In Search of New Horizons
Kelly Eaton, BA 82, MA 84, PhD 94, will do whatever it takes to get her students out of her classroom. Chair of the political science department at Nebraska Wesleyan University and a professor of comparative politics, foreign policy, Russian politics, and international security, Eaton thrives on showing her students the world through internship programs, international travel opportunities, and engaging teaching methods.
The inquisitive, politically minded outlook she shares with her students was fostered by her love of Washington and her GW experience.
I was born and raised in Southern California. I did an internship on the Hill while in high school and caught Potomac fever, Eaton says. D.C. was completely different from suburban Southern CaliforniaI was in culture shock, but completely happy and satisfied to be in D.C. GW was exactly where I wanted to go to college. I was always interested in politics, but once I got to GW, I became really interested in comparative policies and international relations.
After finishing her PhD course work in political science at GW, Eaton moved to Los Angeles where her husband, Andrew Wedeman, BA 82, MA 84, was starting his PhD at UCLA. Eaton taught for two years at Loyola Marymount University where she fell in love with the more intimate, liberal arts style education. She wrote her dissertation in Beijing where she lived for a year, exploring the region and writing on Soviet leadership recruitment channels. After returning to Los Angeles and finishing her dissertation, Eaton and Wedeman had a daughter. Eaton briefly taught at University of the Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., and then moved to Nebraska.
Eaton taught at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, for three years, then went to Nebraska Wesleyan where she has been for seven years, spending one year teaching in Taiwan on a Fulbright Scholarship. At Nebraska Wesleyan, her focus has been helping her students capitalize on their opportunities.
The Capitol Hill Internship Program Eaton helped to establish at her school has assisted students in gaining invaluable experience at the U.S. Supreme Court, the Arab American Insititue, and CNN. She successfully co-authored a Fulbright grant to bring a scholar from Egypt to Nebraska to help her students further understand the Arab world. This summer, she will lead a group of students to Mexico for an intense study of the Spanish language.
Her unique, creative approach to teaching caught the attention of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which named her the 2003 Carnegie Nebraska Professor of the Year.
I am very surprised, Eaton says of the recognition. This honor means a lot because it makes me feel like I have made the right choices and am on the right path.
She takes great pride in helping her students find the right path as well, and says while it is not always easy to foster an international outlook, it is always worth the effort.
The greatest challenge I have in helping my students experience the world is convincing them that they are indeed world citizens in a global environment. This message has a more receptive audience in L.A. or D.C., but it can be a hard sell in Nebraska, Eaton says. It is extremely rewarding for me to have students who were raised on farms or have never been on a plane go off to D.C. and work at the Supreme Court or CNN or the Arab American Institute. They come back very different people with very new horizons.
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