DR. ELIZABETH C. MATTO
MAY MEMBER OF THE MONTH
Eagleton Institute of Politics
Member since 1993
WHY DID YOU BECOME A POLITICAL SCIENTIST?
My interest in politics
stemmed both from a politically interested and engaged family as well as a love
for Washington D.C. I visited Washington as a high school student and was
hooked immediately. I returned during my college years and interned on Capitol
Hill for a semester and then for the CNN program
internships solidified my interest in politics and Washington but convinced me
that, rather than work on the Hill or in the media, that my professional
interest involved studying and teaching politics - I wanted to better
understand political actors and the choices they make and encourage active
citizenship among young adults. I was fortunate to study and earn my Ph.D. at
the George Washington University - not only did I acquire top-notch training as
a political scientist, but I was able to stay in Washington!
WHY DID YOU JOIN APSA AND WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO STAY INVOLVED?
I joined APSA initially to
get better acquainted with the field and the network of scholars working in the
discipline. In recent years, I've been an active member of the Political
Science Education section and have been a steady participant in the Teaching
and Learning Conference. It's been in this section and at the TLC that I've
developed strong professional relationships with political scientists
interested in furthering the scholarship of teaching and learning. It's thanks
in no small part to these relationships that I was offered the
opportunity to edit the companion website to the APSA publication
Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen
and serve as one of the
co-editors on the forthcoming APSA text
Teaching Civic Engagement Across the
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF BEING A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? HOW?
Thankfully, the challenges I feared early in my career as a political scientist haven't turned out be as challenging as I envisioned. Early on, it was clear to me that my interest in the study of politics extended beyond research and a singular focus on publishing to building a career that would emphasize active engagement in teaching and public service and that would facilitate using these pursuits as the subject matter of my research. Thanks to such publications as the Journal of Political Science Education and the Teaching Civic Engagement texts and the Teaching and Learning Conference and the section panels at APSA, I've been able to be the sort of political scientist I hoped I'd be. I am able to contribute to the discipline in a meaningful way while being an active public servant and educator.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE IN THEIR GRADUATE/UNDERGRADUATE YEARS, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
I frequently advise my
students (former and current) to immerse themselves in their coursework - read
everything assigned, actively participate in discussions, take advantage of
opportunities available on campus. Undergraduate and graduate studies certainly
can be challenging, but they represent the only chance we get to focus
nearly exclusively on learning our field under the guidance of professors and
among our peers. As my career advances, there have been a few times when I've
wished I could go back and take a particular course again or hear a particular
professor lecture again. You don't get to repeat these experiences - enjoy them
OUTSIDE OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I was born in
England, have lived in different parts of the country, and have been fortunate
to travel a good deal outside of the United States. I was raised in Las Vegas
and attended college in Southern California. All of my adult life I've lived on
the East coast - first Washington, D.C. and now New Jersey. Although I've lived
more of my life now on the East than West coast, I think I still possess a West
coast sensibility. For nearly the last 20 years, my sister has lived in Paris,
France. Although I wished she lived closer, I've been fortunate to travel there
frequently with my family.