Erin Richards Receives the 2020 APSA Community College Faculty Award

The APSA Community College Faculty Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor exemplary contributions that advance the multi-faceted goals of community college faculty.

Erin Richards has a bachelor of arts in international relations from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and a master of arts in political science from Washington State University where she is ABD.

Her academic interests include American Government institutions and voting behavior, state and local Government, and women in politics, as well as issues around citizenship, civic engagement, and political science education and pedagogy. Ms. Richards has been actively involved in the American Political Science Association (APSA) for several years, and was elected in 2017 to serve on its council. She is the first person ever to represent community colleges in this capacity.

She has published book chapters and articles on teaching at community colleges and worked on multi-campus projects on the role of American Government courses in promoting citizenship education and engagement. Prior to Cascadia, she taught at Washington State University, Olympic College, and Green River Community College

Citation from the Award Committee:

Erin Richards is simply an outstanding example of a dedicated community college professor and engaged member of APSA.  She is a tireless advocate for community college faculty, an empathetic mentor, an inspired teacher, and a skilled networker who has assisted countless colleagues in their professional development.

After receiving a B.A. in political science from Mount Holyoke College, Professor Richards continued graduate studies at Washington State University.  Since 2007, she has been on the faculty at Cascadia College in Bothell, WA, where she currently serves as the division coordinator of social sciences.  In addition to her duties as division coordinator at the college, Richards serves on the college’s Program Assessment Committee and the Human Participants Research Review Board.  She also serves as a political science liaison with local high schools and college coordinator for the political science discipline.

Professor Richards is an innovative and collaborative teacher who has worked with multiple programs and departments at Cascadia College.  Professor Richards collaborated with colleagues from other departments to create the Bachelor of Applied Science in Sustainable Practices, an interdisciplinary degree focused on teaching students how to help organizations utilize sustainability strategies.  She created the courses related to environmental policy and politics and teaches them as part of the program.

Professor Richards is truly a mentor to her colleagues and is responsible for bringing dozens of community college faculty to the APSA.  She has supported faculty in joining committees, presenting at conferences, and advocating for the community colleges within the association and the discipline at large.  She is a fixture at the Annual Meeting and Teaching and Learning conferences and actively reaches out to new faculty, welcomes them to the organization, and finds ways to get them engaged.

Professor Richards’s nomination was supported by numerous faculty, including a nomination letter signed by nine faculty from different institutions.  They wrote, “Erin Richards exemplifies a community college faculty who talks-the-talk and walks-the-walk.  Her advocacy on behalf of community college faculty in teaching and in the discipline serves as an example to her students who see in her a stellar example of someone who makes real the spirit of the discipline.”

Aside from her work within her own institution, judges also cited Professor Richards’s service to the discipline.  In 2017, Professor Richards was the first community college faculty to be elected to the APSA Council and last year she was a key mover getting the Community College Caucus organized.  She currently sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Political Science Education and serves on the policy committee of APSA Political Science Education and Audit Committee.

Professor Richards has also been active professionally in the Pacific Northwest region, serving on the executive committee of Pacific Northwest Political Science Association, including terms as secretary and president.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Dr. Rachel Bzostek Walker (chair), Collin College; Dr. Eric C. Schwartz, Hagerstown Community College; and Christina MI Sciabarra, Bellevue College.