Quinn Garrick: So, tell us a little about yourself.
Thomas Ambrosio: Obviously, my name is Thomas Ambrosio, and I am a professor of political science in the department of criminal justice and political science. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and my undergraduate degree from Trenton State College. I’m originally from New Jersey. I started at North Dakota State in August 2000.
Q: Tell us a little about the political science department here at NDSU.
A: This is a joint department with criminal justice. There are four political science faculty, and I am the international relations person in the program. We offer a bachelor’s in political science and have, in addition to the general major, two specialties in pre-law and public service.
Q: How is the semester going so far, and what classes are you teaching this fall?
A: It is going great. I am teaching International Law, Introduction to Political Science and International Politics. The latter two are general education classes and get a lot of students who are not political science majors. However, those classes are great because it is often the very first time that students are exposed to those subjects in an academic setting. Sure, they may be interested in politics and often hear about a lot of foreign affairs issues, but this is the first time they are studying it as a social science.
Q: What got you interested in political science?
A: I have always been interested in politics and come from a family that always discussed politics at the dinner table. So, it was natural for me to gravitate towards that. However, my true love of political science came during my senior year in high school when the best teacher I ever had, Mr. Riley, had us read ‘The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli and write a paper on it using a historical figure. I still remember that my paper was on the Romanovs and how they did not follow Machiavelli’s teachings and all wound up dead. The first time I want to Florence, decades later, I immediately sought out Machiavelli’s tomb in Santa Croce. It was like a pilgrimage. I got a postcard and tracked down Mr. Riley and thanked him for having us read “The Prince.”
Q: What type of research have you done in the past, or are currently doing?
A: My research has been varied in terms of topics and has had its feet in two different fields of political science: comparative politics and international relations. In general terms, my research has tended to focus on the former Soviet Union, U.S. foreign policy and authoritarianism. All three of these tend to be linked together in terms of the fundamental changes we are seeing in the international system and the transition away from true, 1990s-style American dominance, and toward something in which power is more diffused.
I have explored Russian-U.S. relations through the lens of both Russia’s attempts to counter the U.S. geopolitically, in terms of Russia’s place in a U.S.-dominated world and possibly balancing the U.S., and politically, in terms of Russia’s attempt to counter Western democracy promotion.
Furthermore, I currently have an article under review regarding America’s perceptions of threat more generally in this time of transition, and I am finishing up an article with three undergraduate students on former President Obama’s SOTU address and how Obama has characterized America’s place in the world and his belief that America must extricate itself from the Middle East in order to deal with its declining power.
Q: What brought you to NDSU?
A: The job. I was in Kentucky for a year and North Dakota seemed like a great improvement.
Q: What are you looking forward to in the coming months, years?
A: I am looking forward to teaching Senior Seminar in the spring. In that class, I am focusing on historical counterfactuals – ‘what if?’ stories from politics. I have the students choose their own historical event and write about how it may have been different.
In my personal life, I am an avid board gamer, and I am looking forward to participating in a charity event for the Sanford Children’s Hospital called Extra Life, where I will be board-gaming for 25 hours straight. It will be the third time that I will be doing that.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Homecoming Week?
A: It is always great to see some of my past students who have come back to NDSU.
Q: If you could leave students with one quote, what would it be?
A: You live on this planet, so you might as well see as much of it as you can!