Professor Cole on Why You Should Vote

March 01, 2016

Ben Cole

We chatted with Professor Ben Cole about why students should get out and vote!

What do you teach at Simmons?

I teach courses across comparative, American and international relations subfields and I also teach undergraduate and graduate courses in the 3+1 program in public policy.

What issues should Simmons students pay particular attention to this election season?

Whatever social justice issue(s) matter the most to them. For me, I’m paying particular attention to issues related to foreign policy, education policy, criminal justice and incarceration.

How can students get involved with elections?

Vote. Vote. Vote. Research the issues important to you and then raise awareness about candidate positions (if any) and debate with family and friends. Participate in voter registration drives, either for a campaign or an issue-based NGO; this is a great way to meet others in the community, learn about others’ lives and perspectives and increase voter turnout and civic engagement! Campaigns (including state and local officials!) are always looking for volunteers. 

Why is it important for students to get out and vote?

Our country maintains policies that create or neglect severe problems that affect our community: poverty, incarceration, income inequality, violence, rising college costs, de facto segregation of our schools, foreign wars, climate change, fossil fuel dependence, discrimination on the basis of gender identity, sexual orientation and race, to name a few. This is your chance — for many students your first chance — to cast a vote for the future you want. Why would you waste that? And don’t neglect state and local elections. In some ways they matter even more than the high-profile national elections.

What does your research focus on? 

I conduct research into the causes and effects of state fragility and democratization; particularly the far-too-frequent intersection of democratization and fragility. I do a lot of work in measurement — creating cross-national time-series datasets of these concepts, so that I, and others, can do research with more reliable data.

My most recent articles explore the impacts of the youth bulge (existence of a disproportionately large cohort of young men in society) on state fragility and democratization, testing the hypothesis that countries that fund education and civic engagement programs for young people are able to stave off the negative impacts of the youth bulge in both fragility and democratization outcomes. And like a lot of my work, these two pieces were co-authored with students.

When I'm not teaching, I'm ____

Nearly always hanging out with family. We live with my grandfather on our family farm, next door to my parents, my brother and his family and two doors down from my aunt and cousins (one of whom attends Simmons!). 

Do you have a hidden talent?

Many hidden “competencies,” I guess —farming and firefighting among them —but no real hidden “talents.”

Favorite quote?

After 20 minutes of googling pithy and cynical Vonnegut quotes and apparently deep political statements by Lincoln and Churchill, I’ve got nothing.

What song is your personal anthem?

Do audiobooks count? My wife tells me that they do not — and that my personal anthem is “probably some Led Zeppelin song.” So, there’s that.

Do you have a Simmons Moment?

On December 5, 2014, I brought my class to a Simmons community meeting in support of our students, faculty and staff touched by the violence against Americans of color in Fall 2014. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. That Simmons Moment has changed the way I teach, the way I interact with students and colleagues and indeed the way I live my life.