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Political Science Departmental News


Poli Sci Student Wins Dean of Students Medal of Hope Award

Maisha Farzana Mumu, a senior poli sci major, was recently awarded the Medal of Hope from the Dean of Students. The Medal of Hope is an award only for students. . .

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University names Dr. Patricia Shields a 2020 University Distinguished Professor

On Tuesday, March 7, President Trauth announced that the university had named Dr. Patricia Shields a 2020 University Distinguished Professor. This award ...

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Political Science Student Presents at Lone Star Conference

Adam Henley Presenting his paper

Poli sci grad student Adam Henley recently presented a paper on John Courtney Murray’s account of American liberalism at the Lone Star Conference for Political Science at Texas A&M . . .

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Semester News, Continued

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  • Dr. Brittain with President Denise Trauth Dr. Brittain Speaking

    On Tuesday, March 10th, the Department of Political Science held a retirement reception honoring Dr. Vicki Brittain in the Reed Parr Room of JCK. Attendees from across campus, including President Denise Trauth, gathered to thank Dr. Brittain for her many years of service to the department and university. Drs. Kenneth Grasso, Chair of the Department of Political Science and Mary Brennan, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts addressed the gathering paying tribute to Dr. Brittain’s contributions. Dr. Brittain thanked the attendees and spoke about how much she has enjoyed her years here and the various roles the university has afforded us her the opportunity to fill.

    Vicki Brittain joined Texas State’s faculty in 1980. During her years here, she served, at various times, as director of the Legal Studies Program, Acting Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Chair of the Department of Political Science and Assistant to the President.

    Brittain Retirement Crowd The cake
  • Kendall Allen answering questions Kendall Allen listening in a panel

    Kendall Allen, an undergraduate poli sci major, presented an original research paper titled “For Their Greatest Good”: Education as a Diplomatic Tool in Negotiations with Native Peoples as part of a panel at the Florida Conference of Historians (FCH) in Lake City, Florida on February 27-29th. Kendall’s research “spanned a pretty large timeline”, as she put it, “starting with the philosophies of Washington and Jefferson and working towards the fruition of the boarding school era.” Her thesis was that “the purpose of schooling young tribe-members was to strategically reduce the landholdings of Native American nations and pacify troublesome tribes.”

    The paper, which had already been presented once and refined by the Phi Alpha Theta History Conference at Texas State, received “stellar” feedback from audience and commentators alike, according to the conference’s faculty liaison, Dr. Ronald Johnson. Dr. Scott Heerman from the University of Miami called Kendall’s research “ambitious, well-polished, and thought provoking.”

    Her paper was one part of a three-person panel featuring papers by two other Texas State students, Hannah Thompson and Ileane Marquez.


    The Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos, in partnership with the Department of Political Science, held its 2020 Spring Lecture on March 5th. The speaker, Dr. David Zarefsky, a professor at Northwestern University and a specialist incommunications and history, is the author of several  books including President Johnson’s War on Poverty and Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate. More than forty people attended his lecture on “War on Poverty – 50 Years Later” which explored the efforts by the Johnson and Kennedy administrations to address the problem of poverty in America.


    In his talk, Dr. Zarefsky spoke about different definitions of poverty and how they influenced the debates in the 1960s surrounding the war. He began by discussing the different approaches employed by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He emphasized the importance of  aggressiveness of President Johnson’s approach and the legislation that resulted from it.

    Political science student, Kelly Torpey noted the lecture was "extremely rewarding" and added she gained a "better understanding of LBJ's social reform policy."


    The lecture was preceded by a reception honoring Dr. Zarefsky and followed by a question and answer session. After the program concluded, Dr. Zarefsky stayed to talk with people individually about his lecture.

  • Legal Studies Legal Studies

    On February 24, 2020, Dr. Cristina Camelino, an attorney and mediator from La Plata, Argentina, gave a presentation to Dr. Wright’s Alternative Dispute Resolution legal studies class on "Mediating with Older Adults." The presentation focused on the implications of  today’s longer lifespans which require us to “unlearn” traditional attitudes about older people and recognize them as people who are able to live productive lives well into their more advanced years. The attitude shift, which she calls “learning anew,” needs to take place among older adults themselves as well as members of younger generations. The general goal is to add more dignity to the lives of older adults. Legal Studies student, Sarai Benitez, noted that Dr. Camelino "showed how as future legal professionals we are able to play a vital and much needed-role." She added it was insightful to relate “mediation to the new aging process.' "


    On Wednesday, February 26th, the department hosted an Inklings gathering featuring Dr. Vance McMahan, one of the department’s professors of practice, who spoke about “Serving the UN: The Good, the Bad and the Surprising.” A U.S. former Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Dr. McMahan’s talk drew on his personal experience there and explored the presidential appointment process; General Assembly voting patterns, including the issue of countries who receive significant aid from the United States but fail to support the U.S. on important votes; and the budget structure of the UN. He also discussed serving on the Economic and Social Council and described its extensive oversight responsibilities, primary functions and its role in providing a forum for non-government organizations to have a significant voice on UN issues.


