The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Professor Profile: Stephen Farnsworth

3 min read


Stephen Farnsworth is a University of Mary Washington professor in the department of political science and international Affairs professor. He is also the director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies and has authored or co-authored five books, along with numerous scholarly articles. He delivered a lecture. “Federalism, Separation of Powers and Mass media Regulation in the United States” to political leaders in Zambia as part of the international visitor program.

How long have you been teaching at UMW?

I started teaching at Mary Washington in the Fall of 1995.

What classes do you teach at UMW?

I routinely teach Mass Media Politics, The American Presidency, Research Methods in Political Science, Political Parties and Elections and U.S. Political Film.

Why did you choose to teach at UMW?

I like that Mary Washington has small classes, I like that the students by and large take their education pretty seriously and it’s nice as a professor to be at a university that does not have a fraternity system.

What class do you enjoy teaching the most?

I really like the Mass Media class the most. It’s a course that is also cross-listed in the Journalism program, and so we have people who look at the media from the point of view of being practicing reporters, as well as people who look at the media from more of a political science perspective. Different perspectives can really allow for pretty interesting discussions about what reporters are up to and why they do what they do.

If you could create any class to teach, what would it be?

Well, I haven’t taught the Political Film class too often, so I’m still working on that. I think that there are some really powerful political messages conveyed in film, and I’m still learning how to teach that course.

What was your lecture “Federalism, Separation of Powers and Mass Media Regulation in the United States” about?

The U.S. State Department calls on me now and again to do talks for visiting groups of political and media figures in the United States. One of the things they ask me to talk about is how our political system works. For people, in this case it was a group of people from Zambia, our system is kind of unusual in that we have a lot more power for states than most countries do, and we don’t really have a role for national government authority with respect to the media. Many countries have state broadcasters, government funded or government controlled media, and our system really is much more hands-off from the point of view of government control over what’s in the newspapers and on television. So, talks like that are an opportunity for people coming from different parts of the world to get a sense of why we do what we do here.

What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?

It’s really hard to be successful as an academic official. They don’t give away Ph.D.’s. They don’t give away tenure. So, it’s very satisfying to have accomplished enough to be where I am right now professionally.

What piece of advice do you give to students the most?

It’s a very competitive workplace. You’ll be judged on the basis of how well you write and how well you speak. That’s why it is so important to concentrate on developing communication skills in college. You need to be your own editor. Writing a paper means, above all, rewriting the paper before you turn it in.