Featured Faculty: Dr. Sunil Dasgupta

Sunil Dasgupta


“If you hate politics, politics will hate you back. It will exclude you.”

– Dr. Sunil Dasgupta

Life Lessons in Political Science

I try to create a structure in my classroom that allows students to acquire critical learning skills that they can carry with them long after my class ends. A lot of the specifics about the courses I teach will change in the future, and many students will go on to do things unrelated to politics, but if they can develop their learning skills, they will have them for the rest of their lives. To do this, I incentivize reading comprehension of complex materials.

Making an Impact

The most exciting part of teaching is seeing when students really get it—when they’re making the connections within and outside the readings that I have been driving them toward.

I also love hearing from alumni who write to me to report on their successes and how my teaching contributed to them. Mostly, my former students tell me about three skills that have stayed with them: reading comprehension, writing, and perseverance. These are not specific to international relations or to political science, but they’re central to college education.

One of my favorite stories is about my former student Ed Cornell, who started a food truck in Washington, D.C. (if you see Milk Cult DC, say hi to Ed, and buy his ice cream and coffee). Ed wrote to tell me how my international relations courses prepared him to start his business. Nothing could have made me happier.

Why Politics?

Most people love to hate politics. I like to tell students, “If you hate politics, politics will hate you back. It will exclude you.” We don’t have the option of opting out of politics because it is omnipresent. We may not like how politics is played, but sitting out is a political position itself, and the cost of that position is paid by the person who chooses to sit it out.

It’s Not Rocket Science…

Politics is hard—harder than rocket science in my view. There won’t be any rocket science without taxation or appropriation of money that politics enables. International relations is doubly fascinating because there is no world government that can decide matters for everyone on earth. With our strong belief in self-determination and sovereignty, governance without a government is perhaps the biggest political puzzle of all.

Winter Session 2018

I teach POLI 280 – International Relations as a series of empirical puzzles in international relations: “Why do democracies not fight each other?” “Can states deter terrorists?” “Does the rise of the rest of the world mean an end of American hegemony?” “Why do some states fail but others do not?” “Why do some international organizations work but others do not?”

This approach is unique and different. The intro to International Relations course is generally taught from a school-of-thought perspective, such as Realism vs. Liberalism vs. Constructivism, which can be hard to understand. My course is also fully online, which means that the learning objectives, materials, and pedagogy must match the asymmetric learning environment that is the basis on online teaching.

“Students should consider taking POLI 280 in Winter 2018 with me because they will learn how to read complex material and to present that material in a one-pager. This is the basic working tool of the policy analyst/professional.”


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