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Fall 2020 Edition
Alumni & Friends Magazine

Last word: Linda Trautman

Dr. Linda Trautman, associate professor of political science at the Ohio University Lancaster Campus, has served on the faculty at OHIO since 2005 and teaches courses offered across the OHIO system, including graduate classes in Athens. Her areas of expertise include state and national legislative politics, electoral participation and voting behavior, and urban governance and American public policy.

Justin Thompson, BSJ '21 | September 19, 2020


Her most recent research explores campaign strategies and governance styles of the first African American female mayoral regimes, as well as the effects of felony disenfranchisement upon election turnout and partisan vote share in presidential elections.

Ohio Today caught up with Trautman to learn about her decision to teach political science, her thoughts on America’s political system and some things that might come as a surprise to those who don’t already know her.

What made you want to study and teach political science?

I had a great interest in teaching at an early age and developed a passion for American politics and government during high school. My love for teaching was nurtured at an early age as I would develop a fictional classroom and teach as a means of playing when I was younger. I have all male siblings, and, at times, I would create a learning setting (nonfictional) by role playing and teaching them. My entire family, immediate and extended, has supported my educational pursuits all my life.

I initially desired to become a medical doctor (i.e., pediatrician) or a corporate attorney. However, the president at my undergraduate institution, the late Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, was a great inspiration. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, and he was a well-regarded and well-recognized political scientist. Dr. Cook was the mentor of my late mentor, Dr. William E. Nelson Jr., who was very influential in my development as a political scientist (both in terms of teaching and scholarship) and my pursuit of a career in academia.

I was also a Ralph Bunche Institute fellow, which consisted of an intensive and immersive learning experience for high-achieving undergraduate students to provide an opportunity to intensively study American political science with the intent of attracting them to the academy. It is a program that is directed through the American Political Science Association, a national professional association. This was the defining moment and turning point for me, confirming that I wanted to pursue a career in the academy.

If you could change three things about the U.S. political system, what would you change?

1) Corruption (e.g., campaign finance violations) through serious ethics reform. Eliminate the influence of special interests and wealth for the purpose of empowerment of all to promote a true democracy. Combine efforts of reform and legislation with a tough enforcement approach that will deter corruption within the political system. 2) Deep party polarization and conflict that takes away from positive policymaking. While competition is healthy, party polarization that compromises the collective good and negatively affects policymaking should be eliminated within government. 3) Create a fairer and equitable system of representation for true democracy, including fair processes of redistricting and the promotion of inclusive democracy, especially for marginalized and excluded groups and communities.

Linda Trautman


A positive self-concept, daily affirmations and authenticity are necessary to living a fulfilling life. Passionately focus on your life purpose for the benefit of improving society and humanity rather than selfish desires and recognition. My advice is to work hard to leave a legacy for the betterment of humankind. One’s life work should reflect a positive difference in the world.

Can you share a time when a student’s perspective challenged you to look at an issue differently?

I have a strong, entrenched belief system. Over the many years I have been in academia, my students have been impactful and shaped the evolution in the way I teach and customize my courses.

I typically survey my classes to gain a sense of their level of interest in politics, political engagement and participation. Invariably, in the majority of my surveys in political science courses, a few students self-classify as apolitical, which means that they have a low level of interest, rarely pay attention to politics and are significantly less likely to participate in politics. Despite this, I challenge students to fuse theory with practice to assess the practical importance of political engagement and participation. Some students, and individuals in general, who are strongly apolitical have the strongest propensity of nonparticipation. Despite this, over the many years I have been in academia, students have changed my perspective that apolitical identifiers can transform into “political” beings who are seriously engaged in civic participation. They may initially display attitudes of apathy and disinterest yet evolve into some of the most passionate and engaged individuals politically.

I recall one student who had no interest in politics and no desire to participate in politics but who was one of my highest-performing students and developed a strong liking and interest in politics. Another one of my former students was strongly apolitical and resistant to politics and now serves as a state legislator in Ohio and is dedicated to public service and politics. Yet another student, who was not a political science major, was part of a research team with me at a national political convention and was highly engaged in presidential party research.

Current protests and marches are reflections that the younger populous or cohorts can become engaged in politics, and they are concerned about real and sustainable social, political and economic changes in our government and society.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I am musically inclined as I have been involved in some aspect of music for much of my life. I played the piano at an early age. I also played the clarinet throughout my younger years and college years. I played in the jazz ensemble and sang in a chorale during my college years. I have sung in different choirs all my life— from a very young age through college and graduate school to current times.

One thing I believe people would be surprised about me is that I enjoy classical music (e.g., Beethoven, Mozart and Moses Hogan who was a great pianist and composer at my undergraduate university, a private institution in New Orleans). I frequently attend symphonic and music performances across the United States. The arts are vital forms of expressions that provide value to communities. Some may be surprised that I enjoy hip hop dancing.

What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

I traveled to San Juan and Ponce, Puerto Rico, with a group of representatives from Top Ten institutions to attract high-achieving students to attend graduate school. As a part of the trip, a smaller delegation of us traveled to the Virgin Islands.

I flew on a Britten-Norman Trislander, a small plane where individuals are arranged by weight, from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas Virgin Islands—approximately 33 minutes, yet the longest 33 minutes in my life. I was scaled to sit by the fragile exit door, and it did not appear as the most secure one. Fortunately, the passenger seated next to me was very pleasant and appeared less risk aversive.

What is on your bucket list?

My bucket list is quite extensive. However, I have had an abiding interest in developing and leading an institute that prepares future leaders with knowledge to promote political, social and economic justice for marginalized and excluded groups with a central component emphasizing women empowerment. I’m also interested in collaboration with a group of scholars internationally to investigate urgent cross-cultural and cross-national political issues, economic inequality, disenfranchisement, poverty, etc. My long-term interest is serving as the president of a liberal arts university.

Photography by Ty Wright, BFA ’02, MA ’13