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Meet Professor Annie Watson

Professor Annie Watson is on a mission to travel the world. Lucky for us, one of the stops on her journey happened to be Gainesville, Florida.

What got you first interested in pursuing a career in political science?

My maternal grandmother was a world traveler; she visited six of the seven continents and toured most of Europe and Asia. Everywhere she went she would bring back dolls for my sister and me, so from a very young age I was aware that there was a big, beautiful world out there to explore and so many similarities and differences between countries and people to understand.

What area do you focus your research in and how did you choose it?

When I first started college, I wanted to join the Peace Corps. I’ve always had more than a little of the “save the world” instinct in me—I think most political scientists probably do. When I decided to stay in academia, my concentration on human rights flowed pretty naturally from that.

What made you want to become a professor?

The first time I set foot on a college campus, I felt at home. I loved the idea that any questions I had could be answered there, loved the constant influx of information, loved sitting around tables having long discussions about readings or finding solutions to problems. I wanted to stay.

Later, I had professors that changed my life through their passion for their work and their empathy for their students. I wanted a path where I could also embody those characteristics, and here I am!

If you weren’t a professor what would you be doing?

I think I would be an event planner. I enjoy detail-oriented work, and I thrive on the rush to get something finished on a deadline, being able to watch everyone’s hard work come together, and then starting off on something new. I’m also a bit of a sappy romantic, I’m not ashamed to say, so I would enjoy being a part of people’s happiest days.

What made you want to come to UF?

The faculty members I interviewed with were incredibly warm; it was one of the first times an interview felt more like a chat about things we all loved than an interrogation (however friendly). Now that I’m here and I’ve gotten to meet more of the department, I’ve learned that they are just as warm and supportive as they seemed.

What is something about teaching during the age of COVID-19 and over Zoom that you will never forget?

Flexibility and grace (for ourselves and our students) are two of the most important tools in any teacher’s kit, and they require constant investments. I’ve always tried to have that mindset, and I used to think (with pride) that it was a static goal that I had been able to achieve. Then, for the past several months, it has seemed like everything that could go wrong definitely has, especially with regards to technology. If I got frustrated or upset or suspicious every time something went wrong, I would perpetually be in that state, and that wouldn’t leave much space for teaching or learning or growing. So this experience has been a stark reminder that flexibility and grace are daily, vital practices, not goals to be achieved.

What is one piece of advice (as it pertains to the college, life or otherwise) you would give to students?

Take care of yourselves. There can be a lot of pressure in college or work or other areas of your life to give and give and stretch yourselves too thin, but you aren’t a renewable resource—there is absolutely no way to replace any one of you.

What are three things on your bucket list?

(1) Travel the world

(2) Become fluent in a second language

(3) Be certified as a yoga instructor

What is a random fact about yourself that most people do not know?

I can sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” in three languages (English, French, and Spanish

Interview conducted by Eve Vanagas