5 Questions with Faculty: Julie Novkov

Julie Novkov is chair of the Department of Political Science at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. (Photo by Carlo de Jesus)

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 7, 2016) — Professor Julie Novkov chairs Department of Political Science, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy.

Novkov came to the UAlbany after teaching at the University at Oregon for 10 years, because she was excited by the opportunity to teach in a department that had public law as an independent and robust field.

What are you working on right now? 

I am working on two exciting projects. One is a volume that I’m coediting with Carol Nackenoff on the family, the state and political development. We’ve assembled a great group of scholars who are presenting perspectives on important questions about the family’s role as both a target and a means of development, and as a site where state-building and state transformations take place. The second project is an article examining the cultural and political construction of disease as threat, considering responses to Ebola, Zika, and Valley Fever. 

What made you decide to pursue your field?

I received a law degree before earning my Ph.D. and as I was completing my law degree, I came to realize that the kind of “law on the ground” questions were not ones that I could easily answer without the tools and approaches of social science. I’ve long been interested in how law functions as a system of state power but also as an opportunity for change and empowerment for subordinated groups.

What do you see as challenges for those entering your field? 

One challenge is persuading students and their parents that it’s well worth investing the time and effort into acquiring strong writing and critical thinking skills, and that focusing on a specific career too early is often not beneficial. Another is thinking through the challenges posed by the current political climate — our field is working hard to help people understand the political aspects of major issues like climate change, the meaning and boundaries of the American democratic tradition, the sources of and solutions for refugee crises, and concerns about terrorism.

Dinner tonight with anyone, living or not: Who, and why? 

Friedrich Nietzsche, because I have always been fascinated by his later works, and would love to ask him some questions about some of his work that was published after his death. But I’d also love to have a sit down with W.E.B. DuBois and tell him he was eventually proved to be right about Reconstruction!

What’s one thing students might be surprised to know about you? 

I am something more than a casual runner. The longest race I’ve completed is a half marathon, and I’m hoping to do another one this fall. I also started playing Pokemon Go this summer, primarily to annoy my children.

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