Can you introduce yourself and tell me about your background?
I’m Alex Goodwin. This is my first year here at Southwestern; I am on the tenure track and an assistant professor in the Political Science Department. I’m from Houston, Texas, and I have twins.
What sparked your interest in political science, and why did you want to teach?
It goes back to childhood. Both of my parents were professors, and my dad took me to class. So, from a very young age, I saw someone teaching at that level, and it was very interesting. I used to sit in the back of the class and watch VHS tapes with headphones on, and I could recite the whole Rugrats in Paris. Then, at some point, I took out my headphones and started listening to his teaching. I went to the same college where my dad taught, so I didn’t want to major in history. But, I want to know how the world works, and political science helps explain the why of the world. I love it. I love the classes I take, classes like Race, Gender, and Public Policy, Minority Politics, and International Politics. Then, during my junior year, I did a summer research program at the University of North Texas (UNT) showing students what graduate school is like. A few years later, I returned to UNT for my Ph.D.
How did you hear about Southwestern, and why did you want to work here?
When I applied for jobs and finished my Ph.D., I knew I wanted to stay in Texas because most of my family was in the state. I saw Southwestern hiring, but Georgetown, Texas, didn’t call. When I realized it was close to Austin, which wasn’t too far from my family in Houston, I thought it’s perfect. Second, when I started reading about the University online, the intimate environment really interested me. The ability of students to get to know their professors is very important to me because I am that student who always asks questions, and in my undergrad experience, I had professors who guided me through one-on-one experiences. So, having the opportunity to do that and being in a position to provide that for another intellectually curious student is important. In large schools, there is a greater barrier to interactions, and it is really difficult to build relationships with students when you have a large class; you don’t get the chance to learn names and build relationships with people. Since the environment here is small, it’s a great place for me to teach the kind of things I want to teach and also build relationships with students.
What classes do you teach?
Currently, I teach two sections of American Politics. Next semester, I will teach a class on Race in American Politics and another section on American Politics. As I continue to build a course catalog, there is a course I created from scratch called Hip Hop and Mass Incarceration, which I am excited to build. I also developed classes called Black Political Thought and Black Social Movements.
How have you enjoyed your time at Southwestern so far?
I enjoyed it. One thing that attracts me to the job is the closeness not only between teachers and students but also between teachers in different departments. When I did my Ph.D., I only knew the graduate students in my department. But here, I know people in education, anthropology, sociology, etc., and that’s what you need to build a community, not only with your students but also with the teachers.
Is there a specific political era or politician/activist you like to teach students about? If so, what/who is it and why?
I would say the late 50s go into the late 60s because the things they fought for during this time were civil rights, women’s rights, the beginning of LGBTQ rights, and Asian rights. American is the beginning of the movements that we started. Still promoting today; we still talk about these things. So, for me, it’s a very fun time to go back. Also, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. People came to college with this view of King as a good man as he changed over time with two sentences from I have a Dream speech, but people will not or choose not to examine the full scope of King’s philosophies, writings, and ideologies. King discussed and wrote the things we are talking about today Letter from Birmingham Jail and his book, Where Do We Go From Chaos To Community? If you close your eyes and think about it, that book could have come out a week or two ago. We are still facing the same issues.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like sports. So, if I’m not following current events and things like that, my TV at home is probably on ESPN. On Saturdays and Sundays, I watch college and pro football. The main TV is on, and I have a tablet and computer with games on, so maybe three games at once and TV shows. I like it Criminal thoughts, The first 48and Family Guy.
If you could have a conversation with any historical political figure, who would it be and why?
I would say that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because if I could bring him now, I would ask what differences do you see from then to now. I think he is an interesting person to talk to about the big problems of the world. I also often think about him and what he was like as a regular person. He’s a husband, he’s a father, so what is this man if he’s not talking about all these big problems at the macro level? I don’t think we see these types of people as normal; we see them as larger than life. I just want to know who he would have been without him as a leader in the civil rights movement.
What is something students would be surprised to learn about you?
In college, I was a public address announcer for Prairie View A&M University and a radio broadcast host for the university. I have a weekly Sports Show. My cohost and I would go there for three hours and talk about sports. I still do a sports podcast, which is a way to blow off steam because I’ve been doing it since college once or twice a week.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you want people to know about you?
To students, I say, sign up for my Race in American Politics class for the spring semester.