From the Jersey Shore to Buenos Aires to Guatemala to England, Sam Maynard’s interest in politics has taken him across the globe. Currently pursuing his Ph.D. at Oxford University, Sam’s studies focus on the anomaly that is Argentine politics—a topic he developed a passion for during his time as an undergrad at Monmouth.
“When you study democracy in the context of nation-states, puzzling countries like Argentina tend to stand out,” Sam says, explaining that while Argentina was once the seventh wealthiest country in the world, its economic status has since suffered a stunning drop, and currently only ranks around 60. Intrigued by these curious statistics and presented with an opportunity to visit Buenos Aires on an academic trip sponsored by Dr. Ken Mitchell, Sam embarked on a journey to observe Argentina’s political and societal climate in person.
“Coming from the U.S., politics is often a taboo topic that many people shy away from,” Sam says of his experience. “In other countries, in Europe for example and certainly in Argentina, I find that people are not only willing to engage in politics and discuss issues, but they do it with an immense passion and often aren't as hesitant to voice their concerns.”
Since his first visit, Sam has made several additional trips to the South American country, and has even spent time in Guatemala to improve his Spanish. Sam says his growing familiarity with Argentina has made the country feel like “an old friend.”
“I've been able to make friends and build networks with people who I still frequently keep in touch with,” Sam reflects. “I feel very lucky to have access to a culture and a country that I'm not from originally.”
Sam continues to dig deeper into the political culture of Argentina as a graduate student at Oxford, where he is currently in his second year.
“Unlike American Ph.D. programs that typically require an additional two years of coursework, Oxford forces you to dive right in and expects you to have done most of the leg work in creating a solid dissertation plan,” Sam explains. “I think for this reason, Oxford has always stood out to me as a 'place for scholars,’ which has given my studies an exciting immersive quality.”
As Sam continues to pursue his Ph.D., he reflects on his experience at Monmouth and how it has shaped his goal to work in academia. “The political science faculty [at MU] really was able to identify what aspects of the study I was drawn to and then tap into that interest with really challenging work,” Sam says. “Their confidence in me, that I could handle that kind of work, encouraged me not to shy away from other academic (and life) challenges.”
Monroe Township, NJ
Faculty Member Influence
"I'd say the political science/sociology department faculty in general were incredibly influential, but Dr. Ken Mitchell in particular was the single greatest influence on me as a student as well as in the graduate work that I've been doing since I left MU. His support and motivation really pushed me to challenge myself and leave my comfort zone, which not only expanded my worldview as a student of politics but also gave me some really great memories. In particular, he sponsored a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina while I was a student. That trip really introduced me to the realities of Argentine politics, which I now study at Oxford. On his advice, I also spent about a month in Guatemala learning Spanish (definitely out of the comfort zone on that one)."
How Monmouth helped me achieve my goals
"The faculty really stands out in my mind. My professors were always willing to take the time and go out of their way to afford me different opportunities that not only enhanced my skills as a student, but were just generally interesting to be a part of. For example, I served as a research assistant to Dr. Johanna Foster (Sociology) on a project she was working on related to the privatization of prisons, which is really important and engaging work. That project essentially taught me how to code data, something I routinely deal with as a Ph.D. student."
Organizations that helped me as a student
"The Debate team was easily my favorite activity I took part in at MU. Dr. Joe Patten fostered a really great community among the students that participated and we were fortunate enough to accomplish quite a bit during my time as a student."
Collaborations that I've been involved with
"I was lucky enough to work with Dr. Rekha Datta and other students from the political science department on several student envoys to the United Nations representing MU."
Why I'm proud of Monmouth
"I'm incredibly proud to have been a student in a department that was so supportive of its majors. I think the communal environment that MU cultivated as a small university really made that possible. As an alum, I consider that to be invaluable."
My favorite Monmouth memory
"The trip to Argentina is the first memory that comes to mind. Also, the debate team trips to California in which we competed (and one year won) in the West Coast National Championship was certainly memorable."