IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Inside CU's faculty profile series
Our faculty are a source of great pride and bring a world of expertise, experimentation and excellence to our students and our community. Meet Eric Gonzalez Juenke, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.
Eric’s research examines how racial and ethnic minorities turn their preferences into policy in the face of institutional constraints, entrenched majority interests and policy incrementalism. He looks at these issues from a variety of perspectives, including minority representation in state and local legislatures, Latino and Black bureaucratic representation in public education in the United States, minority political participation and its influence on policy change, inter-institutional interactions over time, and the effects of electoral rules in promoting minority candidates.
What drew you to your field of expertise, and keeps you passionate about your work?
As an undergraduate I had interests in history, philosophy and math (in fact, I majored in all three at different times). I eventually found a home in political science, which is a discipline that puts all three of these interests to good use. It took me a little while to realize that political science strives to be a “science” in the ways that chemistry, biology and physics are sciences. We have not quite caught up with these hard sciences (and we may never do so), but the challenges of studying human behavior keep me passionate about my work. Strategic human behavior is the most interesting thing in the world to me, and the competition inherent to democratic politics creates counter-intuitive, innovative and unbelievable relationships that we don’t see in the other social sciences. My favorite thing is explaining to students why some of the most cherished conventional wisdom in politics is often wrong. Giving students new insight into unexpected relationships (information they can use to impress their friends and family) is the most exciting part of my job.
Teaching political science and solving political puzzles are the most enjoyable parts of my profession. I love learning from my colleagues in the department and in the profession. To be an academic is to be a perpetual student. As an undergraduate this would have been my worst nightmare, but this is the part of my life I have embraced the most over the last five years. Strangely enough, this is also the most challenging part of the profession. Trying to stay current with theory and methods (learning!) is tough when you have so many other jobs to do and it is very difficult to separate professional fads from true innovation.
What are your favorite interests and activities apart from your work?
I don’t think I like to hike. My wife and I have discovered that I like the idea of hiking and being outdoors more than actually doing these things. I enjoy reading American history and historical fiction, and reading economic and political blogs. I am also engaged in a project to educate my Canadian wife about the wonders and genius of American pop culture. This is tough work, but we train with a few hours of The Simpsons and a few rented movies each week.
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