APSA Member of the Month: Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan, Elizabethtown College

Dr. E. Fletcher McClellan is Professor of Political Science at Elizabethtown College. He has served in many leadership roles at the College, including Dean of Faculty, Interim Provost, and department chair. He teaches the senior capstone in political science, as well as courses in American government, public policy, and public administration. A regular commentator for the online Pennsylvania Capital-Star, Dr. McClellan has written articles for PS: Political Science & Politics, the Journal of Political Science Education, and the Washington Post, and presented dozens of papers at professional conferences in such areas as the American presidency, politics and film, and teaching and learning in political science. Several of his papers are co-authored by undergraduate students and alumni. He is the recipient of the 2018 Craig L. Brians Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Mentorship, awarded by the Political Science Education Section of the American Political Science Association.

Discovering the Political Science Education Section, which focuses on teaching and learning scholarship and includes many members from small colleges, was a professional turning point for me.

Why did you become a political scientist?

Dr. E. Fletcher: Growing up in the 1960s, I was always interested in politics. My family rituals included reading the newspaper and watching the evening news on TV as historic events took place. In college I just continued studying what I liked. I went into a master’s program and, encouraged by faculty mentors, was surprised and pleased to learn that I could actually make a living sharing my passion for politics with others. Also, I had a deathly fear of having to go into sales.

Why did you join APSA and why do you continue to stay involved?

Dr. E. Fletcher: I regret to say I didn’t join APSA until mid-career, initially as a department chair interviewing applicants for a job opening. Discovering the Political Science Education Section, which focuses on teaching and learning scholarship and includes many members from small colleges, was a professional turning point for me. It’s a joy to know and work with wonderful colleagues from around the country who have the same scholarly and professional interests and aspirations. I’m very excited about our current project on rethinking the undergraduate political science curriculum.

As a former dean of faculty, I always advised junior colleagues to put students first in their professional life and work. This helps put squabbles with colleagues and administrators, as well as professional triumphs and setbacks, into perspective.”

What is the most challenging aspect of being a political scientist?

Dr. E. Fletcher: Actually, there are several: (1) explaining to folks what you can do with a political science degree; (2) enduring conversations with people who think that political scientists do what Sean Hannity does; and (3) juggling the roles of faculty member, public commentator, and citizen.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone in their graduate/undergraduate years, what would it be and why?

Dr. E. Fletcher: As a former dean of faculty, I always advised junior colleagues to put students first in their professional life and work. This helps put squabbles with colleagues and administrators, as well as professional triumphs and setbacks, into perspective. Perhaps spurred by growing threats to democracy and the search for truth, I’ve recently emphasized the need for students and colleagues to cultivate a larger sense of purpose.

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

Dr. E. Fletcher: I’m a film buff and enjoy playing golf as much as one can enjoy playing golf. I’m also a rabid fan of Philadelphia professional sports. In that regard my claim to fame was catching a grand slam home run at a 2014 Phillies game, wearing an Etown hoodie that was instantly recognized by Elizabethtown friends (http://now.etown.edu/index.php/2014/05/07/fletcher-the-catcher-dean-of-faculty-catches-grand-slam-ball/).

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