Q&A with Dr. Justin Garrison

At 2:15 PM on Wednesday afternoon I had the opportunity to sit down with the newest professor in the Public Affairs department, Dr. Justin D. Garrison. Upon walking into Dr. Garrison’s office, the typewriter on his desk instantly caught my attention. Dr. Garrison welcomed me into his office, but before beginning his interview he was already busy at work, finishing an email to a colleague. Dr. Garrison joined the department  and will be teaching courses relating to institutions and political theory.

After sitting down with Dr. Garrison for a few minutes and talking to him about my involvement on campus, I began to talk to him about his interests.

Diana: Before coming to Roanoke, where were you working?

Dr. Garrison: Before Roanoke I lived outside of the D.C. area in Silver Springs, MD. I taught several courses at Catholic University in D.C. related to political theory, American political thought, literature and politics, and American government.


Diana: Wow, so what made you want to leave D.C. and come to Roanoke?

Dr. Garrison: Well, I was on the job market. Specifically, I was looking for something on the tenure track. I had completed a Skype interview in November and then I had scheduled a campus visit. It was during my campus visit that I had an opportunity to interact with students in the classroom, and I knew then and there that this was the place that I wanted to be.


Diana: Is Roanoke any where close to your hometown?

Dr. Garrison: Actually no, quite far from it. (Dr. Garrison grew up on the West Coast, right outside of Sacramento, CA).

Diana: Oh, that’s so cool! Do you miss it?

Dr. Garrison: Laughs. No. I mean it is a beautiful state, but people are too political in so many ways.

Diana: What do you mean?

Dr. Garrison: I am not sure how it is in Virginia, since I haven’t been here for very long but in California during election season, you can’t even go to the grocery store without someone asking you to sign a referendum.

Diana: Too political? But you’re a political scientist! I guess I should ask you what made you choose this field?

Dr. Garrison: I have always been interested in philosophical questions, for instance what is liberty, democracy, etc. It was during my years in undergrad that I began to ask these important questions. After taking a political theory class my life was changed. Political theory is something that is truly interesting, but it is something that is not adequately understood by many college students. It is a matter of allowing students to become familiar with the unfamiliar. I like being able to think through problems and challenging others’ thoughts. It is that moment when you see that spark in someone else’s eye that means the most.

Diana: So if you weren’t a political scientist, what would you be doing?

Dr. Garrison: Sighs. Hmm that is a good question. I don’t know. In my free time I do enjoy creative writing and reading, although I would not say that I am necessarily great at the former.

Diana: Well what’s your favorite book?

Dr. Garrison: That’s a tough one. I would have to say either Moby Dick or The Idiot. The poetry of T. S. Eliot is also pretty amazing.


Diana: Ok so what about TV show or movie?

Dr. Garrison: That’s easy. TV—The Simpsons, Movie—Barry Lyndon, because it is the first and only movie that I have ever seen shot in all natural light so all of the frames look like real life portraits.


Diana: So when you’re not in the classroom or your office, in what spot in Roanoke could we find you?

Dr. Garrison: I don’t have a favorite spot just yet, but my wife and I do like to go out and drive on the Blueridge Parkway. It is nice to get away from the buildings and the concrete; it’s a nice change of scenery.


As my interview with Dr. Garrison came to a close I asked him one final question.


Diana: Though you have not been at Roanoke for very long, what words of advice would you give students pursuing majors or a career related to public affairs?

Dr. Garrison: Advice? Hmm. Getting a job and planning a career are important goals, but enjoy being in a place where you actually have the time to think deeply about ideas and issues. It is a rare thing to be surrounded by so many people interested in learning. Take advantage of the full experience of intellectual community Roanoke offers.


As I thanked Dr. Garrison for his interview, he gathered his belongings. He was headed out into the sunny afternoon to meet his wife back at their home in Grandin. I was headed back to my dorm to heed some of his advice—to enjoy my full experience at Roanoke and to grab a nap.