Valerie Johnson

Rachel Marciano
April 20, 2017

What's your role at DePaul?

I am an associate professor and the chair of the Department of Political Science.  My areas of focus include African American politics, urban politics, and the politics of urban education.  I joined the university in 2003 and have been department chair since 2014.

How do you make students world ready?

I often hear people say, "I'm not into politics." The thing is, politics is into you. Everything you do in your daily life, from what substances go into your lipstick to how much you pay for the El, is controlled by governmental institutions. The study of political science is important because we analyze those institutions, political behavior and the political processes that affect our lives.

Political science makes students world ready in a number of ways, both inside and outside the classroom. In the classroom, I try to problematize some of their cherished concepts, such as those related to democracy and equality. Difficult dialogues in the classroom enable students to challenge their assumptions about the world. It's necessary as we teach our disciplines to get students to think out of the box and think critically about who they are, their place in the world and who we are as a society.

Outside the classroom, I create service learning options that provide students practical experiences to supplement the theory they study in the classroom, which also supports DePaul's focus on experiential learning. In several of my courses, students can volunteer in inner-city schools or at black political organizations and write reflection papers about their experience, what assumptions were challenged, and if and how it made them think differently about our society. Some people look at education as a means to an end-to get a job. I value education for both its utility in promoting self-sufficiency and for its intrinsic value - to serve humanity. If it does not inform or attempt to resolve societal challenges and problems, what's the point?