In a special weekly series, the College of Liberal Arts is featuring a faculty member from one of our 13 departments. We asked questions about why they are passionate about the subjects they study and teach, and how they found their path to CSU. See all “Faculty Friday” features here.
Assistant Director of the Department of International Studies, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
1. What inspired your interest in political science?
I went to a small liberal arts school that didn’t have a pre-law option, and I thought political science was the closest thing to law – even though I don’t necessarily think it is now. I pursued a Ph.D. instead of going to law school because my advisor was a Sovietologist in the CIA before he started teaching, and I just found learning about Russia really inspiring and interesting. During that time it was the early stages of the Putin administration in Russia, and I found it fascinating. I think it was difficult for my parents to hear because my dad’s an attorney and his mom had also gone to law school, so I think they kind of had their hopes up for me.
2. When did you know you wanted to go into higher education/academia?
Once I decided I wanted to get a Ph.D., I knew that I wanted to be a professor. I experienced transformational mentorship when I was an undergraduate and graduate student, and I thought that I would love to be that for someone else. I wanted to make an impact in a positive way. I like college-age students because they’re at a unique juncture in their lives in which they’re very vulnerable and impressionable in a good way – where the possibilities are open for them. As you move through life, sometimes possibilities become more and more closed off, so I like interacting with students who believe the world is their oyster.
3. Do you remember what you wanted to be when you were little?
I have migraines so at some point I thought I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but I also faint really easily, so I didn’t think that would be the best fit. When I was in high school, I took a personality assessment test that generates what are supposed to be appropriate career trajectories, and it said that I should be a mortician which I found really, really weird. Although, it’s not a bad career all things considered, and I always liked the show Six Feet Under.
4. Which class is your favorite to teach and why?
I like them all for different reasons:
I teach Russian politics because it is my specialization and I always enjoy teaching students about Russian history and the current regime.
My class on authoritarianism covers authoritarian regimes around the world. It’s always interesting because students get to focus on a particular regime that they are interested in, which means that I get to learn a lot about countries other than Russia by reading their work.
Introduction to Comparative Politics always has a lot of non-majors in it so there are many different perspectives in the class. There seems to be more diversity of thought in those classes than in some of the others.
I also teach a research methods class in the International Studies Program, which I like a lot because it’s interdisciplinary, so I can assign a lot of different and interesting readings and discuss topics that I wouldn’t be able to do in a typical political science class.
5. What is one thing students would be surprised to learn about you?
I enjoy my fair share of reality TV; it’s my way of unwinding. I like the Bachelor, and over winter break, my parents and I were binge-watching the British Baking Show. I’m always asking my students for recommendations for new TV shows to watch.
Allison White was awarded Best Teacher for 2019 by the Colorado State University Alumni Association. Nominations are submitted by students, faculty, and alumni, White was selected as one of six award recipients.