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Meet the New Faculty: Phillip Barker, Political Science

Phillip Barker couldn’t have picked a better time to come to Keene State College. After spending a spring/summer sabbatical at the University of Malta on a Fulbright grant, the newest addition to the College’s political science faculty has happily returned to the classroom and the opportunity to analyze and debate with students the numerous international political issues that have sprung up around the world.

Barker, who teaches comparative politics and international relations, favors an interactive class, encouraging his students to ask questions and be critical thinkers. “I love playing devil’s advocate,” he said. “I like to challenge students with questions because I get to argue both sides.” He said part of his job is to add a historical perspective to the debate. “I don’t know if students always come in with an appreciation of history, but that’s part of our job as teachers,” he added. “People are naturally curious and intrigued by history, and learning to apply it in today’s world can be very beneficial.”

Begin pull-quote…I like to challenge students with questions because I get to argue both sides. …end pull-quote
– Phillip Barker

Fascinated with history as a child growing up in Texas, Barker considered several career options before deciding on academia. The turning point came the summer prior to his senior year at Texas A & M, when he had an opportunity to study abroad in Normandy. “It was a life-changing experience,” said Barker. “I always loved learning and books and I thought this would be a chance to be a student forever.”

Earning his PhD from the University of Colorado in 2005, Barker, who became intrigued with issues related to war and conflict and the role of religion, made stops at Centenary College of Louisiana, where he gained an affection for small liberal arts institutions, and Austin College, a highly rated liberal arts school in Sherman, TX, before coming to Keene State this fall.

Barker said his reason to relocate to Keene was both professional and personal. Phillip and his wife, Kelly, had just endured the traumatic experience of losing their daughter Ella, who died in an accident, and were pondering what type of life they wanted for their son Jack. “Something like that makes you re-evaluate everything,” he said. “Priorities shifted and what’s important changes.”

A small, stable liberal arts college located in a nature-filled environment, Keene State filled the Barkers’ check list. “When the Keene State job popped up it was a no-brainer to apply,” said Barker. “Lifestyle is more than just money or what you think is a successful life. It comes down to What do I want out of life?”

Barker, who is teaching two sections of Global Politics this semester, feels he has an advantage over a lot of new faculty members at Keene State. “I’ve been teaching for 10 years so I have the benefit of being able to hit the ground running,” he said.

On the other hand, Barker said he will spend the semester learning about Keene State students. “My first year here is about learning about KSC students – who they are and what they know and adjusting my class one way or another depending on what they are interested in,” he said.

“Part of that first year is just getting comfortable with the students and hopefully them with me,” he added. “I had professors in college who were very open and some I was terrified of—I don’t what to be the guy they are terrified of—I want students if they have questions to come and talk to me.”

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