    Kyle Turner, a political science student who attended, found the talk to be a “good experience” in which he “learned much about the UN” from someone who worked there. Graduate student, Kaleb Kelly enjoyed the “behind the scenes look at the operations” of the UN and felt it was “both interesting and informative.” Another graduate student, Rex Wyatt, found the meeting allowed for a “better understanding of the nature and process of the UN.”

    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.

  • SCONA Students group photo at the conference

    On February 13-15th, the Department of Political Science sent a team of three students to the prestigious annual Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA) held at Texas A&M University College Station. SCONA’s 65th annual meeting brought together students from around the world and gave them the opportunity to interact with premier scholars, industry professionals, and well-known public figures. Political Science majors Kevin Brown, Pauleana Morang and Jesilyn Williams represented the department this year, and they all had, in their own words, an “amazing” and “enlightening” experience. Brown’s team won second place in the competition.  
    The theme of this year’s conference was “Forging America’s Future: Exploring Solutions for Current Challenges,” and the participants were part of small teams that analyzed U.S. policy in regards to topics ranging from infrastructure and climate change to great powers conflict and the new space race. The object of the conference was to introduce students to the decision-making process in the global community.The keynote speakers were Colonel Mike Fossum (Former NASA Astronaut), Brigadier General Kim Field (Executive Director of the Albritton Center for Grand Strategy at the Bush School of Public Service) and Major General Patrick Hamilton (Commanding General, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard).

    Three studnets posing in the SCONA lobby

    Each of the TXST students chose to participate in different small teams based on their areas of interests. For example, Kevin worked on a team tasked with developing cybersecurity initiatives to strengthen U.S based cybersecurity and to prevent intellectual property theft. They won the second place award for the best overall presentation. Pauleana worked on a team studying the challenges of the Great Power Competition posed by China and Russia. Jesilyn worked in the natural resource security team. In addition to learning from experts and their peers and developing expertise on current issues in international security affairs, the students also greatly appreciated the opportunity to network with professionals in the field.  

  • The four alumni seated at their table students listening to the alumni present

    On Wednesday, February 19th Discourse in Democracy hosted the Political Science department’s annual Alumni Night event. Four alumni shared their post-graduate experiences in a panel, hoping to spread some of their knowledge of the career world to current students. The topics covered included the details of federal employment, interview etiquette, and strategy for turning internships into jobs. This year’s alumni panel consisted of Nicholas Funari (MPA), Clint Johnson (MA), Kate Moriarty (BA), and Sabrina Rodriguez (MA Legal Studies). Funari and Johnson both work in federal government, the former as an acquisition/bidding executive and the latter as a Special Investigator for DHS. Kate Moriarty works for Senator John Cornyn in his Austin, Texas office, while Rodriguez works at Texas State University as a Title IX investigator.

    Students enjoying refreshments in the lobby after the panel The alumni posing after the presentation

    After the panel, students, faculty, and alumni enjoyed pizza and snacks along with some informal conversation at the department’s reception. Additionally, undergraduates were able to meet current grad students and ask questions about the department’s three graduate programs. Graduate student Victor Jubril said that he learned “a lot of lessons” at the event, such as how “connection is key to finding that dream job in the real world,” and the importance of “internships…and keeping an updated LinkedIn profile.” Most importantly, he noted that the wide range of experience on the panel encouraged him to “never feel ‘not good enough’ to fill a position, because [you] just might be the perfect fit.” Graduate student Maribel Rodriguez said she felt the event was “really helpful” and appreciated the comment that “one should apply even when the job posting seems unattainable.”

    Students talking with alumni Students talking with alumni


  • Two Texas State University Political Science majors have been selected to represent the university at the Washington Center’s National Convention Seminars in Summer 2020. Maria Bego Contreras will represent the university at the Democratic Party’s National Convention in Milwaukee and Zachary Poston will represent it at the Republican Convention in Charlotte.

