We asked political science professor Keesha M. Middlemass a few questions to get to know her better.
by Susie P. Gonzalez
If you want to learn more about prisoner reentry or food insecurities, you’d be wise to take a class or have a conversation with Keesha M. Middlemass, associate professor of political science at Trinity University. To learn why, read on.
What do you like most about teaching Trinity students?
Interacting with students. Students come to my class with a genuine interest in the classes I teach: Congress, urban politics, and American politics. Students’ interest in a topic is often demonstrated by the questions they ask and their knowledge about the topic. Over the course of the semester, I get to know students and their political ideas and beliefs about politics. Instead of telling students what to think, I teach them how to analytically think about political events, decisions made by politicians and other political actors, and how those events and decisions impact their lives. This approach to teaching lets students come to their own educated opinions and ideas. It is rewarding to see students engage with familiar and new topics and then leave my class with a new sense of understanding and more knowledge about politics.
How do you motivate your students?
Instead of lecturing to students, I engage in a conversation about the readings, the topics, and current events. This method involves teaching in a manner that allows students to ask questions, make comments, and be involved in the discussion. This technique shows students they are a critical part of the classroom experience, that it is okay to ask questions (I encourage them to), and that I expect them to explore ideas and concepts that interest them. As part of their learning experience I demonstrate that they have input about what is covered, but more importantly, why a topic is covered.
What is your favorite aspect of teaching? Least favorite? Why?
Advising is teaching, and teaching is integral to advising as they both instruct students on developing skills, such as critical thinking, how to evaluate the pros and cons of a decision, and to ask questions to further their knowledge and understanding. My favorite part of teaching are the close mentoring and advising relationships I develop with my students outside of the classroom. Such interactions provide students with a real sense of who they can become, and as a faculty member it is great to see them flourish and blossom into young confident professionals. Those are the most rewarding parts of being a faculty member at Trinity University.
My least favorite part of teaching is the constant challenge to balance a number of conflicting demands and expectations. Inevitably, I have to make choices and say “no,” even when I would like to say yes to different opportunities.
How did you get involved in your field of study?
I’ve been interested in politics since the 1980 presidential election, and this interest directed my choice of major as an undergraduate. When I was considering graduate school, I was more aware of the interplay between politics and public policy, and purposely went to the University of Georgia, which at the time had an integrated American politics, public policy, and public administration graduate program.
Since that time, I have expanded my research interest into areas that are found at the intersection of politics and public policies. For instance, I study prisoner reentry and public policies that deny convicted felons benefits through the use of a felony conviction. I also study food insecurity in marginalized populations and explore their ability to secure public benefits, such as SNAP (i.e., food stamps), to feed their families.
What kind of research do you do with students?
In collaboration with psychology professor Carolyn Becker, we have formed the Food Insecurity Lab, where students have an opportunity to conduct mixed-methods research on the concept of food insecurity, eating disorders, public policies (e.g., SNAP), and dietary restraint in marginalized populations. Students are an integral part of the research project: they survey and interview participants; organize, manage and analyze data; review appropriate academic literatures; co-author conference papers and poster presentations; contribute to writing publishable manuscripts; and provide input on all aspects of the research.
Favorite color? Why?
Pink, from champagne pink to light pink to hot pink to deep pink to fuchsia, my favorite color is pink. Why? Because it is a playful color that makes me happy when I wear it.
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Why?
I would like to go to law school and become a defense attorney. Defendants, particularly if they are poor, are not provided all of the information about the legal process, and as a result they take plea deals that lead to incarceration and a felony conviction. My forthcoming book, Convicted & Condemned (June 2017), explores the significance of a felony conviction, and none of the consequences are good.
Guitar solos by Jimi Hendrix and Prince
Favorite sports team?
Where would you like to retire?
I would like to retire to a community where sunshine, seafood, surf, and sand are available all year round (e.g., Salvador Bahia, Belize, Curacao.)