Dr. Stephen Gent – Alumnus Spotlight
Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
BA in Political Science and Spanish (1999)
After graduating from UM in 1999, Dr. Stephen Gent pursued graduate studies at the University of Rochester, where he received an MA and a PhD in political science. He joined the faculty in the Department of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005, where he teaches courses in international relations and quantitative research methods. His research mainly focuses on the study of international conflict processes, and he has published articles on topics such as military intervention, conflict mediation, and international arbitration. His recent book, Market Power Politics: War, Institutions and Strategic Delay in World Politics, explores how economic competition drives territorial conflict between countries.
What shaped your choice of political science and Spanish? Where did those interests originate?
Growing up, I was always interested in geography and global cultures. When I came to Ole Miss, I wanted to studying international affairs. At that time, the Croft Institute didn’t exist, so chose to study political science, which offered courses in international relations. As I learned more about quantitative social science research, I decided that political science was a great way for me to combine a love of math with my interests in international affairs.
As for majoring in Spanish, this was largely related to my study abroad experiences. I had three years of Spanish in high school and decided to enroll in two honors courses in Spanish during my first year at Ole Miss. I then participated in the UM summer program in Salamanca, Spain, and later spent a semester studying in Queretaro, Mexico. At that point, I decided to add a second major in Spanish to gain a better understanding of the Spanish language and literature.
Please tell a little bit about about your time at UM.
As a student, I was involved in several student organizations, including Ole Miss Ambassadors, and I remember having to learn all about the university’s history to give campus tours. It was always fun to introduce new people to the campus.
Looking back on my years at UM, one of the things that I most value was the opportunity to make connections with top-notch faculty members. In particular, honors classes provided interactive small-class experiences with motivated students from a wide range of backgrounds. I found that faculty in all of my classes were dedicated to getting to know you as a student and as a person. Ole Miss really felt like a community. Perhaps most critically for my future career path, I was also able to work one-on-one with a faculty member on a research project, which help prepared me to succeed in graduate school. I also had the opportunity to participate in UM-sponsored study abroad programs in Spain and Mexico, which helped to provide a more global perspective to my experience at Ole Miss.
Why study political science and/or Spanish?
Whenever I tell someone that I teach political science, year in and year out, they almost always reply with something along the lines of “It must be a really interesting time to teach that.” I think that is because people recognize how politics shapes our day-to-day lives in so many ways. Understanding of how political processes work is essential for citizens to be able to navigate the world that we live in. As a social science, political science teaches you how to use the systematic approach of the scientific method to understand the complexities of human interactions. Thus, in addition to helping to make you a better-informed citizen, studying political science provides you with valuable analytical and writing skills that will be useful in a wide range of career paths.