    The Washington Center logo

    At the seminars, the students will be part of briefings and panel discussions designed to involve them in the exciting daily business of the conventions. Contreras listed the “real life experiences” and “real life perspective” on which the convention seminars pride themselves as the chief reason for her applying. Meetings with media members, campaign professionals, and political party leaders will allow the students to interact with and learn from the people both on- and behind-the-scenes. More than in-class or case studies, Poston hopes that the seminars will give the students the chance to clarify “the differences” within each party. From security to campaign logistics, the students will navigate the conventions’ real fieldwork with the guidance of experienced faculty and subject experts.  They will also have a placement within one specific aspect of the convention business, gaining even more hands-on experience with the political world.

    In the fall, the returning students also look forward to being able to share their experiences with the student body at an Honors College forum. Poston expects that “the dynamics between the constituents and the coalitions and the candidates will be hard to miss,” and writes that he is eager to witness the process in-person and share his experiences. Contreras too hopes that the convention seminar will stir up “a better understanding of the political arena and the many factors that come into play” in party conventions. The theme of access to and familiarity with our political traditions runs high in the hopes of Contreras and Poston and is central to the Washington Center’s goals.

  • Best graduate schools logo


    In a recent press release from GradReports, Texas State University was ranked a best college for Public Administration. The GradReports rankings are the first to be based on median early-career salary data of over five million graduates according to the U.S. Department of Education’s “College Scorecard” resource. Dr. Nandhini Rangarajan, Director of the MPA program, noted, "At a moment when high cost of education and rising student debt are issues of national interest, this is a timely recognition for our MPA program that has, for decades, emphasized the importance of rigorous, high quality yet affordable graduate education"


    On Tuesday, February 4th, over 150 students and faculty attended the first Discourse in Democracy event of the spring semester, a State of the Union Watch Party. Students enjoyed pizza, soda, and cookies while watching the President's address. Michael Goodner, a public administration junior, reported that watching the State of the Union was "more interesting around people that are just as interested in politics as I am." Before the President opened, students had the opportunity to watch excerpts from State of the Union addresses delivered by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Other students used the time to ask questions regarding the State of the Union to professors who attended the event. Students also heard from Dr. Thomas Varacalli, who gave a brief background lecture on the history and structure of the State of the Union address.


    “The crowd turnout was a lot bigger than what I expected,” observed graduate student Noe Garcia. He added that this was “probably due to the fact that our politics today is extremely interesting, regardless of [one’s] party preference.” Public administration senior Braden Kropp observed that "even in the face of today’s polarization, there are moments in the address where all of us can come together and celebrate the past generations who served and sacrificed to protect our rights."

  • Holiday Party Holiday Party

     On Sunday, December 8th, the Department of Political Science held its annual holiday party at Mamacita's in San Marcos. The faculty, staff, instructional assistants, and their families attended and enjoyed quality time together and delicious food. Children enjoyed a colorful cookie decorating table alongside their parents. It was a great way to kick-off the holiday season!

    Holiday Party Holiday Party

        The Department of Political Science especially thanks the Hobby Center for their continued support of this annual event, Mamacita's for hosting, and all who worked very hard to make the party a success.

    Holiday Party Holiday Party
  • NPR Dr. Popescu

    Dr. Ionut Popescu, a member of the department’s international relations faculty and an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, spoke to The Texas Standard on KUT, Austin’s NPR affiliate, about a recent article he published in Political Science Quarterly. In his piece, Popescu outlines the principles of a new American grand strategy. He argues that the theory of offensive realism — the idea that nations engage in aggressive acts of self-interest directly as a result of opportunity afforded by the chaos and instability prevalent in international politics — is better suited to the new era of geopolitical competition with China and Russia. This article represents the beginning of a second book project for Popescu, and it builds on his first book on U.S. foreign policy, Emergent Strategy and Grand Strategy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2017.

    Follow Dr. Popescu on Twitter: @ICPopescu

  • ESMOAS '19 ESMOAS '19

    More than two dozen Texas State Students participated at the 23rd annual Eugene Scassa Mock Organization of American States Competition & Conference (ESMOAS) competition at St. Mary’s University on November 14th-16th.  At the competition, there were 125 students representing schools throughout the region, including Baylor University, University of Louisiana Lafayette, Texas A&M Commerce, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico.  Representing the nations of Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Guyana, the 25 member Texas State delegation won several awards. Highlighting these awards, Team Venezuela, consisting of team members Ethan Strickland, Ciana Seddon, Adrian Flores, and Jasper McDonald, won Outstanding Delegation (the top overall award at the competition).

    ESMOAS '19 ESMOAS '19

    Junior political science major Darian Bear observed that “the MOAS group at Texas State has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my collegiate career.” Ethan Strickland, a senior poli sci major commented that his involvement in the competition “not only gave me skills that I can utilize as in career in diplomacy, but the real life skills and a perspective that could be used in any other career.  I consider myself blessed to have been given the chance to join up with the Texas State team.”  Kaela Thompson, a sophomore major, praised MOAS for giving students it’s “hands-on and interactive approach” to teaching students about politics.

