A Balanced Act: Amy Freedman on Scholarship and Students
The new head of Political Science in New York City is a China expert equally interested in guiding students on their Pace Path.
To new Political Science Chair Amy Freedman, PhD, researching China's infrastructure plans and building bridges for students hold equal importance.
Originally from Boston, she first became interested in China through a high school student exchange program, and later, at Barnard College, wrote her senior thesis on the Tiananmen Square protests in China in 1989. An interdisciplinary pursuit had been born, and coupled with a passion for writing and research, she continued with master’s and doctoral work in political science at New York University.
A prolific author, her area of focus includes trends towards and away from democracy, and issues of nontraditional security threats. More recently, Freedman’s research has examined a very timely topic in global politics, China's Belt and Road Initiative in Southeast Asia. One of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, it will connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa to China.
On the importance of this, she says, “there is wide variation in Southeast Asia as to how countries are working with China (or not) on these projects, and, there is growing push back inside of countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia to China's growing economic power.”
Her scholarly research, however, has never eclipsed her student-focused nature.
Coming to Pace with a vision
After first garnering experience in both research and teaching at LIU Post, Columbia University, and Franklin and Marshall College, Freedman joined Pace in 2018, where her enthusiasm for her students continues in her role as chair of the Political Science Department on the New York City campus.
“As chair of Political Science, I hope that as I get to know more students here, they will see me as a resource and an advocate as they navigate college life and beyond," she says. “I want to help students steer their college years so that they find courses, faculty, and areas of inquiry that peak their curiosity and get them interested in the world around them, and I want students to feel connected to their program of study, to their fellow students, and to their professors.”
Prior to starting at Pace, Freedman received a mentoring grant, which she has used to bring in speakers and hold events for students so they may be exposed to different ways of thinking about politics. As a newly appointed chair, she has also revised the department’s internship-for-credit class, which she encourages students to utilize.
Due to the inherently cross-disciplinary nature of political science, Freedman’s vision includes building bridges to other areas within the College. This includes developing and strengthening the Latinx programs’ coursework (the Political Science department offers a Latina/o Studies major and minor), and creating synergies with the Global Asia and Environmental Studies programs.
She also would like to help Political Science majors see the limitless career possibilities available to them after college, and one way is through pre-law advising.
“Our students tend to be interested in social justice, policy questions, and public interest more than corporate law, so I feel that I can help students investigate law programs that would match their interests, “she says.
Political science and the liberal arts
The study of political science is also something Freedman values a great deal, in that it provides students with a way to ask important questions and provides them with tools to answer those questions.
“I think it behooves us to ensure that students really see the value in having chosen a field of study which requires and hones their writing skills, their critical thinking and problem solving skills, and their engagement with their communities and the larger world,” she says.
The impact extends much further, however.
“Since political science is firmly grounded in the world around us, students learn a great deal about local, national, and international affairs as a political science major. They will become better citizens and be better able to advocate for themselves and others,” she says.
Freedman’s current research examines China’s future through the lenses of its infrastructure projects, but she is also paving roads for her own students’ future by sharing that very research.
This semester she is teaching a course on international political economy, through which she discusses the growth of China and its impact on global economic cooperation. She intends to teach one on Chinese politics in the near future, in order to examine more extensively China's regional and global interests with students.