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James Toole, Political Science

As IPFW’s Model United Nations (Model UN) advisor and the director of IPFW’s Office of Major Scholarships, Associate Professor Jamie Toole helps students access the knowledge, skills, and funding to pursue their academic and professional goals. He joined IPFW’s Department of Political Science in 2002, and specializes in comparative and international politics.

Toole became interested in political science in the ninth grade, when he was a member of the Academic Quiz Bowl team (extra-curricular activity that tests students on a variety of academic subjects). As the team’s history and social studies specialist, Toole read Time, Newsweek, US News, and other magazines and newspapers, and he quickly discoverd that he loved studying international news. So at age fourteen, he began developing his eventual specialization in international politics.

However, Toole didn’t immediately know that he wanted to become a professor. After college, he spent five years working multiple jobs, including two years in Washington D.C. doing what he called “actual politics.” But Toole quickly learned that he enjoy working in D.C.: “I liked studying politics, I’m fascinated by it, I think it’s really important and vital for people to know about, and I like teaching people and studying it and researching it, but I don’t like doing it.” So five years after graduation, Toole began applying to PhD programs.

Another thing that Toole realized was that his international travels were more beneficial in helping him discovering his interests that some formal learning. In 1988, Toole backpacked across Europe for two months. He spent the first two weeks in then-communist Czechoslovakia because he was interested in the realities of living in a communist country. This choice ultimately informed his research specialization: “It wasn’t until I traveled to Czechoslovakia that I really discovered what fascinated me. I love studying the extremes of politics. So I was fascinated by this system that was so unbelievably oppressive and so heavily centralized. It was remarkable to me that such a thing could exist, and I was fascinated by what it took to live and survive and try to be happy as an ordinary person living under those circumstances.”

Then in 1989, Toole spent three weeks travelling through Eastern Europe during the communist revolutions, “and from that point on, I knew I wanted to study eastern Europe, specifically the more extreme things like revolution and dictatorship and human rights violations. And I continue to study those topics today.” (See Toole’s Faculty in Focus video for more on his current research on Eastern European politics and US foreign aid.)

At IPFW Toole works to improve student success through the Model UN and as a major scholarship advisor. He formed IPFW’s Model UN program nine years ago and has been acting as the advisor ever since. Each November, he takes a group of about ten students to Chicago for the American Model United Nations Conference, where each group acts as a delegation from an assigned country. The group then participates in simulations in which they draft resolutions, plot strategies, resolve conflicts, and navigate the UN rules of procedure. According to Toole, the students “get really good experience in speechmaking, negotiation, bargaining, compromise, and the drafting of legislation.” Students who have participated in Model UN have excelled academically and professionally, such as political science alumna Chayenne Polimédio, who has had previous mentions in Collegium (see her Major Factor video and alumna update) and is currently a program/research assistant in Washington for the New America Foundation’s political reform program.

Finally, in fall 2014, Toole became the director of the Office of Major Scholarship Advising. In this capacity, he advises students who have the desire, ambition, and grades to compete for large national scholarships, like Fulbright, Goldwater, Truman, and other prestigious awards. Scholarships like these are competitive and often involve an intense application process. Over the past seven years, there have been COAS student successes. Two COAS alumni were awarded Fulbright Scholarships, one to South Korea and the other to Ukraine. Polimédio won a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellowship, which has a 4% acceptance rate. Micah Rapp (B.S., biology, ‘15) won a Goldwater Scholarship, which are awarded to sophomores and juniors for exceptional work in the natural sciences, math, and engineering. Rapp is now applying for a National Science Foundation fellowship to support his graduate studies. Toole notes that “these scholarships are important and they catapult students into higher levels of the fields they intend to enter.”

To learn more about Toole’s research, watch the Faculty in Focus video. To learn more about Model UN, political science, or major scholarships, contact Toole or the Department of Political Science.