The Luther W. and Bernice L. Thompson Distinguished Teaching Award is presented annually to a recently tenured faculty member. The recipient of this award traditionally delivers the Fall Honors Day address. This year’s award winner is Professor Yasemin Akbaba.
Professor Akbaba received her Bachelor of Science degree in International Relations from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. In 2006, she received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri and joined the Political Science faculty at Gettysburg. Professor Akbaba teaches courses on international relations and comparative politics, and her research focuses specifically on ethno-religious groups in the international context. She traces her interests in these subjects to her early childhood, where she moved to four different cities in her native Turkey by the time she was 9 years old. Her experiences exposed her to a variety of groups with diverse relationships with the government, or as she puts it: “one is not just Turkish in Turkey.” She was also aware that religion in Turkey was more than a private matter and played an integral role in one’s relationship with the state.
Her curiosity led her to explore the intersection of these elements beyond the borders of her native country and her research and teaching are characterized by a global focus. She is an active scholar, and since arriving at Gettysburg has seven articles and three book chapters published or accepted for publication. Moreover, she and her collaborators developed a new data set focusing on the roles of religion and ethnicity in minority group discrimination.
Professor Akbaba has a reputation as a dedicated, demanding and innovative teacher. Her students note her compassion for them as individuals and her enthusiasm for the subjects she teaches. One example of her innovation in the classroom is her course on Turkish Politics (Political Science 370) where she implemented Skype video discussions between her class of Gettysburg students and a class of Turkish students located in Izmir, Turkey. These sessions exposed students – both her students and those in Turkey –to different perspectives and points of view that would have been impossible in a traditional classroom.
Whether in a senior capstone or an introductory class, Professor Akbaba’s students find a dedicated, organized and energetic teacher who constantly refines her methods in an effort to help them better understand the world they inhabit. Her talk today is entitled: One-Way Ticket to Opportunity, Failure and Growth.