20 Questions with Assistant Professor of Government Benjamin Knoll
1. Position at Centre?
Assistant Professor of Government.
2. Where did you grow up (and describe the place in one phrase or sentence)?
Cache County, Utah: it’s 80 percent Mormon, 75 percent Republican, has a population of approximately 115,000, boasts a major land-grant university—thank you, President Lincoln—and is home to Gossner Foods and Aggie Ice Cream, two of the finest dairy production facilities in the country.
3. What are your hobbies?
I like reading. I play the oboe. I think that it’s fun to look at old historic homes and then try to figure out what architectural style they are—e.g. “Look! That one’s a Dutch Colonial Revival!” I like going on trips and camping with my family in the summer.
4. What is your dream vacation?
I would love to visit Ireland. I have several ancestors from Cork who immigrated to the United States during the 1840s and I would very much enjoy getting a better sense of my Irish ancestral heritage. While we’re at it, I might as well throw in a trip to the Isle of Wight in England, the Baden region of south-west Germany and the shores of the Black Sea in Ukraine where all my other ancestors came from.
5. Favorite artist and/or work of art?
My three-year-old daughter recently smeared acrylic paint all over her face. Enthusiastically. It was perhaps the most impressive expression of art I’ve ever seen.
6. Favorite novel or poem?
Novel: “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand. I can identify with Cyrano on many different levels. Poem: “Annabelle Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe. It’s a bit macabre, but to me I think it ultimately has an optimistic message.
7. Favorite sport (to watch or play)?
To watch? College basketball. To play? Does jogging for several miles around Danville in the cold rain at 6:00 a.m. in the middle of the winter count as a sport? If so, then that.
8. Favorite TV show?
Of all time or right now? Right now I watch “Parks and Recreation” and “Downton Abbey.” All time favorite? No contest: “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” No, wait. “The West Wing.” No, I take that back, definitely “Star Trek.”
9. Favorite album?
“Bring Yer Wellies” and “What’s the Rumpus?” by Gaelic Storm, the best Celtic rock band this side of the pond.
10. Favorite holiday?
Halloween. It’s one of the few holidays left where we as Americans go outside and interact with our neighbors. And I think ghost stories are a lot of fun.
11. Favorite food?
I used to say the Greek Veggie pizza (“Flying Tomato” style) at the Wig and Pen Pizzeria in Iowa City, Iowa. Shortly after moving to Danville, however, I discovered the chicken jumbo breast strips at Lee’s Famous Recipe on Hustonville Road. I think we have a new winner, which my waistline—not to mention cholesterol count—is beginning to reflect.
12. Most prized possession?
My relationships with my beautiful wife and daughter.
13. Three people, living or deceased, whom you’d invite to the same dinner party?
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. I’d love to see them duke it out for a few hours. Then I’d ask them to guest-lecture in my American politics courses.
14. Favorite aspect of your job?
I like that I can think, read, write and teach about something that I think is interesting for several hours a day. Oh, and I can walk to work in ten minutes. I don’t care for long commutes, so that’s a definite plus.
15. Most memorable experience of your youth?
Well, according to everyone I work with—faculty, students, staff, everyone—I’m apparently still in “my youth.” So … I’d have to say the Gaelic Storm concert I attended in Cincinnati back in February. It was awesome! (Young people like me still say “awesome,” right?)
16. What would you be doing if you weren’t working at Centre?
I always thought that I could derive a great deal of satisfaction out of a career as an accountant. Either that or working as a statistician for the Census Bureau.
17. Educational experience that’s been most helpful to you?
When I was a senior in college I took a class on the U.S. Congress where we participated in a multi-week Senate simulation. This simulation taught me a number of lessons that included: 1) I would make a very lousy politician, 2) in dealing with committees, one should pick one’s battles very selectively, 3) by necessity, party politics often forces unpleasant moral compromises and 4) we should all be a lot less judgmental of how our representatives perform in Congress—it’s a lot harder than it looks.
18. Fictional character in whose shoes you’d love to spend a day?
Easy: science officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise.
19. Favorite place on campus (and why)?
It’s a toss-up between the new Young Hall—my daughter loves going to see the “fossils and dinosaurs!”—and directly in front of the pizza bar in Cowan.
20. Advice you’d give to a first-year college student to make success more likely?
Get a day-planner and learn how to use it. Effective time management skills and self-discipline are more important than raw intelligence.