Melissa Gaeke

Dr. Melissa Gaeke is a Professional Lecturer for the Political Science department and the Director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership at Marist. She holds a doctorate from the University of Southern California and has been teaching at Marist for three years. 

What piqued your interest in political science?
My degree is in public administration, so I have a much more applied background in political science. I like to look at the relationship between actors; so citizens, government, elected officials, public administrators, nonprofits - this whole constellation of people who work together to solve problems. The idea of governance, how do communities make decisions, and how can we participate in our communities are the types of questions that I find really interesting. So for me, that’s what’s really interesting about political science; the actors, the relationships, and the motivations within communities.

What classes do you teach here at Marist?
Right now I’m teaching American National Government, an introductory political science class, a Civic Engagement and Leadership honors seminar, and I’ll be teaching, for the first time, a first-year seminar in leadership in the spring. I also have the start of what I hope to be a special topics course in nonprofits in the context of political science. That would be an upper division political science class.

What advice do you have for incoming students interested in political science?
I think there’s a lot of really interesting applications for students who are interested in political science. I think political science is the kind of discipline that allows you to think critically about problems. You can think about things from an international relations perspective, but maybe you’re really interested in people in the places you’re familiar with, so local communities or states. There are so many things that lend themselves to this major. It’s not just electoral politics or campaigns or elected officials, but just how we operate as a community and what are the rules that inform those relationships, that is government and that is political science. Sometimes I think political science just gets pigeon-holed into, “I just want to go work for the government” but there’s so much more applicability. If a student is interested in community issues, political science could help them understand those areas. 

What majors pair well with political science?
Well, students that are interested in social work or education could have an application to political science as well as students who are in communications and are thinking about advocacy and how to promote and advance issues and ideas. You have this wide application. So you could be a Communications, Public Relations major with a minor in political science and end up working at a nonprofit advocating for children’s literacy. So it’s so multifaceted. 

Written by Shannon Donohue '17

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Profile Tags:

Profile Type: Faculty
Academic School: Liberal Arts
Campus: New York