Growing up in West Virginia, three hours from Washington D.C., Brooke Allen’s parents took her to more marches on the National Mall than she can count. No wonder she is a self-described “political junkie” and a recent recipient of an American Political Science Association (APSA) award.
“The project was inspired by The Daily Show, when a comedian noted that gerrymandered (organized to benefit one political party) districts resemble pieces of abstract art,” explains Allen of the work that earned her an APSA CQ Press Award for Teaching Innovation. “I hosted a Gerrymandering Art Exhibit in the fall, based on my students’ group research projects.”
CQ Press publishes scholarly texts on American government and public policy and its annual award recognizes one political science professor who has developed a new way of engaging students in the political process. Past recipients have been professors from Northwestern and Indiana universities and the University of Michigan.
“I was not expecting it at all” says Allen, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from U of M, and has been teaching full time at Macomb for five years. “I presented a paper on my students’ Gerrymandering art exhibit at the association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. Someone in the audience nominated me for the award.”
That someone was Dr. Sherry Wallace, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana, who is developing a similar classroom project based on Allen’s success, which the Macomb professor attributes to her students.
“We have great students,” says Allen. “They are aware of what’s going on in the world.”
Allen continues to look for innovative ways to “show how what we talk about in class relates to their own lives.” There was an interactive video discussion with students from the University of California, Berkeley on the outcome of the last presidential election, which inspired Allen to add a unit to her classes on the impact of social media on election campaigns.
“We will be looking at a lot of different news sources,” says Allen. “They need to know they have more choices than Facebook.”