For Dr. Gina Woodall the experience of studying and teaching political science at ASU has been nothing short of extraordinary. She is a triple Sun Devil having earned her B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from ASU and has been a full-time faculty member here since 2007. People often inquire if she wants to go “into” politics given her education in the subject. For her, it’s about pursing a childhood passion. “I think political science chose me more than me choosing it. Political socialization is very powerful and, as a child, my parents always read the news and kept up with politics - and so I did too. We ate dinner together at least six nights a week throughout my entire childhood. That’s a lot of dinner conversation about politics, news, and other things. I think because of this exposure, I was always very much interested in how government works and what its role is in our lives.”
Woodall’s own research and interests surround the relationship between gender and media coverage and gender and political campaigns. She pursues answers to the questions: how are women and men candidates covered differently in the media; what are the implications of this difference; and do men and women candidates use different campaign strategies when running for office?
“I think most people think that political science is the study of current events and political stories,” says Woodall. “And, while part of that is true, it is so much more than that. For behavioralist, it really is more about studying empirical data and then thinking about why we see the relationships we see.”
For Woodall, interacting with her students is the most satisfying part of teaching. “What I enjoy the most is my relationships with the students,” she says. “I’ve learned that once students feel comfortable and trust you, they have a much greater capacity to learn and want to learn. It’s important to me that they keep asking critical questions and keep wanting to learn more about whatever it is we are studying.”
Woodall utilizes various digital components to interact with her online students. “First, I have a ‘Who Are You?’ discussion board at the beginning of the semester where I tell students who I am (inside and outside of the classroom) and post a picture,” she says. “I ask them to do the same. Also, I make short YouTube videos every 1-2 weeks for my students, telling them how they are doing, or upcoming due dates, etc. Students enjoy seeing my face and hearing my reminders - or they pretend to like it! Students interact with one another on discussion boards and sometimes in groups. So, in a class of 200, I may have 15 groups, where 15-20 students get to know each other and each other’s work pretty well. I will also have ‘live’ review sessions where students can see me talking, live, and they IM me questions they have about an exam.”
All of this allows Woodall to be accessible to her students as well as engaged in the virtual classroom. “I really enjoy teaching online and I also enjoy what students like about it: the flexibility. You save time because you don’t have to physically ‘be’ anywhere; you save money on gas, and you can connect with your students whenever you’d like. I also like how teaching online sort of levels the playing field, intellectually. In a classroom, you have students who would never speak up or offer an idea in front of 200 people. But, put those same students in an online class, and they aren’t as reserved.”