Professor Melissa Deckman Hits the Airwaves

By Maegan Clearwood
News Editor

Political science professor Doctor Melissa Deckman lectures for one of her classes. She specializes in elections and religion.
- Photo courtesy of Alison Percich

For political science professor Dr. Melissa Deckman, election season is a whirlwind of activity, and not just in the classroom. In the last month alone, Deckman has been a guest speaker for three different political media programs.

Deckman made her first public appearance of the New Year on Jan. 11 with a Baltimore affiliate of NPR on “Midday with Dan Roderick.”

She has been a guest on Roderick’s program before about various political topics, including Obama’s first 100 days in office. This recent question-and-answer session focused on religion and the elections.

“They like to get local expert opinions,” she said.

Deckman appeared on air with two Republican activists.

“That was an interesting dynamic. I try to stay neutral and bipartisan,” she said.

On Jan. 30, Deckman made two more public appearances. The first was a morning political panel on religion and politics with the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

Deckman said she was primarily asked to draw parallels between Mitt Romney’s and Robert F. Kennedy’s campaigns as “religious outsiders.”

“I’ve done research in the area, I’ve studied behavior, so it’s a question of accumulative knowledge and my passion for the area,” she said.

The program consisted of a panel of experts talking to journalists, which she said was “a neat opportunity to meet the press.”

She said she also looked forward to interacting with national NPR religious correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty who moderated the panel.

After a quick visit home, Deckman trekked to Baltimore for an evening appearance on Maryland Public Television’s public affairs show “Direct Connection.” Deckman was only given a few days notice before the event, which focused on more general aspects of the primary elections.

Even when she has more time to prepare, however, Deckman said she has to think on her toes during media appearances, particularly question-and-answer sessions.

“You just have to go with it,” she said. “Being in the classroom helps because students ask questions all the time. If you can talk in front of students, you can talk on TV or the radio.”

Deckman was not surprised by this recent wave of media requests.

“I’ve gotten a lot of hits lately from reporters,” she said. “I joke that presidential elections are like high holy seasons for political scientists and I study elections, so I get asked a lot,” she said.

Deckman’s expertise in religion and politics makes her a particularly sought-after guest for such programs.

“I’ve always been interested in religious trends and how religion matters in society. Up until recently it wasn’t studied or taken too seriously by political scientists, and I’m privileged to be part of the conversation about how it matters. I think it’s important.”

Some of her current and previous students tuned in to listen and watch Deckman live, and she said she has gotten positive emails from viewers
and listeners.

“It’s always fun to be on those shows, and it’s nice to raise the
profile of the College. It’s good advertisement for the College,” she said.

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