While deciding upon a career, this professor considered becoming a high school chemistry teacher. But that was before he encountered an organic chemistry course...
What attracted me to UNLV were the diverse student body and the university’s upward trajectory as a growing research university. And of course, the warm weather.
Where did you grow up?
Mostly in North Carolina, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
What inspired you to get into your field?
I like understanding how things work, which drew me towards academia. What makes political science in particular so fun is that it is fundamentally an interdisciplinary field, drawing from other social sciences like economics and psychology. The questions we ask relate to politics, but at the end of the day, it’s simply about social interaction and group decision-making.
I also enjoy teaching. Once upon a time, I thought about becoming a high school chemistry teacher…until I took organic chemistry.
Years from now, when people look back on the 2016 presidential primary season, how do you think they will characterize it?
Besides the obvious observation that elections can be unpredictable at times, the 2016 presidential primaries provide a great lesson on the purposes and inner-workings of American political parties in an era of “candidate-centered elections.” This year highlights in what ways the parties are strong or weak, as well as the importance of political institutions (rules of the game). For instance, imagine if the GOP rules were more similar to the Democratic Party’s (or vice versa) – in terms of delegate allocation or the number of unbound (super) delegates. How might the dynamics of the campaigns have differed? Rules are set to achieve particular goals and outcomes, which was an especially salient point this year given how hotly contested the two major parties’ nominations were.
What other races should people, particularly Nevadans, be paying attention to?
People should be equally or more concerned with the races for House and Senate seats, since Congress is the branch of government that formulates and passes legislation. For Nevadans, the election to replace Senator Reid’s seat is especially important. As an open seat race, it will be extremely competitive. The race also has national significance, since party control of the U.S. Senate is up for grabs.
Why is it important for UNLV to host the final presidential debate?
Ideally, universities are places where ideas are developed, freely shared, critiqued, and refined. What better way to achieve that mission than hosting a debate of ideas to hold the highest elected office in the U.S.? It will be good to have UNLV in the limelight for serving both our educational and civic responsibilities.
What can members of the campus community — especially students — hope to get out of having the debate here, even if they are unable to attend in person?
There are several opportunities for the campus community to get involved and volunteer to help put on this event. I always tell students that there are ways to participate in our democracy beyond simply voting, and hosting the presidential debate provides an especially unique avenue to participate. For those who cannot get tickets to attend, they can still immerse themselves in the experience by attending one of viewing events that will be held on campus.
One tip for success
Don’t procrastinate. Unquestionably a never-ending struggle for many people. I waited until the last minute to answer these questions.
Who was your favorite professor or teacher and why?
Robert Booth Fowler is a professor (emeritus) of political science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, which is where I did my undergraduate studies. His political philosophy courses pushed students to question assumptions and think outside of the box. He was also an engaging and entertaining lecturer in an era before PowerPoint and multi-media became prevalent in the classroom.
Who is your hero?
Frank Kaminsky. I’m a huge Wisconsin Badgers fan. OK, maybe not really Frank the Tank. My real heroes are my parents — constants in my life who give me the direction and motivation to achieve the most out of life.
Pastime or hobbies?
Brazilian jiu-jitsu, snowboarding, and hanging out with Meeka (Australian shepherd mix). My new hobby is playing the ukulele.