For senior lecturer Steven McKelvey, the goal is to help students redefine what they think they know about the world.
In all three of the political classes McKelvey teaches, students are given a first-day pretest designed to measure what they actually know about the world. McKelvey says many students carry factual misconceptions going into his classes.
“My objective is to get their interest on the first day and hold it,” McKelvey says. “To get them to think about things in a way they haven’t done before.”
By using real-world examples and facts, McKelvey gives his students a base of information that they can then add onto.
Students are frequently presented with surprising information that primes them to look for details, and McKelvey encourages the use of evidence and prior knowledge in order to process real events and form opinions.
“An opinion that is based on factual evidence built into a coherent argument — that’s a valuable opinion,” McKelvey says. “It doesn’t have to be in agreement with mine, but it has to be based on facts.”
Being a hands-on professor, McKelvey prefers smaller classrooms, which allow for more engagement and attention for each student. Student interaction and recognition is extremely important for conveying understanding, according to McKelvey.
“The good professors are looking at their student’s faces all the time,” McKelvey says. “You’re looking for the spark of recognition, the nod, the student who was engaged that suddenly fuzzes up.”
While McKelvey enjoys the classroom environment and the wide range of political beliefs represented in the KSU faculty, challenges arise when students refuse to read course material. According to McKelvey, simply being exposed to news through the internet does not constitute having a deep understanding of the current political climate.
McKelvey is enthusiastic about the KSU NATO team and his role as faculty advisor. He attributes the consistent success of the team to the foundation of knowledge each team member has.
McKelvey first came to KSU in 1988 when it was known as Kennesaw College. Drawn to the reputation KSU had as a teaching college, McKelvey was hired to create and teach two politics courses as well as to spearhead the Kennesaw College UN team.
McKelvey left KSU in 1998 to teach in Santa Fe, then returned as an assistant professor in 2001 and eventually became a senior lecturer.