How did you get interested in Political Science?
I became interested in Political Science as a college student during my first visit to Moscow in the Soviet Union in 1989 when Communism was collapsing. At that point, the Soviet Union’s tightly closed regime was suddenly opening up. Everything seemed possible. It was an extremely exciting time. I hung out with new civil society groups and people who had just begun to participate in politics after decades of dictatorship. Initially inspired by what seemed an inevitable transition to democracy, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on emerging Soviet/Russian civil society. However, the rapid demise of democracy in Russia and across the region convinced me of the need to focus on emerging forms of authoritarian rule in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere. Now my work focuses on the dynamics of authoritarianism.
What are you working on right now?
I am writing a book with my friend from graduate school, Steven Levitsky (Harvard University) on the durability of authoritarian regimes founded in violent revolutionary struggle. The book explores why regimes founded in violent revolution (such as Cuba, the USSR and China) tend to be unusually robust even in the face of severe economic and political crises.
What do you bring to the undergraduate class room?
Above all I seek to convey why the study of politics is so interesting and important. I have always had a passion for theatre. In high school I did a lot of drama. Perhaps as a result, I particularly enjoy giving lectures to large numbers of students.
What is one helpful tip you’d like to share with your students to help them succeed at UTSC?
If you think you will need a recommendation to get into a Masters or PhD program, you should make sure you take at least one or two small seminars with professors before you graduate. This will make it easier to ask them for a recommendation.