Univ. alumnus returns as professor

By Ally Kebba

Contributing Writer

Dr. Christopher Ellis is the epitome of a true Bucknellian, having graduated with the class of 2000 and returning to work as an assistant professor in the political science department. He was first encouraged to attend the University by his uncle, who was on the Board of Trustees. After visiting the campus with a particularly enthusiastic tour guide, Ellis was hooked.

“For a school of its size, there is so much going on here in terms of academic programming, cultural events, even programs designed to get students and faculty to work together. In addition to teaching, faculty here are also doing cutting-edge research, which makes this a very intellectually stimulating place to work. As a huge sports fan, I think that having Division I athletics is a really nice thing, too,” he said.

Ellis entered his first year unsure of what he wanted to study and laughingly recalls being a short-lived chemistry major. Ellis took a liking to both economics and political science, and eventually decided to double major. He said he “never took a bad class at Bucknell,” and appreciates the holistic education the University provided him.

Ellis was involved on campus in several ways, serving as editor-in-chief of The Bucknellian and as a member of the fraternity Kappa Sigma. He even met his wife, Carrie, who now works in Admissions, here during his sophomore year. They both lived in Smith Hall and were introduced by a mutual friend. Despite his account that she may not have been quite so taken with him the first time they met, he eventually charmed her and the two were married in Rooke Chapel. Ellis playfully labeled his family as “the kind they warn you about at Orientation,” because his brother also attended and met his wife at the University.

Though he had always thought teaching seemed like fun, Ellis had not necessarily planned to be a professor. Before returning to the University, Ellis worked in retail as a men’s clothing buyer for several department stores and received his Ph.D. at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2006. He came back to his alma mater in 2008 after working as an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.

Ellis studies the relationships between public opinion and public policy. He researches why the public wants certain things and whether or not the public can obtain them. He has been published in six scholarly journals, discussing and analyzing such topics as the dominance of scope-of-government preferences in party identification, individual association with particular political ideologies in the time before modern survey research, and the relation of policy preferences in voters and non-voters to differences between public desires and realized policies. Ellis is known for his research of heterogeneity in American public opinion and issues of democratic representation in the United States.

As a student, his favorite class was a public opinion course, in which he was able to take a political survey of his fellow students. The experience led him to incorporate political surveys of his students into the politics classes he now teaches, as well as discussion of the methods and applications of survey research. Ellis particularly enjoys teaching the introductory course American Politics because he says it allows him to cover a wider arena of information than he normally studies, involves a different pace and has a focus on current events and issues that face classroom debate and discussion.

When asked what sets the University apart from those comparable in size and caliber, Ellis commented favorably on his students.

“Students at Bucknell are very engaged in their academic work and are also interested to understand the practical implications of what they are learning. This combination makes teaching courses in American politics particularly rewarding. [They] also generally have a sense of humor and know how to put things in proper perspective, which makes relating to them much easier, at least for me,” he said. Ellis’ Bison pride, passion for the study of political science, and commitment to his students makes it easy to understand why he is such an appreciated professor at the University.

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