New chair seeks understanding

Dr. J. Michael Thomson wants to take the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice in a new direction.

“I think it’s a good time for the department to make an examination of itself, see where it is, and where it wants to go,” Thomson said. “I’ve committed, as our goal for the year, a mission-driven process.”

His aims are high: Thomson would like to unify the department by “building a core set of values and premises.” The values will be focused upon the concepts of teaching, scholarship, engagement and service.

“We need to determine who we are. I’d like to see departmental objectives and goals. This would be a good framework that will help us walk through the future,” he said.

Thomson, who was named interim chair of the department on July 14, replaced Dr. Dean Minix, who resigned this summer.

In May 2003, Ryan Garrett, a disabled NKU student, filed a lawsuit against the university that named Minix and several other faculty and administrators. The lawsuit says that Garrett seeks to “redress the injury caused him by the deprivation of his rights and privileges…as a result of the intentional acts of the defendants.”

Minix declined to comment on his reasons for resigning or on the lawsuit.

Thomson also declined to comment. He said simply that he was asked to assume the position and that he doesn’t want to discuss the past.

Thomson said the department’s biggest weakness was “stability over time.”

“We’re going to do some faculty searching and pick a permanent leader,” he added. “I think the biggest challenge for us is setting the tone for the next couple years and getting people comfortable with that. We’d like to settle on where we’re going and what we want to do.”

Thomson named faculty-student rapport as one of the department’s strengths.

“This department has a long history of strong teaching and interaction with students. It’s a department that’s known for serving a lot of majors and a lot of different programs. We get to know our students personally.”

Thomson would also like faculty to unite and reach mutual understanding among the various disciplines that compose the department.

“We need to look at departmental enduring goals and see the flavor of those changes across the disciplines and then learn about them,” Thomson said.

“One of the things I’ll do is try to encourage more learning across the disciplines, of each other and what we do.”

He also praised the civic engagement of departmental staff.

“Our faculty, as compared to other faculties, tend to be a lot more service-oriented,” said Thomson. “We’ve got a long service history.

We have several faculty [members] who have been president of Faculty Senate and who are involved in community projects and university activities. That’s part of the history of the department, to be connected from a service perspective.”

Thomson himself has a long history of civic engagement at Northern Kentucky University. He served as faculty regent to the Board of Regents from 1994 to 1997. He was president of the Faculty Senate from 1991 to 1993. He has served as director of Academic Technology Services and graduate director of the MPA program.

He has been a faculty member of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice for 17 years.

He began teaching political science at Northern Kentucky University in 1986. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Penn State University in 1975. In 1978 he received his M.A. in Political Science from the University of Kentucky.

In 1984 he received his Ph.D. in Political Science, also from the University of Kentucky.