DR. ANGELIA WILSON
FEBRUARY MEMBER OF THE MONTH
University of Manchester
Department of Politics
Member since 1993
WHY DID YOU BECOME A POLITICAL SCIENTIST?
Initially, enrolled as a pre-med student. However, McMurry University, a liberal arts university in Abilene Texas, required students to take a politics course as part of my degree. I began in the fall of 1984, with Geraldine Ferraro on the ticket, so it seemed like a good time to do it then. I never looked back. While the excitement of elections caught my attention initially, I eventually fell in love with political theory and philosophy. Many of my final year courses were one-to-one classes with the professors. While it is a small university, I know now that the personal teaching that I received gave me a significant advantage over others at larger institutions. In 1989, I was chosen as a International Rotary Fellow and began graduate work at the University of York in the UK. I completed my doctorate there and have been an academic in Britain since. While my graduate work was in political theory, I’ve taught and researched in a range of sub-fields from British social policy, gender theory, LGBT rights, religion & politics and, for the last ten years, American politics. In answer to the question ‘why?’: political science has been a first love that continues to excite and interest me everyday!
WHY DID YOU JOIN APSA AND WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO STAY INVOLVED?
As a graduate student, I joined the Political Studies Association in the UK. That was a very disappointing experience. By the early 1990s, most social science disciplines had embraced feminist/gender research, but political science was slow to do so. I attended my first APSA and found a more welcoming professional home for feminist research and emerging LGBT research. APSA has struggled over the years to be more inclusive in its interpretation of ‘sub-fields of political science research’ but, to its credit, and reflecting changes in much of the Western world, ASPA is now home to leading LGBT political science research. Likewise, the PSA changed over time and when I returned, it had become an equally welcoming home for a range of research sub-fields. Last year, I was selected to a three-year term as Chair of the PSA. One of my joys of being PSA Chair, is continuing to work closely with my APSA colleagues to set the professional standards for research and teaching as well as equality and diversity.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF BEING A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? HOW?
Over the past couple of years, political science has met with serious challenges from those outside the profession who question our research, our legitimacy, and our expertise. Those in power, particularly those holding fiscal power, benefit greatly from undermining social sciences – the careful, reasoned analysis of our social, political and economic world. For most in the profession, such undermining may take the form of less grant money or less support for political science teaching. That very familiar challenge pales in comparison to the challenges facing a world devoid of basic political science education. We need to use our expertise to engage communities beyond the ivory towers. That’s the overarching challenge for political science. Like many in our profession, I juggle this challenge alongside the ‘day job’ of teaching, research, university service and being a mom!
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE IN THEIR GRADUATE/UNDERGRADUATE YEARS, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
The analytical training we receive teaches us to read someone’s work and respond with “you don’t want to do it like that, you want to do it like this!” So every time you write, someone is going to respond that way. Someone is going to offer criticism. Ideally, criticism is constructive and helps you grow as a writer and researcher. But quite often is it just critical. And it can get inside you and undermine your confidence. When this would happen to me as a graduate student, my father, a Methodist preacher, would tell me to “turn their shit into fertilizer”. Coming from a small town, rural, working class background, I am all too aware that the American Dream does not happen for most. For even the smartest who work hard, dreams may have to be ‘adjusted’. But don’t let the critics take away your ability to learn from mistakes, to grow, and to dream again.
OUTSIDE OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOURSELF.
My partner and I have been together for twenty years and we have two beautiful kids. And while that sentence could have been written by many political scientists, and some dismiss it as normative, for us, and our journey, it is a revolution.
Also, I still love country music and I own a horse. You can take the girl out of Texas but ….