Have you ever wondered what it would be like to start up a brand-new department from scratch, especially in a brand-new university? Sounds fun, doesn’t it? You could design a curriculum that presents poltiical science as you yourself think it should be presented. You could hire your friends and disciplinary fellow-travelers. You wouldn’t have to be encumbered by things as they already are in your department — because in the case of a start-up, things as they already are, aren’t.
Maybe it would be fun. Maybe not.
Several few years ago I got some insights into this type of situation when I reviewed the political science program at Cal State – San Marcos. Based on that experience, I concluded that starting a department from scratch in a new unversity was (a) very exciting, (b) a hell of a lot of work, (c) extremely rewarding, and (d) often frustrating.
Well, another start-up political science program is now in operation, this one at the new UC Merced campus. So here’s another opportunity to check out the start-up scenario. Currently on board are two political scientists, Tom Hansford and Steve Nicholson. Reinforcements are on the way, in the persons of Nathan Monroe and a player to be named later. Hansford and Nicholson spend a lot of their time and energy on basic logistical arrangements, which sound like they alternate between intellectually stimulating and mind-numbingly boring, on interacting with colleagues from other disciplines, which they find extremely enriching and perhaps a little daunting, and on teaching their courses and trying to carry on with their own research programs all the while.
It’s a fascinating situation. For a status report from Hansford and Nicholson themselves, click here. (This paper has been accepted for publication in PS, and it should appear there soon.)