Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Jim Nowlan is using his experiences in Illinois politics to fuse political theory with political activism.
Nowlan, who has taught at Knox on and off since the 1970s, has held numerous governmental positions in Illinois, including legislator and aid to three governors. Despite serving as a professor at both Knox College and the University of Illinois, Nowlan has never identified as an academic.
“After I lost my race for Lieutenant Governor in 1972, I finished my Ph.D., which I considered to be my union card into academic work,” Nowlan said.
He made use of this union card many times in subsequent years, but often found himself drawn back into the political realm.
“Whenever I got kicked out of government and politics, I took refuge in the academy.”
Nowlan is presently filling in for Associate Professor of Political Science Andy Civettini, who is on leave, and is teaching Introduction to American Public Policy. But although his current tenure at Knox is brief, he hopes to impart an enduring lesson about the value of studying political science.
Nowlan likens our society to a ship at sea, with the political scientist indispensable in keeping us true to our course.
“It is a fundamentally important discipline in which most of us can develop an understanding of what makes democracy work and how to rebalance the ship when it lists to the right or left.”
One of Nowlan’s publications, a book entitled “Fixing Illinois,” outlines a strategy that will allow the Illinois government to recover from years of corruption and mismanagement. He believes that students have a key role to play in this reconstruction.
“The problems that Illinois needs to overcome are those of improving the business climate, providing fiscal stability and predictability and third, enhancing trust in the government. I think students, like the larger public, can contribute by becoming active citizens,” Nowlan said.
Being an active citizen necessitates political awareness, and Professor Nowlan believes there are two issues that Knox students should educate themselves about: global warming and income inequality in the United States. Both issues threaten the future of America, and thus both must be prerogatives for prospective leaders.
Nowlan is a man who identifies the cracks in our nation’s foundation, but he remains optimistic about the future of American society.
“My hope for the future is based on the productivity of the economic system and the openness of the political system. By being open we’re constantly searching for better ways to address our problems.”