What’s Happening In . . . Political Science?

Across campus we find many examples of excellence – student and alumni success stories, faculty research awards, community outreach projects, and more. But often the community and even other departments within the college are unaware of what’s happening. In this issue of Collegium, we’re taking a look at the students, alumni, and faculty in the Department of Political Science.

Political science is a small department that hits above its weight, so to speak. Two of IPFW’s three Fulbright recipients were political science majors: Brandon Gearhart (B.A., ‘08) won a Fulbright to teach English in South Korea. After his Fulbright year in South Korea, Gearhart earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in 2012 and is now employed at the University of Notre Dame as the employment and policy legal professional for the Office of General Counsel. Eldin Hasic (B.A., ’10) won a Fulbright to Ukraine in 2010. Hasic received a law degree from the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University Bloomington in 2015 and currently works as an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels.

Chayenne Polimédio (B.A., political science, ’14) won a highly competitive and renowned Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellowship in 2014. From 2014–15, she worked as a Junior Fellow for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC in their Democracy and Rule of Law program. There, she focused her work on foreign policy, kleptocracy, and political reform in Georgia, India, Colombia, Italy, and Nigeria. She also copublished an op-ed, “5 Hope-and-Change Take-Aways from Nigeria’s Election,” in the LA Times with Sarah Chayes, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment. Polimédio is currently a program/research assistant for the political reform program at New America in Washington, DC.

Political science faculty are also the source of the advising and other support that helps students like these reach their goals. Any IPFW student who is applying for a major scholarship, fellowship, or similar award works with Associate Professor of Political Science Jaime Toole, director of IPFW’s Office of Major Scholarship Advising. Also, IPFW students who want to attend law school are advised through the political science department’s pre-law program. Associate Professor Georgia Wralstad Ulmschneider is IPFW’s sole Campus Pre-Law Advisor. To help students, she cowrote the IPFW Prelaw Handbook for students considering law school, and she won the 2015 Outstanding Advisor award for her work as IPFW’s pre-law advisor.

In the last two years, IPFW students advised by Ulmschneider have been accepted into prestigious law schools, such as the University of Virginia, Ohio State University, College of William and Mary, Case Western Reserve University, University of Minnesota, Indiana University Bloomington, University of Michigan, and George Washington University. Alumna Rachel Hazelet (B.A., political science, ’15) began studies at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in fall 2015, and in May 2016, she was awarded the Theodore Sindell Tort Prize for a paper on the relationship between employer liability and the compelled self-publication doctrine of defamation.

Political science faculty regularly work with potential students through initiatives at or with local schools. Recently faculty have been directly involved in dual credit initiatives at regional public high schools. Associate Professor and Chair Michael Wolf taught POLS Y103, Introduction to American Politics, online for Wabash High School in spring 2016. Associate Professor Andrew Downs taught two sections of POLS Y103 in fall 2015 at Homestead High School. In spring 2016, Downs led one section of POLS Y103 and one section of SOC S161, Principles of Sociology at Homestead.

The department’s outreach efforts are further amplified through the work of the nonpartisan Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, the only research center devoted to the study of a state’s politics. Posthumously dedicated to faculty member and community advocate, Mike Downs, the center’s current director is Associate Professor Andrew Downs. Though they are constantly involved with political education and research on campus and in the community, the unprecedented importance of Indiana during the 2016 primary election cycle meant that the Downs Center fellows were even busier. Over the course of 10 days leading up to the primary, Downs, Wolf, Toole, and others gave almost 100 interviews in studio, over the phone, and via the internet. On election day, Downs began in Indianapolis for a live interview with Steve Doocy and ended the evening on the local news with he and Wolf providing analysis and commentary on different stations. In between political science faculty spoke with traditional and new media reporters in Indiana, Canada, the UK, and beyond. It was an exciting time.

