I am currently a Professor and the Department Chair. I joined the Political Science Department in 2006, after receiving my Ph.D. from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Prior to my career in academia I worked for several years as a reporter in Poland and as a U.S. diplomat in Poland and Uzbekistan. I am an avid traveler, runner and backpacker, always looking for the next place to get away. I am also a first responder, serving as a firefighter/EMT in Baltimore County as well as on a regional search and rescue team. My publications include four books: The Democratic Disadvantage: How Populism Impedes Democracies and Galvanizes Authoritarianism in the Face of Disaster (Rowman & Littlefield, 2024); The Democratization Disconnect: How Recent Democratic Revolutions Threaten the Future of Democracy (Rowman & Littlefield 2016), Social Movements and the New State: The Fate of Pro-Democracy Organizations When Democracy is Won (Stanford University Press 2012), and The Costs of Justice (University of Notre Dame Press 2010).
Q: What led you to become a political scientist?
A: I became interested in political science as an undergraduate at University of Colorado, Boulder, where I created my own major, ‘Comparative Democratic Revolutions’. As part of this major, I spent two years exploring the causes and effects of democratic revolutions in three countries: Russia, South Africa, and Poland. This involved living for between four and twelve months in each country, where I learned the local languages and was housed with host families. This experience got me hooked on exploring political upheavals around the world.
Q: What kinds of research questions are most interesting to you?
A: I am most interested in how states and citizens negotiate their rights and obligations and, especially, how individuals and groups of citizens press for amendments to this relationship. My research interests encompass a range of themes that fall under the democracy-human rights umbrella. This includes everything from how to deal with former repressors following a regime’s overthrow to how to adapt to major threats to human security, such as disasters.
Q: What ideas, skills, or experiences do you hope students will come away with after having taken a class with you?
A: Apart from gaining a substantive knowledge of the issues being studied, I want my students to walk away from my classes with a strong ability to critique and analyze various arguments in the literature. Just as importantly, I want them to be able to apply lessons learned to a range of real world situations, and to be able to effectively communicate their points and policy suggestions.
Q: What can POLI majors do with their degrees?
A: Students with POLI degrees have the analytical skills essential to perform a range of jobs. Many of my students have gone on to work for the government, including in the intelligence agencies and legislature. Others have gone on to take positions in various nongovernmental organizations and in the business world. Still others have gone on to pursue advanced degrees.