Ask the professor: Dr. Justin Moeller


Photo By: Emily Merrill

The Prairie News brings you Ask the Professor, a brand new biweekly column.

Dr. Justin Moeller is an assistant professor in political science and West Texas A&M University’s pre-law advisor. He received a B.S. in political science and public administration from the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, a master’s of political science from San Diego State University, and a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Georgia in 2012.

Q: So how did you get your start in education, and what got you into wanting to teach?

A: Well, I was going to be a high school teacher, and it turned out, it’s actually very hard to be a high school teacher in California, because you have to join a union. And then about six years later, you actually get to be a teacher. So I went to grad school, more or less, I still thought I was going to be a teacher, then about a year and a half in I was like, “I kind of like this, I’ll keep doing this.” And basically, when you become a professor, half of your job is teaching, half of your job is research. And most people who get into teaching like research, and then figure out that they like teaching. I started to like teaching after a while, and you get used to it. You get to like the interactions with students, because it’s really one the only ways other than being a K through 12 teacher that you get to interact with people in a classroom, is to be a college professor.

Q: Have you ever doubted your profession? and how so? Or ever have looked back and said maybe teaching is not for me?

A: When you first start, you always think that because you’re basically terrible at first, which is kind of like getting a job where you don’t know what you’re doing, and it turns out, you start class and like, 30 minutes later you’re done. Even though it’s an hour and a half class. Like at the beginning, you kind of always have doubts, just like everything else in life. But seriously, I like my job. I like working at WT, I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a professor, like, the world’s angriest Walmart greeter or something like that.

Q: What are some things you wish students knew about your job?

A: I think the big thing is that students don’t recognize that there’s actually more to being a professor than teaching. Depending on what department you’re in, and what college you’re in, you also have to do research, which is very important. If you’re a good teacher and do research, or don’t do research, you actually want to stick around. Now, you also have to do service to the university, things like advising, organizing clubs, student events, activities and stuff like that. I think most students kind of think the only thing that you do is teach. And especially when you’re first starting out, it’s a little bit less of an objective when you’re older, and you’ve been around and you have tenure and things like that. But most professors do have to balance teaching, research and service. And especially first year students I don’t think realize that a lot of time, which is like, you’re not on call 24/7 as a professor or a faculty member, you actually have other things to do. I think that’s the main one is you know, 60% of your job is teaching. But 30% is research and service. So, they do have other things that they have to do and other things that go on, you know, outside the classroom while they’re at work.

Q: If you were to give advice to any students about their studies, or any tips that might help them, what would it be?

A: Read your freaking syllabus! Probably half of student questions are things that are answered in a syllabus. There’s a large percentage of students who actually read it, but it’s actually an important document. Especially if people have taught the same class over and over again, most of the time, it’s pretty spot on and telling you how much things are worth, when things are due and stuff like that. Probably a third or half of all my emails are people asking me about things that are in the syllabus.