- Category: Volume 86 (Fall 2014 - Spring 2015)
- Published: 24 September 2014
- Written by BRANDON JOHNSON | POLITICS EDITOR
The Outlook spoke with Dr. Stephen Chapman, Assistant Professor of Political Science.
The Outlook: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Chapman: Well, I grew up in Pennsylvania. I’m a native of Easton, PA which is only about an hour and a half from here. I did my graduate work at Binghamton University in upstate New York and now I’m here so I’m pretty proud I kept in the tri-state area.
Other than that I’m a big baseball fan, a big Phillies fan. I like to have fun when I can. I like to have a good time, which I try to transfer to my classroom atmosphere. I didn’t want to have a rigid professor-student line. I prefer to have it more fluid.
The Outlook: What drew you to Monmouth University?
Chapman: I knew when I started my graduate work that I wanted to end up at a liberal arts university. I knew that I loved teaching. It’s really more about what I can do for the student than for my own gravitas.
When I came for the campus visit it blew me away. The campus is beautiful, the facilities are nice, and my department is great. I really didn’t have any reservations after visiting here. After I got hired I told people I found my dream job.
The Outlook: How has your transition to Monmouth been?
Chapman: It was great. I came down here about three weeks before the semester started. Kristen [Gillette], the secretary, has been amazing helping me out, Joe [Patten], the Chair [of the Political Science and Sociology Department], has really fostered me, always asking if I’m having any problems or anything like that. I’ve felt welcomed right from the start.
The Outlook: Is there anything you foresee as a challenge here at Monmouth?
Chapman: Well, when you do graduate work, especially at Binghamton it’s more of a research university, so they don’t really do so much as far as fostering teaching expertise or advising or anything like that. It’s more about learning the material, learning the methods, and doing research.
I was fortunate to be able to teach a writing class for four years at Binghamton, which really helped me, as well as cultivating my own research and being able to build a rapport with students. I’d like to continue that here at Monmouth. There is a lot of great stuff at the Center for Student Success, developing advising skills, which I think are vital, especially to new faculty.
The Outlook: What are you teaching this year?
Chapman: I’m teaching the senior [political science] seminar. I’m teaching the research methods class, which is entitled Research and Writing in the Social Sciences, and I’m also teaching American National Government.
The Outlook: Is there anything you’d like to see offered through Monmouth’s political science department?
Chapman: I think [the political science department] has done an amazing job putting different programs together. Professor Bordelon runs Legal Studies, Professor Kloby has really been fostering the master’s program in Public Policy, and I’d really like to pick up on that and strengthen it.
With my training in research methods I can bring in a lot of not only individual research but also collaborative research between myself and students. Really just strengthening the structure that is already in place.
The Outlook: Can you tell us a little about your research? Maybe your area of expertise?
Chapman: My dissertation focuses on representation. It looks at how the continuous partisan control of state institutions - so state legislatures, state governorships - how that affects the linkage between opinion in the state and policy outcomes that we see.
If we’re in a state with continuous democratic control for multiple periods at a time we’re probably going to see a liberal shift in policy. It might not be in line with the opinion of the state.
Conversely, in continuously republican states, we’ll see a conservative shift away from the opinion. What my dissertation really brings in is looking at how that representational bias exists, but also when you have an alternation between the two parties. That’s when you’re going to have policy resonate at the median.
But that’s my dissertation topic, that’s what I have a passion about. But I always consider myself a generalist. I like to dip into subfields in political science.
I have a working paper right now with one of my former colleagues that looks at the politicization of the justice department – so using the justice department in corruption prosecutions as a tool of the president.
I also have a working paper looking at political polarization, examining how political knowledge influences levels of political polarization. So there is a lot. I like to wear a lot of different hats when I do research. If something interests me I go for it. I don’t think of myself as stuck in my dissertation topic for the rest of my career.
The Outlook: How did you decide on teaching as a profession? Is there anything else you were considering before that?
Chapman: Sure. In finishing my undergraduate degree, I was split between grad school or pursuing law school. I had taken the GRE, taken the LSAT, and I had a decision to make. I actually did an internship for a lawyer, which made me realize I did not want to become a lawyer.
So, I did my first masters at East Stroudsburg University, where I did my undergrad, which gave me a year to not only learn how to do grad school, which can be hard for some people to become accustomed to, but it also gave me a year to think about what I really wanted to do.
I did some tutoring and realized that teaching is really what got me excited. I like to see that light bulb moment in students, the glint in their eyes when they get it, that’s what really drew me to teaching.
The Outlook: Is there any thing you wanted to add that we haven’t talked about?
Chapman: To be honest I’ve really been blown away from the top down by Monmouth University as a whole. The students are great, they’re ready, they’re prepared, they have questions, they come to my office, which is not what you get in every institution of higher education.
It’s rare to see this sort of community. I know that’s a theme of Monmouth University, that we have a community. But it’s one thing to say, and it’s another thing to see it. In the short time I’ve been here it’s really become clear to me.
PHOTO COURTESY of Dr. Stephen Chapamn