Some political science students will learn from a former congressman next semester, as U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) returns to SIUE, where he earned his MBA in 1997.
“I’ve been very blessed to serve as a member of Congress, but I also wanted to come home, and I wanted to give back … I’m very gratified and thankful that the university will have me, and I hope I do them proud,” Shimkus said in a recent Zoom webinar.
Chancellor Randy Pembrook said Shimkus’s addition to the faculty is mutually beneficial.
“I think it’s a win-win situation,” Pembrook said. “I think he’s going to enjoy teaching a great deal, and we’re going to benefit greatly from having his expertise on campus.”
Ken Moffett, chair of the Department of Political Science, said Shimkus will teach courses including Introduction to American National Government and Politics and a course on Congress scheduled for Fall 2021.
Outside of the classroom, Shimkus’s connections from Washington and around the world could also prove useful to the university, according to Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Kevin Leonard.
“We are hopeful that he will be able to encourage other elected officials, perhaps international political figures, to come visit the campus or at least speak to one of his courses,” Leonard said. “That’s actually one of the real advantages of having a former member of Congress teaching for you … you can sometimes count on that person really using their networks to involve other people.”
Pembrook said Shimkus was offering to donate his collection of congressional papers to SIUE’s Lovejoy Library when the idea arose for Shimkus to join SIUE as a faculty member. According to Leonard, these are Shimkus’s office files, which include around 450 boxes of exchanges with constituents and records of how Shimkus reached certain policy decisions.
The Shimkus family is no stranger to SIUE — several generations and members of the family, including the congressman himself, have chosen SIUE for their educations over the years.
“SIUE has been very good to the Shimkus family … It’s a great education, and you have an ability to afford it … In the public policy world, when we talk about student debt, it’s a real thing. So if you can get that high quality of education at an affordable amount … it’s very exciting,” Shimkus said.
Moffett said Shimkus has a history of working with SIUE students, having regularly hired them both as interns and to work on his campaign.
“The students who were hired for the campaign did a lot of the standard things … going door-to-door, helping out with some of the advertising, helping out with some of the campaign strategy and things like that,” Moffett said. “And there have been other SIUE students over the years who have done internships in government through his office and doing things like constituent correspondence.”
This also will not be Shimkus’s first time teaching; before entering politics, he taught at Metro East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville, where he developed a current events class to apply government principles to the news.
“I’m looking forward to ... trying to spend some time on the campus. If students want to talk to me and grab a cup of coffee, and look at some of the student activities, I want to go see a Cougar basketball game and maybe go down to the soccer field. I really want to join the SIUE community and family,” Shimkus said.
To learn more about Shimkus, visit his congressional website.