Teaching Award Winner to Research Latin American Labor
August 15, 2011 – Assistant government professor Rev. Matthew Carnes, S.J., who has received more than one Georgetown teaching award, plans to spend his 2011-2012 sabbatical researching labor politics in Latin America.
As the recipient of the Dorothy Brown Award for Outstanding Teaching Achievement from the student body, Carnes will give the faculty address during New Student Convocation Aug. 28.
The Jesuit, who has been at Georgetown since 2009, previously won the 2011 Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Award for Faculty Excellence, given by graduating seniors in the College.
Humbled and Growing
“I was really shocked and all the more humbled when these awards were announced to me,” Carnes says. “It invokes in me a desire to keep growing as a teacher because I feel I’m just a couple years into this and I still have so much to learn.”
Carnes’ courses include Comparative Political Systems, Welfare States in Transition and Comparative Political Economy.
The professor says he uses an “experience-driven” teaching method, presenting students with data and asking them to respond.
“What I often tell my students is there is something really exciting about teaching comparative politics,” he explains. “You get to introduce these really big questions, you get to ask the most important parts of them and there’s that cognitive-dissonant moment where you start to think ‘wow this is a really interesting question.’ ”
Students say his classes are engaging and in keeping with Georgetown’s core values.
“Father Carnes definitely embodies the mission of Georgetown,” says Emily Clark (C’12), a government major. “His Comparative Political Systems class was the very first government course I have taken that integrated the idea of service and ‘men and women for others’ into the curriculum.”
The professor’s research interests began while he was working in Honduras in 1999-2000 after Hurricane Mitch hit the area in 1998.
During his stay in Central America, Carnes observed that men were losing jobs on banana plantations while women were finding positions at clothing factories in cities.
Studying Social Policy
Those events raised questions in Carnes’ mind about how such employment shifts affect countries and how developing nations with high unemployment can provide social welfare to citizens.
“Those are the questions that have motivated my research and ones that I bring to teaching as well,” he says, adding that social policy in the developing world is “an understudied aspect of social policy.”
Grace and Joy
He’ll spend his sabbatical at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where he hopes to complete a book about how labor laws and social policy have changed in the region.
Despite the necessary time off to finish his book, Carnes says he’s looking forward to returning to Georgetown to teach.
“When I think about years in the future at Georgetown, I really think about a lot of grace and a lot of joy,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to walking into that classroom and teach again to these incredible students.”