Alumna Makes Impact on Higher Education

University of Central Florida alumna Mary Anderson, Ph.D., ’94 ’96 liked being in college so much that she decided to teach at one.

The Department of Political Science graduate received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from UCF. She initially chose to attend because of the campus.

“UCF’s campus was filled with a lot of open space,” Anderson said. “I liked the setup, there was space to breathe and to explore but yet it was still small enough to get from one end to the other in 15 minutes or less.”

She was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority during her undergraduate years. After graduation she and her husband, who is also a UCF alum, visited regularly to attend football games. She’s also stayed in contact with faculty members in the Department of Political Science.

The current associate professor at the University of Tampa credits the research and writing skills that she acquired at UCF with setting her up for success as she moved into a doctoral program at Florida State University.

“I wouldn’t be a university professor without the firm foundation I received at UCF,” Anderson said.

She is now not only a teacher, but also Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Studies at UT. She loves her job and hopes to make a positive change through it.

“I love inspiring young people to think about the world, their role in the world and how they can use their talents to make their community a better place,” she said. “I love to see the lightbulb go on when we are having discussions in class and to see the transformation of students throughout their college careers.”

Anderson has gotten to see the impact of her lessons firsthand.

“My favorite memory is watching two young women from Rwanda, who grew up in a place very different than the US, dive head first into American politics,” she said. “They have a great understanding of the American political system that they acquired while studying here in the US – that is truly watching the lightbulb go on.”

Shaping the next generation of citizens is personal for Anderson. She has three children who she aspires to watch do great things of their own. She offers words of advice for current students and alumni that embody this goal.

“Work hard, treat people with respect and kindness, and value everyone’s contribution,” Anderson said. “From the night time janitor that cleans your classroom to the boss of your company — you don’t get to where you are without help from people around you. Every single one of us had help from someone along the way. Remember to always say thank you.”

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