For University of Maryland School of Public Policy Professor Christopher Foreman, teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. “Teaching is the most gratifying thing I do,” says Foreman. He began teaching at SPP in 2001 and has taught students about a variety of subjects, including political institutions and strategies of inequality.
“I calculated it, and at the end of my last section of PUAF620 in the spring, over 15 years, I had taught about 892 students in [that particular course]. And because each of them writes three memos, it’s a lot of memos and a lot of final exams,” he says.
Foreman also routinely teaches a course titled, “Strategies of Equality.” “Essentially, because I am the one who is teaching it and because I’m a political scientist, it’s really a course about the politics of equality and it’s a course devoted to giving students some perspective on the various institutional and procedural and historical and sociological forces that bear on the creation of inequality and also mitigating inequality,” Foreman says. “We do the usual suspects: race and gender and disability, and some other issues come up. And we talk about affirmative action and poverty.”
In addition to his teaching, Foreman says he’s enjoyed contributing to the School in the area of event planning as well. “I was one of the people who originally organized what we now call ‘Policy Forum,’ he says. “I’m very proud to have been one of the people who attempted to make the school a more lively place and a more interesting place to be,” Foreman adds.
In the fall 2016 semester, Foreman served as one of four professors to teach the new Practicing Public Policy Course. “It was the most complicated course we have ever offered in the School of Public Policy, and it was quite challenging but very gratifying,” he says. “I think it imparted a valuable set of skills and some very useful knowledge about a hugely important policy problem.”
Before coming to SPP, Foreman was previously an assistant professor in the Government and Politics department at the University of Maryland from 1980-1987. Following that, he went on to work for the Brookings Institution.
His interest in political science developed at an early age, Foreman says. “I got interested in politics watching the Nightly News as a young kid in Baltimore and reading TIME magazine every week. Watching the 1964 presidential election, conventions, civil rights protests, the enactment of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were all things I remember,” he says. “The combination of general overall politics and my awareness of civil rights advocacy and civil rights controversy is I think where my interest in politics originated.”
This year, noting an interest in his work on politics and inequality, the Virginia Tech Center for Public Administration and Policy asked Foreman to serve as keynote speaker for their annual High Table celebration. High Table is a “celebration of the life of the mind: an occasion for reflecting on the special nature of scholarly thought and a life dedicated to the pursuit of sharing knowledge.”
Foreman also delivered a lecture on environmental justice at the Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He says one of his most-known books, “The Promise and Peril of Environmental Justice,” came out in 1998 and he’s been involved with the subject for the last 20 years.
He says he enjoys bringing his knowledge and background to his teaching. “The two most gratifying activities of my professional life are teaching and writing,” Foreman says. “I know that after an encounter in class or with a student in my office, a student walks away knowing more and having skills and having an awareness that they did not have before. It’s very hands on and it clearly makes a difference. It’s very rewarding.”
“I’m here to make a difference, and I think I do,” he adds. “The School of Public Policy has a lot of promise, and I feel very gratified that we have the elements in place to make a great leap forward. Every day I leave the building and I feel that I have been helpful to somebody, and that is what keeps me doing the job.”