Faculty Spotlight

Ross M. Lence Award for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences

Prof. Jeffrey Church

Ryan Kennedy
Assistant Professor
Political Science

An award-winning researcher, whose work on oil and governance is truly global, Dr. Ryan Kennedy teaches a quantitative methods course that our students love. Many students switch majors so they can work with him.

Dr. Kennedy describes how the very first professor he spoke with as a freshman instructed him to do research because that was the point of learning these concepts. Kennedy took that advice and now passes it on to his students.

As nominator Dr. Susan Scarrow points out, Dr. Kennedy recruits students to his undergraduate research methods course “early enough in their studies so that they are in a position to use their new-found research skills in other undergraduate classes.” Kennedy often sponsors undergraduate students who want to apply for student research grants.

One student started Kennedy’s course as a hotel and restaurant management major, switched to Political Science, and is currently a graduate student in Political Science at Duke University.

Dr. Kennedy has a remarkable record of enlisting both graduate and undergrad students to do research projects with him and has co-published papers with several students.   This is why so many students describe Kennedy as “the professor who had the greatest impact on my life.”

One student explained that as a child living in Oklahoma City when the Murrah building was bombed, he had developed a keen interest in terror. But Kennedy opened his eyes to how political scientists study political violence and then gave him the “most useful assignment” of his career, writing a policy memo to a counterterrorism official.

A student from his methods class wrote that Kennedy encouraged his "passion and curiosity” and helped him realize his "affinity for statistics.” He calls this one of his “most enjoyable experiences ever” – a phrase not often used to describe statistics classes!

Student comments on evaluations often echo the one who wrote that Dr. Kennedy is “wonderful, awesome, one of the best profs at UH, keep him.” I saw just one suggestion for improving the course, “possibly have a longer class period” – a very uncommon complaint! 

Congratulations, Dr. Ryan Kennedy.