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Meet Professor Zhiyuan (Sebastian) Wang

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

I was a law student in China. I encountered some international relations literature when I was a master student in international law. This literature seeks to provide a deeper understanding of international institutions, which international law scholars often take for granted. Fascinated by the contemporary international relations scholarship, I decided to pursue a PhD in political science.

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

My current research focuses on globalization. Especially, I look at how globalization affects domestic governance and international institutions as well as their interactions. Since the end of WWII, states have become more and more involved in a process in which they have to adjust their way of life in a relatively similar manner but they also strive to maintain their uniqueness in the meantime. I find this macro-micro interplay really intriguing and hope to explore more of it.

What made you want to become a professor?

I love research. I also love sharing thoughts with others. Being a professor can perfectly satisfy these two partialities.

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

I would probably be doing law-related work, which I prefer less.

What made you want to come to UF?

UF is a top public university. The Department of Political Science is highly respected in the profession and diverse in research and methods. There are too many colleagues who do top-notch research and are nice to talk to. Last but not least, Gainesville is a place great for raising a family. In one word, you can only have the trinity when working at UF: a prestigious institution, a great department, and a lovely place to live.

How has teaching at UF been so far?

It has been a very pleasant experience. I have been teaching classes in my field and expertise such as international relations theories, international political economy, international organizations, and China. I enjoy it a lot. It is so not only because I do what I love but also (if not more so) because the brilliant students at UF make each class intellectually rewarding.

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

I think one thing that impresses me is neither of us appears really worried despite the fact that the virus spreads fast and no one knows when it will stop. I appreciate the calmness we have displayed.

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

I have a two-part thought I like to share, which I am not so sure qualifies as advice. Johann Wolfgang von Gothe ever said: “All theory is gray, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life.” However, I tend to believe that theory is green too. It merely awaits you patiently to find its life and beauty.  Second, Marx claimed: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” I think it could be rather dangerous (history shows so too) to change the world before having a humble and sober understanding of its complexity.

What are three things on your bucket list?

Travel as much I can. Finish all the writings I think important. Taste as much good food (and drinks) as possible.

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

I used to play football (the round one) in high school.  But clearly I was not built for that.

Interview conducted by Tenney Kapellusch