This semester, Professor Ryan Emenaker returned from his 2018-19 sabbatical having successfully defended his dissertation to complete his PhD in Political Science from Brown University.
Ryan teaches Intro to US Government, Political Controversies, Intro to Political Philosophy, State and Local Politics and, in election years, a class on Campaigns and Elections where past guest speakers have included Green Party presidential candidates Jill Stein and David Cobb, as well as local politicians and people who monitor and run elections.
When asked why he believes Political Science is an important subject he says, “People tend to leave political life alone, but politics effect every decision we, as a society, make - from school funding to whether babies live or die, whether we go to war, the structure of jobs, and if we have a clean environment to live in. If we choose not to participate, then there are others who will play an outsized role in these decisions.”
In addition to his full-time faculty position at CR, in the summer months Ryan teaches a Political Philosophy workshop at Brown University and a Constitutional Political Theory class for the Johns Hopkins University graduate program.
When asked why he chooses to teach here, at a rural community college, when he could be elsewhere, he says that for many students, community college is their first experience in higher education and he finds it inspiring to be here at the beginning of their journey. He also believes teaching here makes it easier to facilitate conversations at the other institutions.
He explains, “The California Community College system is the largest experiment in mass public education the world has ever seen and it’s exciting to get to be a part of that – it is tide-turning for human history.
“As we create greater access to higher education, diversity increases as well, and these different levels of readiness or previous educational experiences is a reflection of our democracy.
“Conversations between a student who, for example, might be returning to school after a decade out of the classroom, and another students who is on their way out the door to a prestigious institution can be very challenging, but it also improves my teaching. Sometimes the conversations don’t work but thinking about how to integrate all the diverse levels in the room makes for a better teacher.”
In addition to teaching, Ryan is an avid Supreme Court watcher and has attending numerous sessions of the Supreme Court, and in 2013 he served as a Supreme Court analyst for several NBC affiliates. SCOTUSblog, the premier news and research site on the Supreme Court, has featured his research on Court-Congress relations, and the site also published his article on why the Supreme Court should uphold the Voting Rights Act. His writings have appeared in the Journal of Legal Metrics, PS: Political Science, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, the Journal of Political Science Education and the Encyclopedia of American Governance.
Ryan is now working on the third edition of his textbook, Current Debates in American Government (published by Oxford University Press) which evolved from the course packets he made for his CR students, and he is working to publish his dissertation as a book with a major academic publisher.