Amy Buzby is a professor of political science that brings us, once again, an extremely revealing Coffeehouse Four for this week’s Get to Know.
Place of birth:
My husband Evan and our two cats, Drake and Kelly
Why did you choose A-State?
I wanted to work somewhere that valued both research and teaching. I also like the environment of public universities.
Your philosophy on education in seven words:
I’m going to cheat and use nine: Use school to become a stronger version of yourself.
If you could teach another field, which one and why?
History has always been an interest of mine. I wanted to be a historian before I got to college and encountered political theory in a serious way.
Four people I’d take to coffee...
Mr. Rogers, D.W. Winnicott, Socrates and Stone Cold Steve Austin. That’s probably a strange answer, but they’re the four corners of my pedagogy.
Who was your favorite teacher (and why)?
My PhD advisor, Dr. Stephen Eric Bronner. He’s brilliant, prolific and taught me more about the profession than I would have otherwise learned in twenty years. I also continue to count him as a genuine mentor, which is the thing a student benefits from most of all.
What music is playing in your car?
I usually listen to NPR in the car. My favorite bands are Wilco, The Rolling Stones and Radiohead, though.
My favorite motion picture is...
My taste in movies is pretty eclectic. I love films like La Haine, Fish Tank and Through a Glass Darkly. I also love films like Commando, They Live and Battle Royale.
What makes for a good student?
The best students treat their courses like they would professional commitments at a job, and they do the work accordingly. When you don’t do your reading and push assignments to the last minute, you’re not getting the benefit of a course and you’re not doing your best (your boss would likely fire you for that kind of stuff). Professors don’t give assignments because we’re sadists, we do it because education isn’t easy and it takes genuine work from the student to actually learn. Learning, in other words, isn’t just memorizing facts. It’s developing new ways of thinking and coming to insights on your own terms. That’s never going to be easy (unfortunately).
What’s the value of a university education?
I think the value lies in becoming a well-rounded individual and citizen, the kind of person who can think critically and adapt to and appreciate a host of diverse circumstances in life.
What is the one thing you wish you could teach everyone about your field?
My field is very diverse, ranging all the way from pre-Socratic philosophy through contemporary political thought. I’d synthesize it down to one lesson from many thinkers instead of focusing on an important individual thinker: citizenship is a commitment, and requires work. That work isn’t just external stuff, like voting and paying taxes. It’s, perhaps more importantly, internal stuff like developing into maturity, tolerating the rights of others (especially when you disagree with them), compromising with the other parties and developing the skills necessary to follow and participate in sociopolitical debates.
The television series I must TiVo...
Right now, I think the best show on TV is The Leftovers. I’m addicted to Game of Thrones and a few others, too, though.
The last book I read for fun was...
John Darnielle’s brilliant Wolf in White Van. I love his music (with The Mountain Goats) and knew going in that this would be a rewarding read.
My favorite trip was...
We’ve travelled a lot. I’m not sure I could pick one trip. My favorite cities to visit are Philadelphia, Seattle, Denver, Las Vegas, Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville and Atlanta.
My hobby is...
I bake my own bread and enjoy running and yoga.
My pro sports team is...
Green Bay Packers, New Jersey Devils and Memphis Grizzlies. I’m also a big UFC fan. My favorite fighters are Khabib Nurmagomedov and Donald Cerrone.
My pet peeve is...
Falsity. Just be yourself. It’s okay if some people don’t like you, it’s not the end of the world.
What makes a good professor?
I think there are many ways to be a good professor. My personal approach developed over many years and is still evolving. I try to engage students where they are, and I do everything in my power to make my courses compelling without losing rigor. I try to integrate a range of assignments that work to build student skills. I try to be compassionate to students, because I know they are usually dealing with a multitude of stresses, challenges and commitments beyond my class. I do not impose my political views or personal opinions on my classes (in fact, I try to keep them entirely out of the classroom), because I think college is about the each student figuring out who they are and what they think on their own terms.
My favorite meal is...
I have a lot of them. At the moment, it’s gigantes beans with peasant bread and a salad.
A perfect day is...
Spent with my husband.
Cats or dogs?
Cats, hands down, but I like dogs, too.
E-book or hardback?
Beach or mountains?
Having grown up at the shore, I’d rather be anywhere than a beach town in the summer. The one exception might actually be the mountains, because I hate heights. The beach in the winter, with a storm about to come in or in a soft snow, however, is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The one thing I’d take to a desert island (and a boat is not an answer)...
If I can’t say boat, I’m definitely going with satellite phone.
I wish I could...
I don’t really make time for wishing. If it’s worth doing, I’ll do it.
My favorite saying is...
Freud’s “Wo Es war, soll Ich werden,” or “Where it was, there shall I be.”