand Strategy.” The talk was followed by a discussion with the faculty and graduate students.
The department’s “Inklings” gatherings take their name from a small group of intellectuals (whose ranks included J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) who met weekly at Oxford University in the early and middle decades of the 20th century to read aloud and discuss their works in progress.
On October 8th, 2018 Dr. Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at the Harvard Kennedy School visited the department to discuss the state of our political system, free speech, and the media. He spoke to Dr. Varacalli’s constitutional law class about “disinformation on social media” and its impact on our political discourse. Dr. Patterson also met with a group of faculty and political science majors over lunch to discuss the stage of the discipline.
Dr. Patterson is author of the books Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism and The Vanishing Voter. His earlier work, The Unseeing Eye, was named by the American Association for Public Opinion Research as one of the 50 most influential books on public opinion in the past half century.
On October 5th & 6th, undergraduate students from across the country met at the University of Dallas to participate in The Good Life: An Undergraduate Conference in the Liberal Arts. Two Texas State students were selected to attend and present their research. Sabra Woodward, a junior, participated in a panel on “Order and the Spiritual,” presenting a paper entitled “A Bright Light in a Dark Age: King Alfred the Great’s Translation and Preface of ‘Pastoral Care’ by Gregory I”. Sabra noted that “our presentations went smoothly and we enjoyed learning from the 19 other presenters from around the country.” Woodward and Olszewski were the only students from a public college or university whose papers were accepted by the conference. Other schools represented included St. John’s College, Santa Fe, Baylor University, and Kenyon College. Evan Olszewski, also a junior, participated in a panel of “Law and Tradition,” delivering a paper on “The Role of Reputation in Authority in Ibsen’s The Pillars of Society.” “I was very surprised at just how professional and well-researched all the presentations were, and the engagement from the other students was amazing,” Evan observed. “There was a lot of personal interest in our papers, which was really encouraging.” The conference concluded with a keynote address entitled “Pietas” given by Dr. Susan Hanssen, Chair of the History Department, University of Dallas.
On October 4th, Dr. Bruce Frohnen, Professor of Law at Ohio Northern University, visited campus to explore the past, present and future of the American constitutional system. Over 150 students and faculty members attended his lecture on "Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law," which explored how the increasing role played by the bureaucracy has transformed the American polity. “I really learned a lot from Dr. Frohnen’s lecture,” observed Ezekiel Loseke, a graduate student in political science. “It really brought home to me how much the American constitutional system has changed over the years.” Dr. Frohnen also conducted two seminars for students and faculty. One seminar examined the future of the American constitutional system; the other addressed competing understanding of the role of constitutions in political life. Political science majors joined Dr. Frohnen for both lunch and dinner on the day of his visit.
Dr. Bruce P. Frohnen holds the Ella and Ernest Fisher Chair at Ohio Northern University. His books include Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law (co-authored with George W. Carey), The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism, and Rethinking Rights: Historical, Political and Philosophical Perspectives.
Dr. Daron Shaw (University of Texas at Austin) visited Texas State University on Tuesday, October 2, to discuss the Mid-Term elections coming up in November. He conducted a seminar for faculty and majors exploring how scholars and political parties aggregate date to learn how the electorate may vote. Later that afternoon, he spoke to a group of over 150 students and faculty about the upcoming mid-term election, particularly about whether which party would capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. He also discussed polling and how they work and whether to trust them.
Dr. Shaw is a member of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the National Election Studies Board of Overseers, and the editorial board for American Politics Research. He serves on the national decision team for Fox News and on the Advisory Board of the Annette Strauss Institute. He has worked as a survey research analyst in several political campaigns as well as a strategist in the 2000 and 2004 presidential election campaigns. His books include The Race to 270 and Unconventional Wisdom: Facts and Myths about American Voters (co-author).
