Barbara Robertson, a lecturer of political science, was awarded Perimeter College’s 2020 Junior Faculty Award.
Robertson, who is part of Perimeter’s Department of History and Political Science, is passionate about voter registration and the development of an educated citizenry. In recent years, she worked with Student Life to ramp up training of Newton County Honors students to assist classmates in registering to vote.
She also collaborated with a colleague to expand annual Constitution Day activities from a one-time, one-speaker event to a multi-day event with an assortment of speakers and activities. Recent Constitution Day speakers have included
two top political writers from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a partner from a major immigration law firm and a U.S. congressman.
Robertson received her master’s degree in political science in 2009 at the University of Georgia. She started at Perimeter College as an adjunct instructor, became term-to-term faculty in 2012 and was hired as a lecturer in 2014.
Who or what inspired you to become a political science professor?
I did not plan to be a professor, although I’ve always admired my professors immensely. The plan was to go into government, but the Great Recession of 2008 forced me to reconsider, just to find work. This is when I began as an adjunct. However, I knew right away that this would be a perfect fit for me. I taught as a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia for two years and really enjoyed it. At the height of the recession I was completing my last semester at UGA. I took a group picture of my students my last day of teaching and cried on the way home. By that summer (2010), I had secured a job as an adjunct. (Robertson became term-to-term faculty in 2012, and was hired as a lecturer in 2014.)
What’s the most exciting thing for you as a teacher?
For me, the most exciting thing about teaching is seeing (students’) intellectual growth on an individual level, especially among students who start out struggling and with lower confidence. When they are able to answer questions in class, ask intellectual questions and go from an F on the first test to a B or A on the second, I smile all day. Overall, I enjoy being part of a process to create civically aware and active young adults and to be a step for them in the direction of lifelong fulfillment and financial security. I want them to have the same — or more — opportunities and enjoyment in their careers that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.
What is the hardest part about teaching?
Having to decide what you can’t teach is one of the hardest parts of being a professor, in my opinion, especially in social science disciplines such as political science. Additionally challenging is having to manage my own workload and stress. I want to expose students to information and opportunities through the course content, creative assignments, and events or activities outside of the course, such as visits or collaborations with civic leaders in their community and state.
I tend to do too much and find myself under a lot of stress trying to juggle so much because I love what I do. I would love to do a study abroad, but my kids are young, so that may have to wait.
Do you keep in touch with former students?
I have kept in touch with a few via social media. They are very active in talking politics there. Others have called or emailed me, or I just run into them in the hallway. They are more interested in politics and news than they used to be, which is great. I’ve also had students call or email me to thank me for helping them get a scholarship — that feels great.
What is your passion?
I’m most passionate about teaching students to care about their government and issues around them and to understand so they are informed citizens. In doing so, I want to help develop citizens that are able to understand and evaluate information and work hard to keep the democracy we have. We must never take it for granted. Second, I want them to succeed — I want that for any human being because it means happiness and security.