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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. I’ve been surveying public opinions in Russia since 1990. In 1988 I’d never have dreamed I’d be working in the ‘Soviet Union.’” Nations and their political systems are his laboratories—he calls the reunification of Germany a controlled experiment—and 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. They’re often looking for answers that are right or wrong. I don’t teach facts. I try to teach independent thinking, to allow them to do analysis for themselves. ”

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