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Political passion

Who We Are, What We Do: Department of Political Science

Student Life

By Janet Harron

Two-and-a-half millennia ago, Aristotle wrote that humans are political animals.

Meaning that it is in our very natures to be political and that when we forget or disregard that, terrible things happen.

‘Defense against the dark arts’

“The U.S. election and the fallout from the Brexit referendum in the U.K. are both proof that we ignore the importance of politics at our peril,” said Dr. Luke Ashworth, professor of political science and current department head. “A citizen body with no understanding of politics is one incapable of supporting democratic institutions. It is a free and informed people that build free institutions, not free institutions that make for a free people.”

Dr. Lucian Ashworth
Dr. Lucian Ashworth calls political science a “defense against the dark arts.”
Photo: Submitted

According to Dr. Ashworth, many of the current failures in provincial politics are due (at least in part) to a lack of understanding of what politics is and what politics means.

Who We Are, What We Do

He appears with grad students Adriana Pinedo and Mary David-Decker in Who We Are, What We Do: Political Science, the latest in a series of teaser videos produced by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and created by multihyphenate writer/videographer/rapper/producer and recent Memorial graduate Timo Sargent.

Ms. Pinedo is originally from Columbia and has lived all over the world, including major international cities such as London and Moscow since leaving home 15 years ago. She moved to St. John’s in 2010 and credits the special atmosphere of Newfoundland and Labrador for keeping her rooted in one place for so long.

“I love the natural beauty of St. John’s and the kindness of its people. The city is not so big to overwhelm you and the more people you meet, it just feels like we are all a big family – that’s what I have experienced while living here,” said Ms. Pinedo, who is currently enrolled as a graduate student in the department while completing a summer internship in the local governance division of the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs.

“Politics is a very powerful force and the better we understand it the better we can use it to bring the best out of humanity in order to make better contributions to the world.” —Adriana Pinedo

She originally wanted to be a speech pathologist, but an international politics class with Dr. Ashworth changed her trajectory from linguistics to political science.

“After that course I felt a need to know more about politics; I loved linguistics but my passion is politics,” she said. “Politics is a very powerful force and the better we understand it the better we can use it to bring the best out of humanity in order to make better contributions to the world.”

Law and society

The political science department now houses the law and society major, which is also profiled in a Who We Are, What We Do video. It features lecturer and lawyer Ray Critch and student Morgan Simms, who discuss how the interdisciplinary program works and explain how flexible it is for students who wish to understand how the world fits together.

“No matter what you are interested in, we can find a way for that to work with the program,” said Dr. Critch. “ The beauty of the interdisciplinary program is that we can draw from different disciplines.”

Beyond politics

Dr. Ashworth also points out that political science is about much more than elections and political parties and that it covers a wide range of topics, as well.

The department has three new courses this year: Food and Politics (taught by Sara Martin), East Asian Politics (taught by Isabelle Cote) and Political Scandals (taught by Amanda Bittner).

“Are these courses interesting?” he asks rhetorically. “How could food, East Asia and scandal ever be boring?”

For more information, please see the degree map for political science and law and society, and visit the department’s website. Individual faculty members are also active on Twitter – see @AmandaBittner, @lucian_ashworth, @KBlidook, @TomblinStephen, and @RussAllanWill.

Who We Are, What We Do is a summer series from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences featuring faculty and students discussing their discipline. The next installment of Who We Are, What We Do: Philosophy and Medieval Studies, launching Aug. 15features faculty members Drs. Joel Maddore and John Geck and philosophy student Kyra Brunt.

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