Benjamin Meiches teaches a variety of courses and programs at UW Tacoma, from debate to politics, and even Global Honors. He loves being able to work closely with the campus community. In doing so, he hopes to establish a relationship built on openness so students can reach out and interact with their professors.
Where did you attend college?
“I completed my undergraduate degree at Whitman College and received a B.A. in Politics. I completed my doctorate in Political Science at Johns Hopkins University.”
When did you know you wanted to pursue your field of study?
“My first instinct is to say when I was 14 or 15 years old. I spent a fair amount of time participating in debate during high school and I think I knew then that I wanted to study politics broadly understood. I work really hard to learn something about a lot of different areas because the boundaries between types of knowledge or study can be quite contrived.
If you come to my office, you’ll find books on politics, sociology, history — things you might expect — but also odd works of literature, a few books on topology and plenty on complexity science and physics. I’ve always kind of let my curiosity dictate my direction. I suppose I study politics because I often don’t really understand why people act in the ways that they do.”
What classes do you teach?
“I teach in three areas. First, a bunch of courses about international politics including Introduction to International Relations, Theories of Political Violence, Genocide, Politics of Security, International Organizations and Human Rights and the Use of Force. Second, a couple of courses on public presentation and debate including Debate and Political Rhetoric. Third, I teach in the Global Honors program. Each is rewarding in different ways.”
What do you like best about UWT?
“Funny story. Sometimes in my debate course I have students do an introduction activity where they partner up and argue about whether UWT is the best or worst university in the world. It is a good way to get everyone talking. It also means that I’ve actually heard a lot of different arguments for what makes UWT the best and the worst place to be — overwhelming negative answer from students in my class is parking.
Once last year, a student said that the best part of UWT was that they get to actually meet and interact with their professors and that they felt like many of the faculty were approachable and congenial in contrast to UW Seattle. I think so many aspects of higher education are unapproachable either by accident or design: college is expensive, professors are busy, expertise in a given area requires a lot of time and dedication to develop. Various social boundaries exist. Even the idea of college can be daunting.
I think the student nailed it when they said that the best part about this school is the potential for close, slightly more intimate, slightly more accessible encounters with students. My favorite moments at UW Tacoma are when I get to work directly with just a handful of students and help them think in new ways.”
What are your hobbies outside of teaching?
“I don’t really have any hobbies per se. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my four year old daughter whether that means playing catch, painting, or pretending to be polar bears. I read a lot of fiction. I bake often. I watch basketball occasionally. I try to get out for hikes whenever I can.”
What advice can you give students?
“My favorite professor during my undergraduate experience was … Shampa Biswas. I have this wonderful/dreadful memory of being in her class when she asked someone to explain a particularly difficult point in the text we were reading. After the obligatory 10 second pause, I gave it a shot.
After I answered, she turned to the class and asked what they thought of my response. I recall feeling like I was ready to crawl under the nearest desk, hole, cave, infinite void — take your pick. No one responded so eventually she said, ‘well, good, because it was essentially right.’ Sweet relief!
What’s the point of my story? Speak up in class. Don’t feel embarrassed about not understanding or not having perfect answers. Theoretically, a university is a place where you acquire some knowledge. The process of acquiring knowledge presupposes you don’t have knowledge. It is not only okay, it is important to feel comfortable with that.
Also, remember that even if a professor is asking you a question, challenging your argument, et cetera, they’re likely doing so to try and help you build a skill, see a different perspective or even to develop more confidence in yourself.”
- My favorite television show is Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- I think the best book I’ve read this year is Marlon James’ “Black Leopard, Red Wolf.”
- In a pinch, I could probably show you how to ice fish.