June 2020 Newsletter
I sincerely hope all of you have been staying safe during this global pandemic and have been keeping what Professor Emerita Joan Tronto would call the “ethic of care” in the forefront of your thoughts and actions. And after my introduction, please see the work that some of our faculty, graduate students, and fellow alumni are engaged in.
In the Department of Political Science, we have been adapting to our new reality while maintaining our commitment to teaching. Professor Lisa Hilbink has been a prime example of this. During Professor Hilbink’s seminar on Latin American politics, students responded to a “Theme of the Week” each Wednesday. Some were serious, like identifying an organization or initiative that gives one hope. Others were fun, such as #MyOnlineClassInSixWords. “It takes time when we do it,” Professor Hilbink explains, “but it has been a nice way to get to know more about the students, to build some community, and to provide some much-needed levity at this time of isolation and anxiety.” I am proud of each one of our instructors for their efforts this spring.
Our faculty members have also been sharing their expertise and developing new courses around the COVID-19 pandemic. Read or listen to commentary from Professors August Nimtz, Kathryn Pearson, and Christopher Federico. This summer Professor Tanisha Fazal is teaching The International Relations of COVID-19 and Professor Catherine Guisan is teaching European Responses to Catastrophes: War to COVID-19.
Alumni like you know what a huge impact Professor Raymond “Bud” Duvall has had on our lives, our careers, and even our very identities. Most recently, Bud’s efforts were rewarded with the University of Minnesota President's Award for Outstanding Service. After nearly 44 years as a mainstay of the Department of Political Science, winning teaching awards, and promoting interdisciplinary dialogue, Bud is retiring this spring. I hope you will join us in giving Bud a retirement gift that will preserve his legacy for years to come in our department.
I am also saddened to report that Robert Holt, former chair of our department and dean of the University of Minnesota Graduate School, passed away on Saturday, April 25. In addition to his scholarship and his positive impact on graduate education, Bob will be remembered as a fun-loving world traveler, a master griller, and a deeply kind and caring man. In remembrance, please consider giving to the Robert and Shirley Holt Discovery Fellowship that helps support exceptional graduate students in the Department of Political Science.
Finally, I would like to share a few words on the indefensible killing of George Floyd. The past month has been extraordinarily difficult for all of us following the murder and the anguished aftermath. Words cannot convey the horror of what we witnessed in that awful video. The pain runs deepest for those in our Black community who have been impacted by police abuse and brutality throughout our history. I was heartened to see so many people from all walks of life rise up in protest against police brutality—including many of our faculty, students, and staff members.
We have a very long way to go to make the communities we reside in more fair, just, and accountable. I recommend strongly that you take a look at Professor August Nimtz’s reflections on these events.
Professor and Chair
“Misinformation in health and medicine can be extremely dangerous because lives are at stake,” says first-generation graduate student Kristin Lunz Trujillo. She hopes her work can halt the spread of misinformation surrounding health policies but first wants to understand the underlying psychology that makes people accept misinformation in the first place.
Once Jessica Oaxaca (BA ‘17) took her first political science class, “there was no going back.” Support from the department and her own outstanding work secured her a position as deputy press secretary to Minnesota governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan—and more recently as communications director for the Minnesota state senate.
In the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, Professor August Nimtz has shared his expertise and perspective on the history of protesting and agitating for justice. Over the past month, he has been interviewed by a number of news organizations including the Star Tribune, C-TV in Canada, Prensa Latina in Cuba, and even for the Minnesota Daily’s podcast, in which he recounts some of the history of protests on the Minneapolis campus.
Josef Woldense of the Department of African American & African Studies and affiliated with the Department of Political Science has been working on a close analysis of the administration of twentieth-century Ethiopian ruler Haile Selassie. Through his work, he examines the ways autocrats keep their power. To teach his students, he has developed a game to help them understand how precarious the role of an autocrat can be.