Several faculty members from Political Science participated in the College of Liberal Arts’ Innovation Day on September 24th. Dr. Walter Wright participated in the "Across Borders and Nations" segment of Innovation Day exploring his work training mediators from San Luis Potosí and Monterrey and a cross-border mediation program between dispute resolution centers in Texas and the Mexican State of Tamaulipas that he helped establish. Dr. Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo shared her work relating the philosophical sources of the American founding to Native American and African experiences and origins. Dr. Thomas Doyle spoke about nuclear proliferation and increasing international tensions. Dr. Thomas Longoria spoke about his experiences participating in the City of Georgetown’s Bloomberg Challenge Project Team. The Bloomberg Challenge is a competition designed to encourage innovation in the public sector. His research concerned whether the citizens of Georgetown were comfortable with the creation of a virtual powerplant that would be made by taking solar panels from the city’s West Texas power supply and installing them on the roofs of private homes along with installation of batteries next to selected homes.
On Thursday, September 20th, more than 300 Texas State students and faculty, along with Dr. Mary Brennan, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Dr. Gene Bourgeois, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, attended the department’s annual “Constitution Day” Lecture. Delivered by Dr. Keith Whittington of Princeton University, the lecture explored “Why We Should Value Campus Free Speech.” The lecture was followed by questions and discussion and, afterwards, students huddled around Dr. Whittington to extend the conversation for an additional half hour. Prior to the lecture, a group of political science majors spoke with Dr. Whittington over dinner at Palmer’s Restaurant.
On Friday the 21st, Dr. Whittington conducted a seminar on “Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech”, attended by more than two dozen Texas State students and faculty. The seminar was followed by a lunch affording another group of majors the opportunity to talk one-on-one with Dr. Whittington.
Robert Wilson, a graduate student in political science, praised the “deeply probing” nature of Whittington’s remarks, observing that he brought “academic depth” to a subject of intense debate on today’s campuses, a topic that is freely debated through the type of “popular talking points” found on the internet. Michelle Dean, a senior, noted that Whittington provided a much-needed reminder of the importance of campuses protecting “controversial” speech, “not just speech we agree with.”
The lecture and events were sponsored by the Department of Political Science’s Discourse in Democracy project and co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and Jack C. Miller Center for Teaching America’s Founding Principles and History.
Dr. Whittington is William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University. His books include Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech, as well as Constitutional Construction: Divided Powers and Constitutional Meaning, and Political Foundations of Judicial Supremacy: The Presidency, the Supreme Court, and Constitutional Leadership in U.S. History.
On Wednesday, September 12, more than 100 political science and public administration students attended the department’s annual “Meet the Professors” event sponsored by Discourse in Democracy. The event gives students an opportunity to meet faculty members, to hear about their backgrounds and specialization, and to learn about the courses they teach. It also gave students a chance to hear about upcoming departmental events and the various student groups that work with the department. The formal presentations were followed by a social gathering that gave students a chance to talk informally with faculty over pizza. Attendees received a free tee shirt courtesy of Discourse in Democracy.
Mayra de Luna, a junior, observed that the event brought home to her how “many truly amazing professors and mentors” the department has. Likewise, Evan Olszewski, a junior, noted that one of his “favorite things about the department” is the high level of “interaction between the students and faculty.” He said that he always looks forward to Meet the Professors “because it brings everyone together outside the office or classroom and you get to see the professors as approachable people, happy to share their ideas and work. Also, meeting the department’s newer faculty is always fun, because you can see how they fit in with and relate to the rest of the faculty.”
On Wednesday, September 5th, Supporting Women In Political Science (SWIPS) hosted an event giving its members the chance to meet some of the female members of the department’s faculty. The twenty students who attended had the opportunity to meet Drs. Vicki Brittain, Hyun Yun, Emily Hanks, Cecilia Castillo, Jennifer Lamm and Ashleen Menchaca-Bagnulo who addressed their questions about women in the discipline of political science and in our department in particular. The students in attendance received free departmental tee-shirts.