Assistant Professor of Politics and International Relations Benjamin Knoll has been actively involved both on campus and in the local community since his arrival at Centre College in 2010. In recognition of much of this work, he has been nominated and is a finalist for the Kentucky Secretary of State’s 2014 Outstanding Civic Education Leadership Award.
The award recognizes teachers, school administrators, legislators and community leaders who have made notable contributions toward promoting or implementing civic learning to prepare students to be active and engaged in their communities.
Knoll certainly fits the bill, having jumped headlong into the academic and political frenzy of the 2012 Vice Presidential debate on campus (pictured above).
“Truly, no other Centre faculty member had a greater influence to the degree to which this was a profoundly educational experience than Dr. Knoll,” Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius said in her nomination letter. “He helped explain the importance of debates, spoke with the media, participated in a nationally broadcast NPR roundtable, blogged and involved students in many of these activities.”
Long after the dust of the 2012 debate settled, Knoll continued to engage his students in the Danville and Kentucky communities through his Local Politics class, which includes a weeklong simulation of a local political community that must resolve complex and difficult issues. One of his classes on the U.S. Congress requires each student to assume the role of a U.S. senator who must caucus, consider legislation, conduct committee work and vote on bills.
More recently, Knoll has spearheaded several local polling projects for his students, giving them hands-on and high-impact experiential learning opportunities in a real-world setting.
“Preparing students to be engaged and responsible citizens is the foundational component of Dr. Knoll’s pedagogical approach,” Fabritius wrote in her nomination letter. “Thanks to his good work, countless of his students will be well-prepared to protect the rights and privileges of fellow citizens, and do so by their leadership and dedication to citizenship as a lifelong learning process.”
Centre President John A. Roush heartily endorsed Knoll for the award as well.
“Ben has been a star member of our faculty and community since the first day he arrived,” Roush wrote in his recommendation letter. “His performance in the classroom, with his research and scholarship, and as a citizen-leader has been exemplary. Again and again, Professor Knoll chooses to take his talent and expertise and share it unselfishly with others.”
The awards ceremony, at which the winner and finalists were honored, was held March 21 in Lexington, Ky.
Knoll graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science from Utah State University, and earned a M.A. and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Iowa. He taught at the University of Iowa before coming to Centre in 2010. His research (much of it conducted in collaboration with Centre students) has been published in journals such as Political Behavior, Social Science Research, International Migration Review and Social Science Quarterly. Currently, he is investigating nativism’s influences on important social issues like immigration and health care reform.
By Mariel Smith