Interview with Tammie S., Political Science Bachelor’s Degree from the University of West Florida, 1984

Tammie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from in 1984

Tammie earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 1984

Where did you get your degree?

I received my bachelor of arts in political science from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. I minored in business management. It’s a great school with a beautiful wooded campus.

How did you feel about the quality of your instruction?

The classes were small, so that allowed for a great deal of one on one time with the professors. The class size also allowed for lots of in-depth discussion that sometimes spilled over the allotted class time. Most of my instructors were outstanding and ever helpful. However, it’s pretty hard to go through college and not have a professor or two who isn’t a favorite.

Did you specialize in any particular area?

Yes, at that time I was planning to go to law school, so I’d say my course work leaned more toward the study of constitutional law. I’m totally fascinated by the amazing structure of the United States constitution and its ability to bend and stretch with time. It’s also interesting to study the countries that have used our constitution as a basis for their own governments.

Did you have any favorite classes?

I loved all my constitutional law classes. A particular favorite was a semester long course just focusing on the Bill of Rights and I also took a special summer seminar that focused on the second amendment. Another favorite was a class called Conflict, Violence and Peace. The class focused on non-violent methods of change. We studied the tactics of Gandhi and how it affected leaders like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. I had to watch the movie of Gandhi so many times I was nearly convinced his ghost was lurking around my dorm room. Now, that I think of it, there was another class that covered the history of immigration in the United States. That was an eye-opening class when I realized just how poorly the newest group of immigrants is treated. Oh, and another one I’ll never forget focused on Latin American politics. The professor was from Cuba and never kept his anti-Castro views off the table. I wrote a paper in that class about how the Stroessner government openly allowed Dr. Joseph Mengele to live out his life there.

Are there any classes you wish you didn’t have to take?

There was one. It was called Political Research Methods, but it was hiding under that name, because it was a statistics class. The numbers, charts and diagrams made my eyes cross. However, there was one really interesting assignment that required us to create a survey and use it to generate data from people we interviewed. The catch was you had to tell the professor how you wanted the survey to turn out before you actually talked to people. The grade was based on whether or not you managed to get the result you wanted by wording the questions in a leading manner. I also learned a lot about how polling works. I can go through an election cycle and pull polling data into tiny pieces and explain why or why not they are accurate. So, maybe it wasn’t such an awful class after all.

Is there one thing you are particularly proud of doing?

I wrote a paper detailing how the Treaty of Versailles was a direct cause of World War 2. I was buried in research and the professor was very tough. She totally trashed my first proposal and told me I was being intellectually lazy. After a bit of cursing and swearing, I took her suggestions and went back to work. I got an A on the paper and the professor, who I didn’t honestly think liked me, asked me to do some research on an article she was writing. It was one of those moments in life when I was glad I went the extra mile.

Were there any clubs or societies you found useful?

There was a chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, which is the national political science honor society. The really active groups were College Republicans and College Democrats. It was fun to watch the groups spar with each other during election season. I also enjoyed the history club.

How did you finance your education?

I was a state resident, so I pieced it together with student loans and grants.

Did your school offer placement services?

Yes, they did, but I moved to Atlanta not long after I graduated and was lucky enough to land a job with the British Consulate on my own.

What did you end up doing with your degree?

Well, initially, as I said, I thought I wanted to go to law school, which is why I focused a lot of my time in classes with a legal slant. Toward the end of my senior year, I began doubting that I wanted to be a lawyer, so I didn’t take the LSAT or apply to law school. I decided to just hunt for a job right out of college, and that’s when I found out the Brits were hiring. I left the British Consulate, because the money wasn’t great. I moved to a company that was helping libraries digitize their collections and card catalogues. That job mostly focused on administration, something I discovered I didn’t like very much. After that, I was offered a job at a law firm and ended up working as a paralegal. I mostly worked on the insurance defense side of things, but I was also involved in asbestos litigation, wills and a little bit of real estate law.

Are you glad you majored in political science?

Yes. There’s a lot to be said for being true to yourself. Law and politics are my passions and my mind automatically views everything with a healthy dose of skepticism. I could’ve tried a field that had the potential to make more money like some of my friends in the computer science department, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve hated the work.

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