Professor Spotlight: Dr. Roger Durham

Story by Brooklyn Waggoner, Reporter
Photo courtesy of

If you’re walking around campus and happen upon a cheery fellow wearing a blazer over a Hawaiian shirt and sandals, you’ve probably met Dr. Roger Durham — Doc, as he is affectionately called by his students. He’s been teaching at Aquinas since 1996, doing what he loves.

Durham is from a small town in Southern Oregon called Gold Hill. A proud Oregon Duck, Durham received his Master’s and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Oregon, after completing his undergraduate at Southern Oregon in history and Political Science. Now, he is the Palmatier Endowed Chair of Political Science, as well as coordinator of International Studies, and, of course, professor in the political science department.

He is quite popular among his students; freshman Livie Hickey, a student in two of Doc’s classes explained, “I like Durham’s teaching style; he helps expand all the information for comprehension.”

Indeed, Dr. Durham is very invested in his classroom, and is always doing his best to make sure students are not only learning the information presented, but that they are able to use it. This skill  comes in handy in Model United Nations, wherein students represent delegations of countries, in real time, at a conference every year. Durham is very proud of AQ’s Model UN program, as he should be. It is a large and illustrious one.

Outside of Aquinas, Durham keeps himself busy with all sorts of boards and committees. He is also President of the Michigan Political Science Association, which hosted its 47th Annual Meeting here at Aquinas last fall. It was a very impressive event, which Durham admits took a lot of work to put on. If all of that weren’t enough to make you dizzy, he is also a member of the West Michigan World Affairs Council.

Of course, Durham’s life isn’t all work all the time. Durham told me that he and his family go backpacking every year to the Cascade Mountains.

He admitted, “I’m a mountain snob,” and said that while Michigan is beautiful, there’s no place like home. He is also a lover of jazz music and food, having recently visited the Detroit Jazz Festival with his wife.

Anyone who’s met Durham will tell you that he’s very passionate about what he does. Go talk to him about anything in the realm of political science or international relations, current events, you name it, and he’ll talk about it.

When asked why he teaches political science, he said, “education is crucial.” He told me he believes educated citizenship and participation is vital to democracy. But not only does Durham get to educate others, he is allowed and expected to continue studying himself.

“I get to be a student, and that’s a great gig.”

Durham was excited to relate that his subject material is always changing, which means he must always stay up to date on new events and ideas. Durham loves to interact with students every day in the classroom, where ideas are discussed in a civil, intelligent fashion.


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