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Scholar to join political science dept.

Marisa Iati | Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Associate Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University Patrick Deneen will trade the White House for the Golden Dome as he joins the faculty at the University of Notre Dame at the beginning of next semester.

Deneen said he was drawn to Notre Dame because of its dedication to building a great Catholic research university. He said despite the similar religious affiliations between Georgetown and Notre Dame, he recognizes a more rigorous commitment in the latter.

“I think at Notre Dame there is a stronger sense of a community of scholars and students engaged in a common project [than there is at Georgetown] because of a greater awareness and presence of [Notre Dame’s] Catholic mission,” he said.

Michael Desch, chair of Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science, said Deneen will join the University’s faculty as an associate professor in the fall of 2012. He will begin teaching courses about American political thought in the department’s recently announced new Constitutional Studies subfield the following spring.

At Georgetown, Deneen taught courses in ancient thought, American thought and religion and politics. Though he does not know which specific classes he will teach at Notre Dame, Deneen said he hopes to offer an introductory political philosophy course.

“Some of my teaching will be aimed at building [the Constitutional Studies] program,” Deneen said. “In nearly all my courses, I try to show my students that political philosophy, which can sometimes seem a little abstract and distant, has shaped and transformed the world in which we live.”

Deneen is the founder and director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy. The six-year-old Georgetown program promotes the study of Western philosophical and theological sources’ influence on the American constitutional experiment.

Deneen said he had not yet discussed bringing something like the Tocqueville Forum to Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame has many fine centers, programs and institutes,” Deneen said. “Once I arrive and get my feet on the ground, some of those might well welcome my participation and contributions based on my experience with founding and running the Tocqueville Forum.”

In a note he sent to several Georgetown students and later published on frontporchrepublic.com, a website dedicated to being a public forum, Deneen cited his sense of place at Georgetown and family concerns as his reasons for resigning.

“In the seven years since I joined the faculty at Georgetown, I have found myself often at odds with the trajectory and many decisions of the university,” he wrote.

Deneen expressed concern that Georgetown “remakes itself in the image of its secular peers” and said he wants to contribute to a more rigorous institutional mission.

“I don’t doubt that there will shortcomings at Our Lady’s University,” he wrote. “But, there are at least some comrades-in-arms to share in the effort.”

Deneen said he and his family also look forward to having a more integrated life between their home, community and university.

“I would like to see those spheres coming closer together,” he said.

Desch said he believes Deneen will be a strong addition to the University’s faculty.

“He’s a very distinguished scholar of political theory and constitutional studies,” Desch said. “He seemed like a perfect individual to help us achieve both scholarly excellence and to further the University’s Catholic mission.”

Deneen said he hopes to make a mark on Notre Dame by the close of his career.

“I sincerely hope that … I will be able to look back with satisfaction and gratitude at having made a difference in the lives of several generations of Notre Dame students,” he said.