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Political Science Professor Saluted with Top Teaching Award

Mar 21, 2023

The Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award for Distinguished Teaching is Indiana University’s oldest teaching accolade. It’s also the highest teaching honor that can be given to faculty statewide. This year’s recipient is James “Jamie” Smith, associate professor of political science at IU South Bend. Smith also serves as director of the Master of Public Affairs program and as acting department chair for the political science department.

Smith was grateful to be nominated by one of his mentors, Neovi Karakatsanis, who was serving as political science department chair when Smith first started teaching at IU South Bend.

Portrait of Jamie Smith at IU South Bend on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. (Photo by Alex Kumar/Indiana University) Portrait of Jamie Smith at IU South Bend on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. (Photo by Alex Kumar/Indiana University)“Jamie demonstrates distinction in teaching and does so with humility and a spirit of generosity,” Dr. Karakatsanis says. “His students revere him for broadening their minds, nurturing their talents and transforming their lives. His colleagues respect him for the high standards he maintains within the classroom.”

Smith, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago, has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses at IU South Bend, covering a wide range of topics pertaining to politics in the United States. Smith incorporates a number of high-impact practices in his approach to teaching, including undergraduate research, student-led simulations, and study abroad.

Smith says, “When I tell people that I teach political science or that I teach a class about the presidency, the response that I often get is, ‘Well, it must be an interesting time to be teaching that.’ And it always is!”

Smith’s core topics – urban policy, the presidency, Congress, political parties, and the media – can be unpredictable, so experts must be dynamic.

“As the political landscape shifts, we can always bring what’s happening in the world into the classroom, and we can study these things as examples,” Smith says. “Students respond well to making connections with the political world as part of the class. It helps them retain information and it helps them engage with discussions.”

IU President Pamela Whitten notified Smith in January that he was the winner of the Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award, and he will be further saluted on March 30 at the annual “Celebration of Teaching and Service” event in Bloomington. The award was first issued in 1954, and the first IU South Bend professor to win it was Randall M. Isaacson in 2003. Since then, teachers from the South Bend campus have been on a roll, hauling in the prize five more times. Smith is deeply honored to be this year’s recipient.

“When you’re a teacher, it means a lot to hear positive feedback, even when it’s a short email from a student saying that a lecture was enjoyable,” Smith says. “So winning this award has been inspiring.”

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