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Matthew Stephen
Dr Matthew Stephen
BA (Hons) Politics, MA Politics
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Global Governance | WZB Berlin Social Science Center

I studied Politics at the University of Otago primarily because it offered some interesting papers, encouraged critical thinking, and included some inspiring lecturers. I attended a particular first-year Politics paper, in political philosophy, which was provocative, stimulating, and enormously challenging. The many conceptual challenges, hard truths, and lack of intellectual molly-coddling left a firm and positive impression on my young gelatinous brain.

I accepted the invitation to the honours programme believing that Politics offered me the best chances to extend my intellectual horizons while also keeping a toe in the door of employability. The Politics programme also allowed me to broaden my focus and be exposed to different epistemic cultures by combining papers from other subjects, such as history. Mind you, I was later disappointed to learn that as an honours student, I was unable to formally register for an additional subject minor.

The critical mass of the Politics department encouraged critical thinking and engagement with a wide variety of perspectives. The variety of papers offered to students seemed to encourage a breadth of understanding rather than a narrow and technical specialization. I endorse both of these features with two upraised thumbs. Politics at Otago involves analytical thinking, empirical drilling; also cultivating the capacity for critical evaluation.

The world is increasingly integrated, and political decisions on virtually all issues are deeply affected by international conditions. Consequently, the fields of International Relations and Global Political Economy were especially compelling to me, both for being obviously relevant and for helping to develop a 'global perspective'. Studying international politics encouraged a global perspective that made it possible for me to study and work abroad. I also benefited from attentive, encouraging, caring, and academically serious supervision. The Politics department provided me with encouragement but also research funds to give me time to publish my thesis results in international journals. Having peer-reviewed publications at an early career stage helped me incalculably in my subsequent academic career.

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