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Our New Political Science Prof

May 1, 2015

Phillip Ayoub

Phillip Ayoub, PhD, joins us from Florence where he was most recently the Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European Institute. In this Q&A, Ayoub talks about the course that ultimately changed his career path and the caffeinated venture that funded his graduate degree.

Hometown: Castle Rock, WA
Degree: PhD, Government, Cornell University
Research interests: International relations and comparative politics, engaging with literature on transnational politics, LGBT politics, norm diffusion, and the study of social movements

What did you do before coming to Drexel?
Before coming to Drexel, I was the Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, and prior to that I was a PhD student at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Due to my research area, I spent a lot of time in Europe, based out of Berlin — a city I hope to take some of my Drexel students to in the future, because it provides an incredible historical and political foundation for the study of Europe.

What is your favorite book? Movie?
This is a tough question, but I would say Christopher Isherwood’s novel “Goodbye to Berlin.” It was remarkably ahead of it time for the 1930s, addressing themes like sexuality quite openly, and it shows how some small battles won for social justice can also backslide and be met by intense repression.

A recent movie that I enjoyed a great deal was “Selma” (great for anyone interested in social movements, aside from showing rather essential history, more generally). Two old favorites are “The Lives of Others” (a wonderful look into state repression and surveillance) and “Goodbye Lenin” (a magnificent look into social-political change surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989). 

What is your favorite food or restaurant?
Arabic and Southeast Asian food. In Philadelphia, I love the restaurant Mercato, even if the food there is neither Arabic nor Southeast Asian.

When is the last time you did something “for the first time”? What was it?
I do something “for the first time” on most days — I have always been far too curious and easily bored to develop redundant routines.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Time travel

What was the most memorable class you took as an undergrad and why?
My most memorable classes in undergrad were Europe Today with the brilliant Christine Ingebritsen, which is the reason I dropped pre-med to become a political scientist (and then went on to work under her former advisor, Peter Katzenstein), and The Sixties in America with John Walter, which inspired my early interest in social movements and the politics of oppression and resistance.

What’s one thing students would be surprised to learn about you?
I paid my way through my master’s degree by opening a coffee shop.

Could you tell us a little more about the coffee shop?
It was called CAFFÉ ROMA. My friends and I renovated an old bank building (from 1900) in Castle Rock, WA, and made coffee in the vaults. Unfortunately it doesn't exist anymore. 

What did you want to be when you were a kid? What made you want to become a professor?
I always wanted to be a pilot, mainly because I thought it would be the fastest way to see the world. I learned later that academia was also a way to do that, after being inspired by a few of the above mentioned professors during my undergraduate studies.

What do you consider to be your biggest achievement thus far in your career?
The friendships I have formed during my academic career have greatly shaped my intellectual development, as well as how I view the world. That has been a fortunate achievement for me, both professionally and personally.

What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
To CoAS, I contribute to the stellar community we have working on issues of marginalization, contentious politics and international organization. It is for these reasons that I feel very fortunate to be part of this intellectual community, and I think my research portfolio further strengthens our excellent profile in these areas. I also enjoy teaching tremendously, and look forward to bringing my research interests into the classroom and, together with students, exploring how they relate to our lives in Philadelphia.

See Phillip Ayoub, PhD, in action: CoAS Dean’s Seminar: When States ‘Come Out’: Europe’s Sexual Minorities and the Politics of Visibility, Wednesday, May 6, 2015, 3:30 – 5 p.m., Disque 109.