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Dr. Stephen Hess

Assistant Professor of Political Science; Program Director

Steve Hess understands that sitting on the sidelines is a great disadvantage when it comes to gaining the skills necessary to succeed in political science. Being an active participant in learning and being involved in the community are crucial for gaining a holistic worldview that can propel students to fulfilling lives and careers.

“I emphasize student-centered, active learning in the classroom,” Hess says. “My courses make frequent use of activities and assignments such as debates, simulations and role plays that put students in the center of the action and require that they critically engage and apply course concepts by acting as political thinkers and decision-makers.”

It’s a philosophy that’s carried over into his second role on campus, as the coordinator of Transylvania’s Peace Corps Prep program, a co-curricular partnership that trains Transy students for post-graduate service in the Peace Corps as well as careers in international development. Participants engage in coursework, community service and leadership training that earn them a certificate of completion and special consideration for acceptance should they choose to apply to the Peace Corps.

“It provides both practical experience, in which students develop hands-on skills and competencies that can be translated into Peace Corps service, and cultivates an ethic of service that stands at the center of the Peace Corps’ mission,” Hess says.

As a member at Transy, working with relatively small classes of talented and committed students enables deeper and less scripted classroom interactions, more opportunities for active learning and the cultivation of more meaningful mentoring relationships with students.

Active learning and meaningful mentorship relationships are at the core of what Transylvania’s liberal arts education is all about, and political science is a perfect encapsulation of that identity.

“Political science is very much about citizenship — how people can better understand and critically examine political phenomena for the sake of being active and informed participants in the political system,” Hess says. “A liberal arts education serves these concerns by encouraging students to consider different perspectives, appreciate the importance of context, practice empathy and develop into whole, well-rounded persons.”

Academic History

Ph.D., Miami University, 2011
M.A., University of Louisville, 2006
B.A., Hanover College, 2004

Courses Taught at Transy

Introduction to Politics
International Crisis Simulations
Politics of Africa
Politics of Asia
Modern Political Concepts, Methodologies, and Analysis
Human Rights
Political Development
Politics of China

Areas of Research

Authoritarianism
Post-communism
Protest politics
Chinese politics
China-Africa relations

Professional Memberships

ASIANetwork
International Studies Association

Recent Publications

Steve Hess, “The Role of China and Asymmetric Bargaining in Ethiopia’s Authoritarian Backsliding.” Book chapter accepted for publication in forthcoming edited volume, Christof Hartmann and Nele Noesselt, eds., China’s New Role in African Politics: From No

Steve Hess and Richard Aidoo. “Chinese Development Assistance and Democratic Backsliding in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Accepted for publication in Commonwealth & Comparative Politics (forthcoming).

Steve Hess and Shengping Chang, “The Diffusion of Contention in Contemporary China: An Investigation of the 2014-2015 Wave of Teacher Strikes.” Modern Asian Studies (July 2018): 1172-1193.

Steve Hess and Kadir Akyuz, “Turkey Looks East: International Leverage and Democratic Backsliding in a Hybrid Regime.” Mediterranean Quarterly 29:2 (June 2018): 1-26.

Steve Hess, “Decentralized Meritocracy: Resilience, Decay, and Adaptation in the CCP’s Threat-Management System.” Problems of Post-Communism 64:1 (January 2017): 20-31.

Steve Hess, “The Flight of the Affluent in China: Exit, Voice and Loyalty and the Problem of Wealth Drain.” Asian Survey 56:4 (July/August 2016): 629-650.

Steve Hess and Richard Aidoo, “Charting the Impact of Subnational Actors in China’s Foreign Relations: The 2013 Galamsey Crisis in Ghana.” Asian Survey 56:2 (March/April 2016): 301-324.

Steve Hess. “Sources of Authoritarian Resilience during Regional Protest Waves: The Post-Communist Color Revolutions and 2011 Arab Uprisings.” Government and Opposition 51:1 (January 2016): 1-29.