Talking and Teaching Politics

“Never a shortage of ideas” for Loyola’s 2016 Teacher of the Year

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos by Brigid Hamilton, '06

As a college student, Kevin Hula wasn’t planning to study political science. He went to college thinking he would major in business and go to law school.

Then, the night before freshman course selection, a friend told him that majoring in political science would allow him to choose more electives than majoring in business.

“On that remarkably flimsy advice, I declared the major,” said Hula, who graduated with majors in political science and German. “Law school plans faded over time, but I found my poli-sci courses riveting.”

Hula went on to earn his Master’s and Ph.D. in Political Science from Harvard.

In April the associate professor of political science received Loyola University Maryland’s Harry W. Rodgers III Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award, which recognizes faculty members whose teaching activities demonstrate a high degree of professional excellence.

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“The list of prior recipients is filled with extraordinary teachers, and it’s humbling to join them as a Distinguished Teacher of the Year,” Hula said. “At the same time, there are colleagues—phenomenal teachers—who gave me advice on teaching, and it’s humbling to receive this before they do. Realizing that students are the first stage in the selection process makes this a particularly meaningful award.”

Hula’s teaching and research focus on American politics, particularly interest groups and lobbying.

“A paper my first semester in college introduced me to the topic, and I ultimately wrote my undergraduate honors thesis and doctoral dissertation in that field,” he said. “That led to a book on interest group strategies in the policy process. More recently I’ve focused on the role of intelligence agencies in national security.”

In the fall of 2016 Hula will be teaching a seminar on intelligence and the executive branch—a course he is particularly looking forward to teaching.

“This is the course where we throw away all the lecture notes,” said Hula, who enjoys the dialogue with students in the classroom. “There’s never a shortage of ideas. One of the challenges is reining in students who only want to talk about current events.”

Over the years, Hula has brought several intelligence officers, senior agency leaders, and former students who work in intelligence agencies to speak to his classes.

“Particularly in this field, there is a great deal of misperception that people get from watching movies like Bond or Bourne. Fun flicks, but just wrong on so many levels,” he explained. “I’ve had the opportunity to take groups of students out to CIA several times over the years to tour their in-house museum, get a briefing on counter-intelligence, and meet a couple icons.”

Following graduation, many of Hula’s students apply to law school. Just as many choose other careers.

“It strikes me that I am seeing more of my students going on to Capitol Hill, getting involved in government service and public service. The neat thing is helping some of them to realize that there are other options,” he said.

“Being at an institution that values faith, recognizes teaching as a vocation, and wants its students to develop into men and women for others makes it a joy to go to work each day.”

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