Lavar Pope, PhD
Clinical Associate Professor, Political Science
Lehigh University (BA, MA), University of California, Santa Cruz (PhD)
- ACPOL 101 American Government and Citizenship
- ACPOL 202 International Relations
- ACPOL 200 Introduction to Political Thought
What attracted you to Arrupe College?
When Arrupe College first opened, many Chicago area news stations featured segments about the school. I was struck by the combination of the innovative social justice mission and the aim at providing a rigorous liberal arts education. At the time, I felt as though Arrupe was exactly the type of place that I would love to work. I was raised in the Chicago area and I am a first-generation college graduate from a minority group traditionally underrepresented at U.S. colleges and universities. I am also a beneficiary of programs similar to the program at Arrupe College and a Catholic high school graduate. All of this seemed like a perfect fit and I was excited to see an opening in political science. When I first visited Arrupe, I was impressed to see that the dedication of the faculty, staff, and administration was matched by the dedication of the students at the college. I was also quite impressed with the building and the resources. Overall, I thought it would be a great place to teach political science with a social justice emphasis and a great place to advise first-generation students.
Talk a little about the classes you teach.
At Arrupe, I primarily teach American Government and Citizenship, International Relations, and Introduction to Political Thought. These are considered political science core classes, and for me, it is vitally important that students gain a rich understanding of how power operates as we survey essential topical themes. It is also really important to me that students can apply this material to their daily lives. I also try to emphasize areas that are typically not fully addressed in survey courses. For example, in American Government and Citizenship, one unit of the course examines the impact of racial, gender, and class inequalities in the U.S. We also survey Chicago’s political development in that same unit. These areas are not traditionally a large part of core American politics courses. In my International Relations course, one unit examines Global South perspectives, and in my Introduction to Political Thought course, one unit examines Black and Latino political thought. My class sessions are usually divided into three segments—a multimedia segment, an activity segment, and a direct instruction segment. This is to accommodate different learning styles and preferences. It is my hope that all my courses challenge students to develop critical reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills that enable them to become more informed, involved, and productive citizens.
How did you get involved in teaching political science?
My interest in teaching political science began during my doctoral studies, and it was inspired by my interest in political science research, which began during my undergraduate career. As an undergraduate, I loved political science and English classes. In particular, I was inspired by two of my professors—one a specialist in American Political Thought and another a specialist in Social Movements and Media. When I completed my first significant research projects, an undergraduate thesis and a web project, I knew that I wanted to continue on with a master's degree and then with a doctoral degree. During my doctoral program, I carved out a research interest by looking at the political development of cities and looking at the protest arts emerging from cities. During this time, I started working as a teaching assistant, and a few years later I earned the chance to teach my first class on my own. A few years after that (and after earning my doctorate in politics), I began working as a visiting professor. My teaching focus has always been related to American Politics and other core classes. Some of my favorite courses that I have taught are Race & Ethnicity, Black Political Thought, and Power, Rap Music, & Urban America.
What’s your favorite part about teaching? And the biggest challenge?
By far, my favorite part of teaching is seeing students take ownership of and stock in their own educational process. Sometimes this takes the form of a student submitting an outstanding research paper, and sometimes this takes the form of a student delivering a solid classroom presentation that he or she worked extremely hard on over the course of a couple of weeks. I also like surprising students with new information or introducing a new way of thinking about an issue. I enjoy being surprised by student contributions. I really consider the classroom to be one of the most important arenas for the discussion of political ideas. I also love course preparation, course design, and even curriculum development. The biggest challenge in teaching is covering extremely difficult or divisive material. As a political science instructor, I have to cover issues such as racial inequality, gender inequality, class inequality, and issues such as anti-immigration rhetoric and policy. Discussion of this material is necessary to begin to fully address these inequalities. Another challenge is adapting to change “on the fly.” In the classroom, things can happen that change an instructor’s original plan for the class session, and we need to be able to adapt quickly. This is one of the challenges that keeps teaching interesting at all times!