Since the fall of 2013, Chris Haynes has guided University of New Haven students into and through the study of political science. He said he became an educator because he saw the fulfillment his mother got from the profession.
A Hawaii native, Haynes said he got his Masters of Business Administration from Texas Christian University but then went to University of California, Riverside to get his doctorate in political science – something he said he had always been passionate about.
The political science professor said his mother was a high school English teacher at a school where it was uncommon for students to go to four-year colleges after graduating.
“I would always come in contact with students that would come back to her years after graduation,” said Haynes. “They’d be so thankful. You could tell how much of an impact she’d had.”
Haynes said his mother inspired students to go to college. He said he was drawn to education because of how much meaning and satisfaction his mother derived from her work.
When he graduated with his MBA, Haynes said he worked at a department store chain’s “central office” but found it was not for him. He decided to try something new and what came of that was his Ph.D. in political science.
“I was surprised political science is different from politics,” said Haynes. “You quickly find out that it is the study of politics. It’s explaining it and describing it. Not necessarily what’s right and wrong – those normative questions. But positive questions about what it is and how it works.”
Haynes said his particular area of interest in political science is public opinion and voting. He said he finds studying how emotion, such as anxiety and fear, impact people voting habits interesting.
The professor said he came to Connecticut to teach during a tough time in the job market. According to Haynes, he was drawn to UNH’s “teaching-centric” style.
Once at the university, Haynes started a Model United Nations program – something he had done at UC Riverside. He said after getting support from the dean of arts and sciences they turned it into a class.
“It’s gone really well,” said Haynes. “The students are great at it. We’ve won a bunch of top-scoring awards at the National Model UN Conference. Most importantly, the student outcomes for those who have been through the program is really high.”
Haynes said they have alumni working on Capitol Hill and in the State Department. Haynes also started the Mayor’s Advisory Commission during Mayor Ed O’Brien’s administration in order to further collaboration between the university and the city it resides in.
“I thought it was an ethical responsibility of our university to involve itself in building and helping the community,” said Haynes. “In a way, it was my belief that really drove me. But it also made possible a lot of internships and opportunities for our students and for the university itself by having this relationship and partnership.”
The group spearheaded the creation of WestFest and has hosted mayoral candidate debates. He said it has been a fruitful relationship and exit polling has shown approval for the university to be in the high 80’s and low 90’s.
“That’s been our goal — to show the community that the university is really invested in it. It’s not just that school on a hill,” he said.
Haynes said trips to France, Geneva Switzerland and the United Nations with his students have been some of the highlights of his career.
“My most important memories are the students,” he said. “To think about their journey and the challenges that a lot of them faced at the beginning and then to see them blossom.”
According to Haynes, he enjoys getting calls from former students informing him of their progress in their own careers. He said he is a student focused professor who wants to develop their skills so they can be competitive in the real world.
“Sometimes in college it can get a little bit detached, because it is this safe refuge where you can just learn,” said Haynes. “For me, I try to infuse these real-world situations into the classroom.”