Goodbye and Good Luck – December 2013 Letter from the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends,

As political scientists, we are well aware that words, spoken and written, are often devoid of meaning. I would forgive you, therefore, if you doubt the words I would use to describe much of what is happening in the Department of Government these days. Words such as ‘innovation’, ‘creativity’, ‘imagination’, ‘bold’, ‘daring’, and, even, ‘fun’. But I believe quite strongly our department demonstrates that words often do describe reality, without hyperbole.

The Government Department is not simply riding the wave of online learning, we are, to borrow a surfer term, ripping it! Our big debut happened this semester, and I am overjoyed to report that our online GOV 310L, taught by professors McDaniel and Shaw, is a huge success. The online 310L adopted the TOWER (Texas Online World of Educational Research) method developed for the university’s Psychology 301. The method combines a real-time, physical classroom with live video broadcasting. As of this writing, 960 students have registered for the course’s Spring semester! The course is also available through University Extension. And, we are developing additional online courses, such as GOV 312L. What is truly exciting is we are finding that not only are we able to educate more students at once, but the technology is actually helping our professors enrich the curriculum and enhance the learning experience.

In the traditional classroom, courses such as Bat Sparrow’s “The Politics of Food” highlight the reach of our faculty and our ability to stretch the bounds of a traditional course in liberal arts and political science. We always tell our students that politics affect their lives, and we are always searching for better ways to demonstrate this in concrete ways. By focusing on the food we eat every day, Sparrow has found a delivery mechanism to powerfully discuss the interaction of politics and students’ day-to-day lives.

Beyond the classroom, Zach Elkins is proof of our department’s global reach. Supported by Google Ideas and the university’s IC² Institute, the Constitute website launched Sept. 23, 2013 at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Since his arrival to Batts Hall in 2008, Elkins has been employing an army of graduate students who have both been helping build one of the world’s premier open-access databases and joining Elkins in research projects exploiting the data. Here is a link to one of the more recent pieces Elkins has written about comparing constitutions. Learn more about Constitute on Game Changers, premiering Dec. 10 on the Longhorn Network.

At risk of you tiring of me saying it, these are exciting times in the Department of Government, and we hope you are enjoying the ride.


Robert G. Moser
Professor and Chair