This term, students of PSU’s Mark O. Hatfield School of Government will get a rare taste of what it’s like to lead the state of Oregon.
Former Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski is teaching a political science class that will focus on local and state government.
A main goal of the class is to help students understand the role government plays in their lives, Kulongoski said.
“Not just about politics, but how we live with each other,” he said. Kulongoski believes that politics are an exercise in humanity and described the process as people with different opinions coming together to find common values.
Besides his years as governor from 2003 to 2011, Kulongoski brings to campus experience in all three branches of government and a political career that spans 40 years. He comes to PSU excited to share his knowledge of politics, his love for Oregon and advice for youth.
Kulongoski will be the second governor to teach at PSU; the first was Barbara Roberts.
Professor Christopher Shortell taught alongside Kulongoski in the spring term of 2012. Kulongoski uses “stories from his own experiences in office to make the study of politics more immediate and concrete for students while still making sure that they developed an understanding of the underlying dynamics,” Shortell said.
Kulongoski also plans to share his love for the state of Oregon with his students. Kulongoski recalls that, during his eight years as governor, he felt a great sense of honor when meeting with governors from other states because he felt so strongly he was representing the best one.
Though Kulongoski offers much praise for Oregon’s politics, he hopes his students will gain a better understanding of and appreciation for the state that goes beyond its political practices.
An advocate of exploring both Oregon’s physical and human history, Kulongoski speaks passionately and knowledgeably on place-specific subjects such as the formation of Crater Lake, native peoples of the area and hiking in the Wallowa Mountains. He believes a basic knowledge of the state gives students a stronger grasp of what’s happening politically.
Kulongoski hopes to engage and inspire his students. Drawing from his own experiences of being pushed and mentored by his college professors to explore the subjects that interested him most, he hopes to fill that same role for students at PSU.
“Real learning and real teaching is about not just what I say, but it’s trying to stimulate your student to actually want to go out and learn,” Kulongoski said.
One concern Kulongoski has for today’s youth is how they acquire information and opinions. Rather than reading an article or post online and accepting its conclusions in full, Kulongoski believes students should always question what they read, and form personal opinions by applying a critical eye to the information they consume.
The former governor also offers input about education issues Oregon faces. Kulongoski believes that education should be a higher priority when it comes to state budgeting. He also feels that the education system is “top heavy” with bureaucracy, which makes solving problems and finding solutions a slower and more difficult task.
Kulongoski believes there are too many boards, officials, college presidents and community college presidents all trying to have a voice, and that the system should be simplified. Kulongoski explained that administration needs improvement, the education system needs more efficiency and higher education needs to be more accessible to students.
In addition to his time as governor, Kulongoski has served as a legislator, state insurance commissioner, attorney general and associate justice on Oregon’s supreme court.
“Bringing someone of Kulongoski’s stature into our program is great for the Hatfield school and the university,” said Richard Clucas, also a professor of political science. “It connects us with state leaders and helps the school fulfill its mission.”