Dr. Michelle Deardorff has been elected to the Council of the American Political Science Association (APSA). It is the leading professional organization for the study of political science; more than 15,000 APSA members reside in excess of 80 countries. Deardorff, professor and head of the Department of Political Science, Public Administration, and Nonprofit Management at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, will serve her council term from 2014-2016.
APSA is responsible for developing the vision and plans for the future of the member-based association. During the next two years it could consider ways the association can transform and be more competitive in the future.
“It is a great honor for Michelle to be elected to the Council of the American Political Science Association,” said Dr. Jeff Elwell, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Most of the members of the council are from the elite private and major public flagship universities in our country. Her election expresses the respect she has earned from her peers in the discipline and I know she will do a wonderful job and be a great representative for our university.”
In her teaching and research, Deardorff has focused on the constitutional and statutory protections surrounding gender, race, and religion. She is completing work on Pregnancy and the American Worker—an examination of the lower federal courts’ interpretation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Americans with Disability Act of 1990.
Since 1989, Deardorff has been a member of APSA and accepted leadership roles in the late 1990s. She has served as chair of the Political Science Education section and the Teaching and Learning Standing Committee. Additionally, she was a member of the APSA search committee for an executive director from 2012 to 2013.
“We’re starting to realize this was a traditional, research based organization that really met the needs of graduate faculty at R-1[extensive research] institutions. The majority of faculty do not teach at institutions like that anymore,” Deardorff explains. “So the question is, how can APSA evolve to meet the needs of a contemporary organization?”
Many political scientists are no longer academics, they are practitioners, Deardorff notes. She says during her term she wants the council to consider how it can reach out to many constituencies, including faculty at community colleges, liberal arts four-year institutions, Ph.D. and graduate students, and adjunct faculty. The organization could ponder how the governing structure needs to change and how the organization can become more visible to external audiences.
“When people see a political issue, it is generally not a political scientist commenting on it—there are journalists, politicians, law professors—but the voice of the political scientist is often silent. How can we translate our research into information that is readily available to the public and to the political realm?” Deardorff asks.
She also wants APSA to focus on helping the public understand the political process.
“We’re the people that can translate our research into meaningful applications, we’re the people to help explain the system and help engage civic education,” she said.
Deardorff earned her undergraduate degree from Taylor University. She received her graduate degree and the Ph.D. from Miami University, Ohio.