Position: Assistant Professor
Employer: Lamar University
Current City: Beaumont, TX
Please tell us about your career
I am a tenure-track assistant professor who teaches undergraduate political science courses and graduate seminars in the Honors College and the Master of Public Administration program. My research broadly explores subnational policy and the political institutions that enhance elite responsiveness to public opinion. I am involved in a number of student-learning and mentoring committees and programs on campus, including the Quality Enhancement Plan Steering Committee and the Student Advancement Retention Services (STARS) Mentoring program. Teaching at a regional university has offered me a number of opportunities I may not have had at a national institution at this stage in my career. For example, during my second year, I was invited to be the lead presenter in the guest lecture series “Cardinal Conversations: An Evening of Discussion,” which was hosted at the university president’s home and broadcast on local television.
What motivated you to obtain a doctorate in political science?
I enjoyed taking political science courses as an undergraduate, which fostered a desire for a career in public service. However, it was during my MPA program that I developed an interest in public policy. After I graduated, I spent several years working in the private and public sectors, including the Department of Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development (HSR&D) Service. In time, I realized that I would need to pursue a doctoral degree to advance my career. The doctorate program in political science harmonized nicely with my aspirations, since I was not interested in specializing in one policy area. Instead, I wanted to explore topics in American politics and public law, while strengthening my researching skills.
What’s the link between your political science studies and your career path?
My primary goal when I started the doctoral program was to develop the necessary skills to return to federal service as a social science analyst. During my second year in the program, a need to supplement my income without interfering with my studies motivated me to apply for an instructor position at Houston Community College. I could not have imagined how much I would enjoy teaching, so much so that by the end of the first week, I knew I wanted to be a professor.
Do you have any advice for students who aspire to hold a job like yours?
Planning for an assistant professor position should begin early in students’ academic career. The sooner students figure out their dissertation topic, the earlier they can use seminar papers to approach the topics from various perspectives, as well as develop drafts for conference papers and potential journal manuscripts. I also encourage aspiring professors to pay attention to the fields and skills that are in high demand so that they can be sufficiently prepared when they begin their job search.