Political Science Alumnus Appreciates Career Advice

CurryWhen UCF undergraduate Todd Curry, ’03, ’06, approached graduation, he wasn’t sure which path to take: law school or graduate school. He sought advice about both paths with his UCF mentor, taking into account Curry’s expectations and his mentor’s experiences. Curry is very thankful that he realized that pursuing a master’s degree in political science would not shut the door on the possibility of a J.D., but would teach him the actual role of a political scientist. During the pursuit of his MA at UCF, Curry became thoroughly convinced that he should pursue a Ph.D.

After receiving his MA from UCF in 2006, Curry went on to obtain his Ph.D. from Western Michigan University in 2012. Now Curry is an assistant professor in the Political Science department at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). He teaches undergraduate classes in constitutional law, judicial politics, and research methods, as well as graduate courses in judicial politics and quantitative methods.

Curry answered some questions regarding his time at UCF and shared important advice for current students.

Why did you choose to attend UCF?

I attended UCF for both BA and MA (both degrees in political science). While UCF was not my first choice (family health problems led me to change schools three times in four years), it ended up being the best choice. This is in large part because of the excellent education and advising I received from the Political Science Department and its faculty.

How have you stayed connected with UCF since graduation?

At every political science conference I attend, I see at least one, if not more, of my old professors from UCF. At first, it was awkward to interact with them beyond a student-professor relationship, but they made it clear to me that we were colleagues in the profession now. Truth be told, even after eight years outside of Political Science Department at UCF, it still seems strange when they correct me to call them by their first name.

What is your best UCF memory?

Perhaps not the best UCF memory, but certainly the most memorable occurred during the summer of 2004 when hurricanes Charley, Frances, and Jeanne decided to devastate Central Florida, leaving my apartment complex without power for over a month. I rotated between staying with friends (who had power) and sleeping on the floor of the graduate student office and showering in the Recreation and Wellness Center.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

My current position at UTEP allows me to teach and engage with a student population that has an exceedingly unique world view. UTEP has a 70% Hispanic student population, and a large percentage of students are the first in their family to attend college. Furthermore, a sizable population of our students has served the United States in the armed services (in part because of our proximity to Ft. Bliss.) The students at UTEP have a desire to learn and use college as a means to better themselves, which in turn, inspires me.

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

Coming from my past experiences as a chronic student and my much more recent experiences from the other side of the equation, I would like to share a lesson it took me far too long to learn. Professors are experts. Their expertise may not be wide, but in their area, it is a thousand miles deep. When you are taking a class from a full time faculty member, you are learning from someone who is in the process of creating and recreating that area of study. Just gliding by and doing what it takes to get a good grade should not be enough for you. Engage your professors; learn from them outside of the books and lectures.   You are sitting every day in class watching and listening to people who create knowledge and understanding. It is a situation that is not easily replicated outside of college.


Curry also answered a few questions to help us get a feel for his personality.

What was the last book you read?

Those get separated into two categories: last book I read for work and last book I read because I don’t want to think about work anymore. In the first category, the book is Judicialization of Politics: The Interplay of Institutional Structure, Legal Doctrine, and Politics on the High Court of Australia by Reginald Sheehan, Rebecca D. Gill, and Kirk A. Randazzo. The last book I read because I don’t want to think about work anymore was Cold Days by Jim Butcher, the most recent book in the Dresden Files series.

What was the last thing you searched for on Google?

The Appeals Court decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action so I could answer a colleague’s question of how the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action had standing to bring suit.

What is your favorite food?

Beer is food, right?

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