Dr. Rebecca Moore
Professor of Political Science

How long have you been teaching at Concordia and what led you here?

I have been teaching at Concordia since the fall of 1994, so this is my 30th year here! When I returned to graduate school after working in government for a number of years, I knew that I wanted to teach — ideally at a small, private liberal arts college similar to the one from which I graduated.

What courses do you teach? Do you have a favorite; if so, why?

I have taught both political science and global studies-designated courses during my years at Concordia, but the courses I teach regularly now are mainly international relations courses: International Politics, International Security, U.S. Foreign Policy, Ethics and International Relations, and U.S.-China Relations. In recent years, I have also taught our introductory political science course: Thinking about Politics. I enjoy all of these courses, but, if forced to pick a favorite — or maybe two, I would probably choose International Politics, which is essentially an introduction to international relations. It’s an opportunity to introduce students to a subfield — and the concepts and theory that go with it — that they have likely not encountered in high school. I also really enjoy the Ethics and International Relations course, which I teach seminar style. No lectures. I typically sit with the students and we discuss readings, current events, and students’ individual research projects. I have been blessed with highly motivated, engaged students in that course, and the seminar style allows me to learn from students and allow them to shape the nature of our discussion.

What do you love about your job?

I love the opportunities for close interaction with students. I graduated from a Lutheran liberal arts college and benefitted so much from the small classes, close relationships with faculty, and the intensive writing opportunities afforded by the small private college environment. I am grateful to have the opportunity now to share this same experience with my students. I also appreciate the opportunity to be at an institution where we don’t have to shy away from conversations that hinge on values and difficult moral problems, which are abundant in international relations courses!

How do you approach teaching current events, such as the Russian-Ukraine war, in your classroom?

In teaching international relations, there is never a shortage of current events that merit discussion in the classroom. It is sometimes tempting to turn an entire class session into a current events discussion — and I have done that such as when Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014 and again in 2022, but I also take seriously my responsibility to help students develop an analytical framework for making sense of past, present, and future events in the realm of international politics. So — as I routinely tell my students — it is not my job to deliver a daily newscast. It is their responsibility to keep up with current events through habitual reading of a regular news source so that we can incorporate meaningful discussion of events like the Russia-Ukraine war into our classroom discussion. I then try to use these events to help illuminate or explain certain international relations concepts or theories. It’s also important to discuss how these events are relevant to our lives, but, again, that requires a broader understanding of the international system and the interconnected nature of so many of the challenges we face.

How do you encourage open dialogue with varying points of views from students?

I want all of my students to feel comfortable sharing their views in my classroom, but I also want to encourage lively debate because that is how we come to learn and appreciate new perspectives. For me, though, it is critical that students disagree with each other — and with me — in a respectful manner. That means no personal attacks or questioning of others’ moral integrity, etc. I will confess though that discussing current events has become more challenging in our present, highly polarized political environment. I know that students often self-censor because they worry about what their peers — and perhaps I — might think. This is a challenge that I think all of us in the political science department wrestle with regularly.

What do you see in your students and in what ways can they make a positive difference?

I see lots of students who, despite the considerable challenges we face, are optimistic and really want to make a positive difference in the world. It’s easy to feel as though there is little we can do as individuals given the enormity of the challenges, but we are not without power to effect change. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to pay careful attention to what is going on all around you. Get in the habit of reading a credible news source regularly, and resist the urge to pretend that what is happening in some far corner of the world won’t affect you. I also want students to remember that ideas, leadership, and courage all matter, and that our power lies in our ability to align our voices and our actions with the principles we want to see prevail in the world.

Our power lies in our ability to align our voices and our actions with the principles we want to see prevail in the world.”

Could you talk about the Lutheran College Washington Semester opportunity for Concordia students?

The Lutheran College Washington Semester program is a wonderful opportunity for Concordia students of any major to spend a full semester taking courses and interning in Washington, D.C. The program, which is run by a consortium of 13 Lutheran liberal arts colleges from around the country is small enough that students receive lots of attention from our faculty and staff and an opportunity to get to know students from other parts of the country, while also immersing themselves in a diverse, complex, and vibrant city. The centerpiece of the experience is, of course, the internship. Students benefit not only from the internship itself but also from the experience of earning the internship — with strong support from our staff.

You have written quite a bit about NATO. What sparked your interest in that area?

The NATO Alliance is now my principal research interest and has been for many years, but it wasn’t a topic that I was particularly interested in as a graduate student. I actually wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on U.S. human rights policy and, specifically, the emergence of democracy promotion as an explicit component of that policy during the early 1980s. What really got me interested in NATO was the argument made by the Clinton administration in the mid to late 1990s that NATO could be a force for the democratization and unification of Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the Cold War. This was the argument that ultimately drove enlargement of the alliance itself as well as new partnerships and new missions. NATO is a military alliance committed to the collective defense of its members, but it is also a values-based political organization designed to safeguard — as stated in the preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty — democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law. In my view, these values are really the thread that has held the alliance together since its inception in 1949, and it is this dimension of the alliance that interests me and has shaped most of my research over the years.

What sets Concordia’s political science department apart?

The political science department is relatively small so we’re able to get to know our students well. We are all here because we really enjoy teaching, and we try to find opportunities to engage students in discussion of current events outside of our classrooms, including through our regular Politics Café events. I think we are also proud of the fact that we represent a fairly broad range of ideological perspectives, but we are able to have lively, respectful discussions with each other on challenging issues. We like to think that we are able to model for our students how to have these often difficult discussions in a way that allows us all to grow without making enemies or insulting others in the process.

Do you have any advice for students considering Concordia?

I am a fierce advocate of liberal arts education. Students might not fully appreciate this experience until after they graduate, but I know that I enjoyed a huge advantage over many of my peers after I finished my undergraduate degree because I had learned how to write, how to think critically, and how to appreciate contemporary problems in a historical context. These are the skills that a Concordia education offers, and they are skills that you will carry with you the rest of your life.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I enjoy running, baking, gardening, home decorating, reading, playing the piano, and, of course, traveling!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I am on a sabbatical leave for the 2023-24 school year, but I look forward to returning to teaching in the fall of 2024. Students who wish to visit about the Lutheran College Washington Semester program should feel free to reach out to me via email at any time.

Published September 2023