By Marlin Collier
Outreach and education are priorities for SPIA faulty members. With their expertise and knowledge, they have the ability to affect change in our community, our nation, and our world. While other professors spent their summer on campus, Cas Mudde, associate professor of international affairs, spent his lecturing across Europe about the role of populism in governments and elections.
One highlight for Mudde was speaking to more than 500 people in Copenhagen with a group called “Science and Cocktails.” The organization works to bring together academics and non-academics in a relaxed atmosphere to encourage researchers and the audience alike to feel at ease and have a genuine discussion while sipping a nice cocktail. “It was really awesome to see an independently organized event with such a massive group of mostly young people who come because they’re interested, not because they had to,” says Mudde.
Mudde also spoke on a panel at the Stockholm International Women’s Forum, where he was the “token” man on the panel. “When I was sitting there I realized this is the first time it had ever happened to me,” he explains. “Just imagine how often a woman has that experience.” The IWF brings together female leaders and executives of more than 33 countries around the world.
A speaking engagement at the Council of Europe was particularly memorable for Mudde as he was directly confronted by one of his research subjects: “I was challenged by the representative of Poland, one of the countries I criticized for undermining liberal democracy. That’s an experience you don’t often have.”
He also spoke at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Netherlands about the normalization of the far-right movement in the Netherlands. “It’s quite interesting to see how it’s changed since I left my country 20 years ago. When I still lived there, everyone would be alarmed over 50 radical right people on the street. Today we have two radical right parties in our parliament, and we seem to be less alarmed by it.”
Mudde says these speaking engagements aid his research. “To me, these meetings are always very interesting because I get more feeling of how governments think about this issue (populism). I mean, I study it and I assume governments think certain things and do certain things so I always learn something…It teaches me a lot about the context of what I study.”
But more than aiding his personal research, Mudde says giving back is a crucial responsibility of universities. These speaking engagements help him fulfil that purpose. “I believe, particularly at a public institution like the University of Georgia, we are funded by taxpayers, and we should give back,” he explains. “Also as a citizen, I think we should help raise the level of debate. I’m paid to create knowledge and share that knowledge…I’m first and foremost there to provide information.”