Interview with Stefan Renckens

Portrait image of Stefan Renckens

How did you get interested in Political Science?

One of my earliest political memories is the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in the late 1980s, which I first heard about watching the evening news with my parents. Not much later, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed and the war in Yugoslavia broke out. Growing up in Europe, these were all big events that left a lasting impression on me. Reading more about these topics naturally led me to a political science education.  

My specific interest in environmental politics emerged several years later only, when I took two environmental politics courses. One course I took when I was an exchange student in Ireland, the other with a professor at my home university, the University of Leuven, in Belgium. Both of these classes taught me about the precarious state of our planet and offered conceptual tools to structure my thoughts around our place as human beings in this world.

What are you working on right now?

My overall research agenda deals with the functioning of transnational private governance and its interactions with public policy. So it is about the role of private actors, such as businesses and NGOs, in rule-making and how this influences public policy making. I’m currently working on several projects in this respects: one project deals with fisheries certification, which some of you may encounter in the supermarket as eco-labels for fisheries products, while another project researches the way the European Union has responded to private governance in issue areas such as fair trade, fisheries, organic agriculture and biofuels.  

What do you bring to the undergraduate class room?

I hope I can bring enthusiasm to the classroom, that political science is interesting and fun to study. In all my courses, I also bring an international perspective, having arrived in Canada only a few years ago. And I always sneak in a focus on environmental issues as well. Even though I don’t teach a class on environmental politics specifically, I find it important to educate students about the state of our planet, which is our most fundamental resource.  

What is one helpful tip you’d like to share with your students to help them succeed at UTSC?

You only get out of your studies what you put into it. This is your time to explore topics in a way you won’t be able to anymore once you start a real job. So do the readings, go to class, and participate actively. In other words, engage.