A POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR WEIGHS IN ON CURRENT EVENTS
The same deep knowledge and easygoing attitude that make Associate Professor of Political Science Brian Smith a success in the classroom have also made him a valuable asset to Austin-area news stations. Here, he shares how journalists found him and why they keep bringing him back.
The first time I spoke on the news was as a new professor at my old school. A local news station needed someone for election night 2000 — which turned out to be a pretty noteworthy event! That went well, so they kept calling me in. When I came to St. Edward’s, I got a call from the director of Communications that an Austin station was looking for an expert, and I said sure, I’ve done television before, I’ll be happy to give it a try. And from that point on, the calls kept coming. I’ve appeared on three television stations — Fox, KVUE and Time Warner Cable — as well as KLBJ and NPR radio.
I think there are a few reasons why the media calls on me. When you teach political science, you’re forced to be current. I can’t just talk about my favorite historical election every year. I have to know what’s going on now. Also, as a political scientist, I have to report things as they are, without following any political party’s talking points. And I’m used to explaining complicated social science material in a way that regular people can understand. Finally, I think reporters appreciate that I can explain the historical context of their story.
Everything I use in the news, I can incorporate into my classes. Because it informs my teaching, I keep doing it. And sometimes reporters ask if they can come talk to my class — especially if I have freshmen, since they like to interview first-time voters.
All of our faculty members at St. Edward's are experts in their disciplines — I’m just lucky that my discipline is the sort of thing people want to talk about on the news. I recognize that I’m a representative of the university, so I make sure I reflect well on the school. I never get paid for any of my appearances. If I worry about anything, it’s that I lecture reporters like they’re my students. Also, as one of my colleagues likes to joke, the most dangerous place on campus is between me and a microphone — I have a lot to say! But I enjoy it, and I like to think I can help people better understand the politics behind our government.
We asked Smith 27 questions, from the silly to the profound. Learn his favorite movie, what he does on his day off and which historical figure he would like to meet.
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