The Downs Center also performs community-focused research. Part of a three-year agreement between the Southwest Allen County School District (SACS) and the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, Downs and Wolf organized discussions about how constituents thought public education should be funded. IPFW students facilitated the in-person and online discussions. They learned the necessary facilitation skills in Wolf’s POLS Y212, Making Democracy Work, or in individualized workshops. One student also produced a stop-motion video on how public education has been funded over the years. The data gathered from the SACS meetings was analyzed and a final report on public school funding preferences was given to SACS in early 2016.

In May 2016, the Mike Downs Center released the results of community input sessions that were held to find out how the community thought the now-vacant General Electric property near downtown Fort Wayne should be repurposed. The Mike Downs Center was approached by two members of the Fort Wayne City Council to do this project, which was funded by Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. The students who facilitated the SACS public funding discussions also facilitated and gathered data at these meetings.

Like their students, the Department of Political Science faculty are active on campus, for their students, and in their disciplines. A not-so-well-kept campus secret is that Downs is an excellent speaker and moderator. In his role as Center’s director, Downs is regularly asked to speak at or facilitate community events. During 2015–16 academic year beyond his teaching, endeavors mentioned here, and other responsibilities, he gave 11 invited talks to community groups, participated in 6 panel discussions (5 were broadcast on WBOI), moderated 2 events, and organized 1 televised debate (Fort Wayne mayoral debate).

James Lutz, professor and former chair of political science, was featured with Lawrence Kuznar, IPFW professor of anthropology and US Defense Department consultant, in “Professors Delve into Global Terrorism” in IPFW’s The Communicator. Lutz discussed the economic impact of terrorist attacks, and Kuznar explained the motives and goals of ISIS based on his analysis of the group’s language use. With Brenda Lutz, Lutz co-wrote “Tourists as Targets in the Middle East and North Africa” in the edited collection, Terrorism and the Economy: Impacts on the Capital Market and Global Terrorism about the impact terrorism has on tourism in the Middle East and North Africa. Lutz was invited to the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica to teach a three-week intensive course on terrorism and conflict from a global perspective, including both dissident terrorism and government toleration of terrorist violence against its own citizens. And finally, he was invited by the Defense Intelligence Agency to present a talk entitled “Do Terrorists Choose Economic Targets?” in Washington, DC.

Faculty members also contribute to programs aimed at increasing community awareness of local, national, and global affairs. Craig Ortsey, continuing lecturer, is the coordinator of the Fort Wayne International Affairs Forum (FWIAF), “a non-partisan community organization dedicated to increasing awareness of international affairs in Northeast Indiana.” Created in the 1960s, FWIAF began as a weekend retreat for those interested in foreign affairs and foreign policy. The purpose remains largely the same, though now they meet several times a year at JK O’Donnell’s Irish Ale House and have guest speakers. During 2015–16 season, the FWIAF held presentations on ISIS in Iraq and Syria (with guest presenter Lutz), recent European politics (with Ortsey presenting), espionage in 19th century France (with guest presenter Deborah Bauer, assistant professor of history, IPFW), and Japanese perspectives of the Holocaust (with guest presenter Lee Roberts, associate professor of German and interim director of IPFW’s Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, IPFW).

The department’s faculty also provide community outreach through presentations or panel discussions that are open to the public and, if recorded, are regularly rebroadcast on CATV. These presentations are often discussions about current political issues. Two spring term events covered elections: “Voting: Right, Privilege, or Burden?” and “The Revenge of the Late Primary States: Indiana Primary and the 2016 Presidential Race.” A panel discussion in 2015, “Refugee Crisis: What Has History Taught Us?,” was covered by reporters from 21 Alive and the News Sentinel. This panel discussion complemented a presentation and panel discussion hosted by Assem Nasr, assistant professor of communication entitled, “Global Crisis, Local Action: Syrian Refugees and the Fort Wayne Community,” and the “Faculty and Students in Solidarity with the Syrian Refugees” event, where students, faculty, staff, and community members were encouraged to rally on the IPFW campus to show support for Syrian Refugees.

And because we are reaching the point of tl;dr, we close with the acknowledgement that this does not fully cover the education and outreach this small department accomplishes each year (they also teach many classes for students and work with faculty across the campus). For more information on the Department of Political Science, see their website.

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