Faculty Friday: Peter Harris

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.  

Peter HarrisPeter Harris

Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

1.  What inspired your interest in political science?

I remember being in a nightclub in my hometown of Wigan when the airstrikes against Iraq began in March 2003. It was the early hours of March 20, and they were showing explosions in Baghdad on the TVs above the bar. Most people weren’t paying attention, but for me it felt like everything had changed in that moment. I remember talking to an acquaintance who was about to travel to the Middle East for some reason or other.

Some people of my generation and older say that the 9/11 terror attacks signaled to them that the world had changed forever. I didn’t understand the significance of 9/11 when it happened, but I was immediately struck by the invasion of Iraq. I became very interested in “big” questions about war and peace, international order and justice, and the relationship between Britain and America. To cut a long story short, that initial curiosity about world politics has carried me through 15 years of study.

2.  Which class is your favorite to teach and why?

I love teaching my introductory level class on International Relations (POLS 232). I like it because I get to meet a lot of different students from all kinds of majors, and because the class is the broadest in scope. We cover everything from war and peace to trade and investment and from human rights to refugee policy. I feel like there is something for everyone in that class, and it also keeps me on my toes. The students are always a lot of fun and I like to believe that we have a good laugh together.

3.  What did you want to be when you were little? When did you know you wanted to go into higher education/research?

I think at one point I wanted to be a chef on a submarine. I took a quiz in a careers class in high school and it came up with something like that for me. I know that for a long time I wanted to own my own café called Peter’s where I only served food that I liked.

In the end, I’m glad that I pursued a career in higher education instead. Education has been very good to me, allowing me to travel the world, live abroad, and get paid for reading, writing, and talking about what I’m interested in. I suppose that serving full English breakfasts on a submarine would have allowed me to see the world in a different light, but I wouldn’t swap it for what I have now.

4.  How did you get to CSU?

This is not an exciting story. I got my PhD from the University of Texas in Austin but during my final year as a graduate student I spent one year as a visiting lecturer at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. From there, I applied for a job at CSU and got it. And that’s the story of how I came to work here!

5.  What is one thing students would be surprised to learn about you?

My students know that Oasis is my favorite band of all time, but they would probably be surprised to learn that I admire Taylor Swift a great deal—and not in an ironic way. She is both prolific and consistent, two qualities that are difficult to pull off simultaneously. I respect the way that Swift maintains high standards in all of her work and, for that, I would even say that she’s something of a role model for me. If everyone was as consummate a professional as Taylor Swift then the world would be a better place.