Joe Donnelly teaches undergraduate political science course
Thomas Murphy | Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Even if one attends the best university with the best professors and the best resources, it is rare to receive the opportunity to spend time with someone who has in-depth knowledge in the chosen subject to go with first-hand experience. Fortunately for students majoring in political science, that opportunity is being offered this semester, as former U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly is teaching a course in the Department of Political Science and the Keough School of Global Affairs.
The one-credit course for undergraduates, entitled “Facing America’s Challenges,” will be taught by Donnelly in conjunction with a rotating member of the political science faculty. Each week, participants will examine a different issue affecting American politics as Donnelly provides experience-based knowledge to the dialogue.
The course comes on the heels of Donnelly’s failed reelection bid at the hands of Republican Mike Braun. Donnelly earned both a B.A. and a J.D. from Notre Dame, and served as an Indiana senator from 2013 to 2019.
Donnelly’s tenure as a local and national politician has given him an insight into politics that is difficult to find anywhere else, David Campbell, chairperson for the Department of Political Science, said.
“Hopefully, what students will learn from that is how to take the abstract theories they learn from other political science classes and see how they actually play out when somebody’s running for office,” he said. “Now as political scientists, we can only speak of what it’s like to run for office or what its like to govern second hand, because very few of your professors actually have real life experience in this stuff. Joe Donnelly, of course, does.”
Campbell said having people like Donnelly come teach is something he hopes to do more of in the department.
“This is something that, personally, I have wanted us to do more of, to have people who have been in public life come teach here,” Campbell said. “[Donnelly] was just a match made in heaven because he was looking for things to do. We were interested in bringing him on board, and it’s an easy sell to the students to have him come and participate in other ways with someone whose been in public like him.”
Director of undergraduate studies Joshua Kaplan said Donnelly’s experience with local politics in South Bend makes his time at Notre Dame particularly exciting.
“I like the idea that the department has a connection with a local politician,” Kaplan said. “Notre Dame has a national and an international reputation and reach, but I like the local parts of it. … Joe Donnelly represented this congressional district before he was a senator … so it’s a nice opportunity to learn more about local politics and Indiana politics.”
Reflecting on the particular challenges Donnelly faced as a candidate and a senator in South Bend and Indiana, Campbell said Donnelly will teach from a perspective of someone with an intimate knowledge of a region vital to presidential success.
“South Bend and the state of Indiana represent exactly the kind of place that will be in play in the 2020 presidential race,” Campbell said. “Even students who are from far away, nowhere near the rust belt, if they want to understand American politics, they need to understand what’s happening here because it determined what happened in 2016, [and] it will determine what happens in 2020.”
Campbell said that the department hopes Donnelly’s position will blossom into a long-term relationship with the University, including three-credit courses.