1998 › James L. Gibson
20th Farfel Recipient
Department of Political Science
Cullen Distinguished Professor of Political Science
College of Sciences
James Gibson is a busy man. As with so
many other Farfel recipients, his work has branched into disciplines
beyond his primary academic department. Professor Gibson, who received
his doctorate in political science from the University of Iowa,
combines expertise in psychology, sociology, political science,
and the law in his studies. I was always going to be a lawyer
when I was young, he confesses.
Instead, though, he became a university
political scientist, largely for the intellectual freedom to pursue
ideas that interest him. And the field of political science constantly
presents him with new and surprising interests to pursue. My
fields of interest are always evolving. Ive been surveying
public opinions in Russia since 1990. In 1988 Id never have
dreamed Id be working in the Soviet Union.
Nations and their political systems are his laboratorieshe
calls the reunification of Germany a controlled experimentand
the theories he tests tell him when and where he ought to work next.
Professor Gibson joined the University
of Houston faculty in 1983. He served six years as a Distinguished
University Professor of Political Science until 1996, when he was
named Cullen Distinguished Professor. As a teacher, Gibson stresses
the process of learning as much as the content he teaches. The
most important thing is to respect students. You have to try to
understand their circumstances in order to get them to be better
students. Theyre often looking for answers that are right
or wrong. I dont teach facts. I try to teach independent thinking,
to allow them to do analysis for themselves.