Alumni Teachers Make the Grade
When Ron Christie '91 sits in the Coop lounge on Monday afternoons, savoring a cup of coffee and preparing for his evening class, it reminds him of his undergraduate days. But this time, he's not taking a classâ€”he's teaching one.
Christieâ€”former special assistant to President George W. Bush for domestic policy and author of Black in the White Houseâ€”is just one of several Haverford alumni who have returned to campus as teachers. Some, like Theresa Tensuan '89 (English), Andrea Morris '91 (biology) and Stephon Alexander '93 (physics), join the faculty as professors; others, like Christie and Neal Grabell '77, visit for one or more semesters and share the knowledge they've acquired in their varied careers.
“While I had previously taught professional education courses, I'd never taught at a college before, and it was an adjustment,” says Grabell, a lawyer and former executive vice president and general counsel of a large retailer, who has taught a course on business ethics each fall since 2006 and will do so again in fall of '09.“I had to remember how I had first learned concepts that are now second nature to me, and figure out how to present these concepts in such a way that others without experience in the field could learn and benefit.”
This semester, Christie is teaching a seminar for junior and senior political science majors called“Strategic Advocacy: Lobbying and Interest Group Politics of Washington, D.C.” Christie, who is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and runs his own consulting firm, Christie Strategies, approached political science chair Steve McGovern about developing a course that would serve as a practicum rather than focus solely on theory.“I show students how strategic advocacy and lobbying is practiced in D.C. today,” he says,“and give them the skill sets to succeed as advocates at whatever level they pursue.”
Christie feels that his Haverford education well prepared him not only for his political career, but also for his current professorial incarnation.“I learned how to read complex information and distill it quickly, and how to write and articulate my ideas,” he says.“I know that the skill sets I and other students developed readied us for involvement in politics and other high-paced, high-pressure careers.”
As a teacher, he relishes the opportunity to pass on his knowledge and experience to current Fords:“I enjoy knowing that this preparation will position them well for whatever profession they seek to pursue.” He also considers it a“thrill and an honor” to be included as part of the political science faculty alongside Anita Isaacs, who was his favorite professor during his undergraduate days.
Christie is also receiving as much of an education as he's giving.“My students push me hard,” he says.“They challenge me on my assumptions, and on assertions I make in class. It's not a one-way street.” They also want to know how his background as a conservative Republican and member of the Bush administration has informed his opinion on various topics.“They like hearing a different perspective, and that's what Haverford is all about.”
Some may wonder why he chooses to travel from his home in D.C. to Haverford once a week and spend a night in the Campus Center's guest rooms just to teach one class, but as far as Christie is concerned, he's living a dream.“When I come home on Tuesdays, my wife says I have a glow,” he reports. “Haverford shaped who I am today, and this is just one way for me to give back.”