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CU Personality: Tony Robinson

TEACHING BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

When speaking with Tony Robinson one thing comes to mind, and that is passion. Passion and a desire for positive change are at the core of Robinson’s responsibilities and reputation within the Denver community.

Robinson is the Chair of the Political Science Department at CU Denver. In addition to the job requirements attached to that title, he is in charge of the university’s Global Study Abroad program to South Korea, and he’s an advocate for Denver Homeless Out Loud.

Growing up in Hungry Horse, Montana—a town Robinson says was “very isolated and poor”—he felt a sense of injustice that ultimately attracted him to politics. “For me, school became the ticket out,” Robinson said. “My community was a troubled community. In school I could perform, and I performed well.”

He studied political science at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and went on to earn his PhD from the University of California Berkeley.

After graduating from UC Berkeley, Robinson was hired into the political science department at CU Denver. “The department is committed to a kind of political science that matters, is relevant, and engages the world,” Robinson said. “My job when I came was to help promote and build on that brand, and that is what I’ve done.”

In addition to promoting the political science department’s mission and teaching students, Robinson wanted to introduce his classes to the workings of large global cities, so he started taking students to South Korea to experience “traditional, historic Korea as well as modern advanced global Korea” in the Global Study Abroad Program.

The trip to South Korea lasts 20 days and is an immersive experience in diverse South Korean culture. Robinson takes students to meet K-Pop bands, explore Samsung, and survey the isolated countryside with Korean monks in the “highest and most holy temple in Korea.” 2017 will be the sixth year of Robinson’s South Korea trek with students.

Along with political science and study abroad, Robinson is ardent about social justice. He’s a witness in a class action lawsuit with the Denver Homeless Out Loud organization. “Denver Homeless Out Loud is a grassroots group that advocates for the rights of homeless people in Denver to be in public spaces,” Robinson said. “I believe in their model of helping homeless people get engaged and activated in the political system.”

In the wake of the recent election, the political science department released a post-election statement. “As the head of the department,” Robinson said, “I believe it’s the job of the university and certainly of the political science department to remind people that we, as a space for the exchange of ideas, remain committed to dignified and courteous discourse, respect, and civil disagreements. We are just reminding people that we will remain committed to that and we have an obligation to push back against negative discourse.”

It is clear through his campus involvements that Robinson is not only dedicated to political science, but also to political advocacy, exploration, and awareness.

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