Immigration Officer Points To Political Science Classes For Career Inspiration

Political Science graduate Ross Cotton, ’11, Ph.D, recalls the natural curiosity that led him to pursue an academic career in political science and, ultimately, landing him a career as an asylum officer for U.S. Citzenship and Immigration Services.

Born in Australia, Cotton arrived in America at the age of six and found that the older he grew, the more questions he had about the differences between the two countries he calls home.

“I’ve always been fascinated by politics,” said Cotton. “As I got older, I became enamored by the differences in political systems across the world. It’s interesting to study the unique aspects of different kinds of governments because it gives you a better understanding as to how that particular country functions as a whole.”

Cotton enrolled at UCF in the summer of 2008, dabbling with the idea of a few different majors before settling on his gut instinct of political science.

“I thought law school might be where I was heading, so studying political science ended up being a very natural choice,” said Cotton. “I also majored in history, which complimented those classes quite well. I enjoyed my professors thoroughly.”

It wasn’t until he took his British Government and Politics class in the Fall of 2010 that he fell in love with the possibility of academia.

“That class absolutely blew me away,” said Cotton. “Every time I’d leave class I’d think to myself, ‘What if I could be a professor like this?’”

This inspired Cotton to become involved with the UCF Summer Research Academy, where he conducted research on the Scottish Parliament’s electronic petition system. The research was published in the Undergraduate Journal of Research and earned Cotton the UCF Undergraduate Researcher of the Month in October of 2011.

“The research was a wonderful experience and I learned so much through the mentorship I was provided,” said Cotton.

After graduating from UCF in 2011, Cotton applied to the doctorate in Political Science program at the University of Florida, where he earned his doctorate degree. That degree served as a stepping stone to a job with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“It’s a rewarding position that allows you to help people who are otherwise in a vulnerable and threatened position,” said Cotton. “Simultaneously we are making sure the bad guys don’t get into the country and ultimately put those people at greater risk.”

This role as an officer is a dynamic one that Cotton expects he will continue pursuing for the near future. The job includes performing interviews, research, and background checks on those seeking asylum in the U.S. and helping them achieve their dream.

“My favorite part about the job is I get to help people in concrete and meaningful ways while protecting the United States,” said Cotton. “I get to use the skills I gathered as an academic and apply it to the real world where I am making a difference in people’s lives every day.”



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