Mara Suttmann-Lea

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“Masters are not masters because they take a subject to its conceptual end. They are masters because they realize there isn’t one.” – Sarah Lewis, PhD, “The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery.

This excerpt illustrates the foundation of my approach to teaching. In my classroom, I emphasize the power of risk taking, learning from failure, and the mindset that learning is a continuous process for which there is no conceptual end. Cultivating an environment where students feel comfortable taking risks in learning necessitates the creation of spaces for that type of learning to occur. This foundation is a necessary first step in encouraging deeper student engagement with course material.

Broadly, my central aim as a teacher of political science is to help students understand what it means to shift from being told what to think about politics (by the media, friends, family), to learning how to think about politics from the perspective of a social scientist and consider the historical development of politics in the United States. These objectives, while an integral component to the study of politics, also involve no small amount of risk taking and courage on the part of students in that they are asked to analyze the world in ways that can stand in contrast to prior experience. In all of my teaching, I stress engagement with material in service of critical thinking, encouraging students to not only learn about the components of our political system, but to think more broadly about how they fit together with one another and have developed over time.


Introduction to American Politics

Congress and the Legislative Process

The American Presidency

Urban Politics

Voting Reforms

Introduction to Research Methods in Political Science

Campaigns and Elections in American Politics*

* This course is an original design project. Its primary objective is to engage students with the realities of campaign strategy at the local, state, and federal levels of elections and assess those realities relative to democratic norms in American politics. These norms include the engagement, informing, and representation of the American public. In this course, students evaluate the extent to which campaign strategy helps or hinders the advance of these norms using the tools and paradigms of social scientists. It culminates in the development of their own “winning” campaign strategy and an assessment of how well this strategy promotes engagement, information, and representation.

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