    ESMOAS '19 ESMOAS '19

    The complete list of the awards and honors our received by Texas State students is as follows:

    - Amanda Beck
    Selected to the Student Advisory Committee

    - Zack Abnet, Darian Bear, Kevin Brown, Allison Cason, Dani Hancock, Natalie Hernandez, Jasper McDonald, Andrea Garcia Rodriguez, and Catching Valentinis-Dee
      Outstanding Committee, Secretariat for Multidimensional Security.

    - Ethan Strickland
      Outstanding Crisis Speech (1st Place in Committee), General Committee

    - Darian Bear
      Outstanding Delegate (1st Place in Committee), Secretariat Multidimensional Security.

    - Ethan Strickland
      Outstanding Delegate (1st Place in Committee), General Committee.

    - Ethan Strickland, Ciana Seddon, Adrian Flores, and Jasper McDonald (Team Venezuela)
      Outstanding Delegation (1st Place Overall)

  • Inklings Inklings

    On Thursday, November 21st, the department hosted the final Inklings gathering of the fall semester. Dr. Alex Kroeger spoke about "The Algerian and Sudanese Revolutions: Prospects for Reform." His talk focused on revolutions, the reasons for anti-regime protests and the prospects for democratization. The talk was attended by more than two dozen faculty members and students, and was followed by a discussion among the attendees.

    Anthony Armendariz, a Political Science graduate student, explained the talk offered “great insight to the process of democratization in developing countries.” He added that he was struck by the fact that in  “both cases protests against current leadership have been overwhelmingly peaceful.” Another graduate student in political science, Fanny Mazna, noted that Inklings gatherings allows you to see “in-depth the research interest of faculty and students in the department.” She added the research “helps students to see with who their research interests align with.”

    Inklings Inklings

    The department's "Inklings" gathers 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.

    Inklings Inklings
  • Alpha Chi

     Five members of the department's faculty were recognized by the Alpha Chi Honor Society as Favorite Professor awardees for 2019 on November 8th. Founded in 1922, Alpha Chi promotes academic excellence and exemplary character among college and university students and has more than 300 chapters nationwide. Membership is limited to the top 10% of juniors, seniors, and graduate students. The awardees from the department were: Drs. Thomas Doyle, Emily Hanks, Diane Rahm, Nandhini Rangarajan, and Walter Wright.

    Dr. Thomas Doyle
    Dr. Thomas Doyle


    Dr. Emily Hanks
    Dr. Emily Hanks


    Dr. Rahm
    Dr. Diane Rahm


    Dr. Rangarajan
    Dr. Nandhini Rangarajan


    Dr. Wright
    Dr. Walter Wright




  • ​SWIPS

    On Tuesday November 12,  City Council Member Dr. Joca Marquez spoke to Supporting Women in Political Science (SWIPS). During the meeting, Dr. Marquez spoke about her background and home town, as well as  why she made the decision of run for city council and the importance taking risks. During the Q&A following, students asked how they could make a difference in San Marcos and how Marquez balanced life as a politician and a mother.

  • The Insider The Insider

    In connection with the Common Experience theme, "Truth," the fall showing in Discourse in Democracy's Political Science Film Series was The Insider, an expose about the tobacco industry. The showing, which took place on Wednesday, November 14th in Alkek Teaching Theater was attended by nearly 400 students and faculty. The series is coordinated by Professor Rick Henderson.

    The Insider The Insider
  • Ricks Ricks

    On Tuesday evening, November 12th, 150 attended a lecture in Alkek Teaching Theater by the New York Times’ Tom Ricks, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting. Ricks’ talk explored George Orwell’s famous essay on politics and the English language and the common ground that united Orwell and Winston Churchill. Although occupying very different positions on the political spectrum, Orwell and Churchill shared a common commitment to individual freedom and a common hostility to modern totalitarianism. Prior to the lecture, students had an opportunity to win departmental swag by competing in a trivia contest on Orwell’s article. At the conclusion of his talk, Ricks fielded questions from the audience and later spoke with several students individually.

    Ricks Ricks

    Earlier in the day, Ricks spoke to Dr. Menchaca-Bagnulo’s American Political Thought class, as well as to a history and mass communication class. He also had lunch with faculty and students from the department.

    Ricks Ricks

    Political science major Zachary Poston noted that Ricks’ talk “offered unique insights” into two of the most “inspiring figures of the twentieth century,” while another undergraduate major, Ariel Long, was struck by the light the talk cast on contemporary issues such as “fake news.”

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