Member of the Month: Dr. Jami Taylor, University of Toledo

Dr. Jami Taylor

Professor in the Political Science and Public Administration Department, University of Toledo
Member of APSA since 2006

Jami Taylor teaches a wide variety of courses in the areas of public policy, public administration and American politics. Prior to joining the University of Toledo, she served as a visiting assistant professor at Ohio University and as an adjunct for North Carolina State University. In addition, Jami has extensive real property valuation experience having served as a real estate appraiser for the City of Suffolk (VA).  She has also been a revenue officer for the Internal Revenue Service and a library assistant for the City of Chesapeake (VA).

Why did you become a political scientist?

Dr. Taylor: I became a political scientist by accident and luck. I was a first-generation college student. I only went to college after my Dad made me do manual labor one summer. I realized that was decidedly not for me. So, I got serious about school and improved my performance to where I could get into the local commuter college. To me, education was strictly about getting a job that was going to be better than manual labor. Without any sort of driving passion in anything, I majored in economics and I minored in real estate finance. Those things sounded job relevant and the major was housed in a business school. So, that sounded even better. As graduation drew near, I started looking for a job but did not immediately land one.  So, I started a MBA degree at the same college. After the professor assigned 3 chapters to read (the horror!), I walked out. Luckily, I soon landed a government job and ended up working in real estate taxation at the local level. After several years of steady but boring work, it got stale. So, I started graduate school part-time in 1995. Originally, I was going to pursue a masters in economics. That was all that I knew. However, my employer would not pay for that degree. Given budget limitations (and my dislike of calculus), I decided to pursue a MPA (which my employer would pay for).

Being involved with APSA has been useful in terms of professional development. I have been a section program chair, section chair and LGBT Status Committee chair. Those service roles were useful in gaining tenure and promotion. Third, most of my professional network consists of people that I know through APSA.

After finishing the MPA in 2001, I realized that I wanted to do a PhD. In what, I had no real idea.  Unlike my job though, it sounded interesting. Full-time graduate school sounded like a proper way to deal with my boredom and various personal problems. So, I applied to a handful of schools and was accepted into NC State’s new program in Public Administration.  At the time, it was a small program that was housed in a joint political science and public administration department. I took great interest in their policy course. It was different than what I had found in a business college. However, life’s misfortunes nearly derailed my degree. I did not quit though. I dropped back to part-time to get my problems sorted and to concurrently pursue a degree in library science at UNC-Greensboro (there are more jobs for librarians than PhD’s). As I finished the MLS, my PhD got back on track as well. While working on my dissertation and applying for librarian jobs, I posted my cv information on the APSA e-jobs website. Subsequently, Ohio University contacted me about a visiting position in political science. They were desperate because it was late Spring.  I took the job. While at Ohio, I finished my PhD and somehow landed a tenure track job during the Great Recession.  So in a nutshell, this is a second career that I backed into by sheer good luck. I am happy that it worked out.

What made you join APSA? Why do you continue to stay involved? 

Dr. Taylor: I joined APSA on the advice of my dissertation chair, Andy Taylor (no relation). I stayed because the people in the Sexuality and Politics section took an interest in my work…especially the late Don Rosenthal. They gave me a lot of encouragement. Being a member was also invaluable in learning about opportunities in the field.  I remain involved with the organization for several reasons. First, it is important to help those who follow behind you. I have a responsibility to pay forward the help that was given to me. Secondly, being involved with APSA has been useful in terms of professional development. I have been a section program chair, section chair and LGBT Status Committee chair. Those service roles were useful in gaining tenure and promotion. Third, most of my professional network consists of people that I know through APSA. I genuinely like the people that I have met through the organization and consider many both friends and colleagues.

Getting a job is about what you can do for someone else. It is not necessarily about your interests in teaching some specialized course or your narrow interest in a research topic.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being a political scientist? How?

Dr. Taylor: I think the biggest hurdle comes down to resources. The field, along with other disciplines, has been starved for resources. Tenure track job openings are less common. There is less money for professional development, especially conference travel.  Opportunities are limited.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone in either graduate or undergradute year, what would it be and why? 

Dr. Taylor: Look at academic job ads on your first day of grad school. Figure out what is needed but what others don’t like to do. Do that. Getting a job is about what you can do for someone else. It is not necessarily about your interests in teaching some specialized course or your narrow interest in a research topic. Get some teaching experience too….particularly in needed things that others don’t like to do (service courses like American government, research methods, budgeting…). You also need to be mobile if you want to go into academia.  If you cannot make peace with the prospects of moving to a small town in “flyover country” you might be taking on a lot of risk.

Q: Outside of political science, tell us something interesting about yourself. 

Dr. Taylor: I am a big sports fan. Indeed, I am fully devoted to my football club, Arsenal. I also love college sports…especially NC State, Old Dominion and UNC-Greensboro. I even parlayed my interest in sports into teaching a course in sports and politics. I am also a shameless Anglophile who loves reading about the history of colonial era Virginia.

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