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Alan Wiseman

For Professor ALAN WISEMAN (BA ’96), his professional career stems from a hot day in Champaign, Illinois in August 1993. Dr. Wiseman was planning to complete an internship program in Washington, DC, graduate early with a degree in history and political science, and go to law school. To make this happen, he needed to enroll in an upper-level political science class and find a faculty advisor. He spent that hot August day waiting in the Armory to register manually for whatever advanced-level class he could. Fortunately, the student in line directly before him dropped a class called “Legislatures and Legislation” with Professor Brian Sala (who was an Assistant Professor in the Political Science Department at that time), and he was able to enroll. On the first day of class, Dr. Wiseman approached the professor and asked if he would be his faculty sponsor for the internship.

Through the coursework and his internship with the State of Illinois Office in Washington, DC, Dr. Wiseman found that he was very interested in politics and public policy, and he began to seriously consider a graduate program in political science. He opted to stay in his undergraduate degree the full four years and added a third major in Economics. While applying for graduate school, Professor Brian Gaines advised him to apply for Stanford University’s relatively new Ph.D. program in political economics in the Graduate School of Business. Dr. Wiseman ultimately accepted his offer of admission into the program. During and after his Ph.D. program, he took time to serve as a visiting economic scholar at the United States Federal Trade Commission. He eventually accepted a faculty position at Ohio State and he is now a Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University.

For current students, Dr. Wiseman advises taking the hardest classes they can as an undergraduate; he believes those courses will challenge them to grow the most as a student. He also shares that students’ four years as undergraduates will give them the a ton of intellectual freedom, and students should take advantage of the bountiful opportunities to take whatever classes they want and to pursue things they are interested in. Studying political science teaches students to read well, critically engage with and articulate arguments both in writing and speech, in addition to allowing students to become better-educated citizens of the world. He shares that it is critical to take this time in their lives to ask big questions about the world and then ask how these questions apply to your life.

When reflecting on his time at Illinois, Dr. Wiseman is extremely grateful for all the faculty he had classes with. He says that the departmental culture encouraged open door policies between faculty and students, allowing him to build critical relationships with professors who helped facilitate his professional success. Now, as a professor himself, he tries to pay this forward with his own students and be mindful of how much his relationships with instructors made a difference for him as an undergraduate. Dr. Wiseman notes that the support from the Political Science department has helped to empower everything that he has done, and says that he is “proud of the program and proud of Illinois.”

Dr. Wiseman can be reached at

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