For nearly a decade, Stephanie McNulty worked to bolster Latin America democracies as a consultant with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“I worked on programs intended to strengthen democracy in countries like Guatemala and Bolivia,” she said.
But then came the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. McNulty grew skeptical as she watched USAID funds support policies that she considered counterproductive to promoting democratic principles.
“I realized that this wasn’t where I wanted to be any more. I wanted to teach,” she said.
McNulty joined the faculty at Franklin & Marshall College this fall as assistant professor of government. She teaches Latin American politics.
She hopes her “on-the-ground” experience makes her distinctive.
After graduate school at New York University, “I decided that I needed some ‘real-world’ experience,” McNulty said. Her years working with USAID “helped me think about the policy relevance of issues that I encourage students to think about in the classroom,” she said.
“When I am teaching about democracy in the developing world, I often ask my students ‘can and should the U.S. get involved in this situation? If so, what concrete policies should we adopt? And what is the best use of taxpayers dollars?’” she said.
McNulty first became interested in Latin American history and politics after she spent a year and a half in the region after college. “I fell in love with the people, the countries and the culture. I have focused on that region ever since.”
One of the themes in her teaching, she said, has been to encourage her students to get out of the classroom and get into the field through study-abroad programs.
“I want my students to get some work experience through internships or volunteer programs like I did. These are life-changing complements to a college education,” McNulty said.
Ask McNulty what kind of professor she wants to be and she’ll tell you she won’t be an “Easy D.”
“One professor I had at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., we called ‘Easy D,’ not because he was cool, but because he refused to give any grade higher than a D and he was dismissive to his students,” she said.
After taking his class she promised herself that if she ever became a teacher, she would be fair, accessible and open to students’ ideas and opinions.
McNulty is working to publish her first book, Voice and Vote: Decentralization, Participation and the Crisis of Representative Democracy in Peru, which examines the struggle to increase democratic participation in the South American country after years of authoritarian rule.
“The book explores a decentralization reform in Peru that set up new regional governments and institutions to increase citizen participation. I spent 18 months in Peru evaluating those efforts,” McNulty said.
She earned a doctorate at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She has been teaching comparative politics and Latin American politics since 2002, at George Washington, George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and the Catholic University in Peru.