Occupation: Associate Professor and Chair, Political Science and Leadership Studies; Director, Pre-Law Studies, St. Ambrose University
Where did you grow up? Glenburn, Maine
Where’s home now? Davenport, Iowa
Years at UMaine: 1993-97
Majors, minors, concentrations: Major: B.A. in philosophy; Honors
Post-UMaine education: M.A. and Ph.D. in political science, University of Toronto
Milestones in your professional career: Received tenure at St. Ambrose University, spring 2009. Published More than Kings and Less than Men: Tocqueville on the Promise and Perils of Democratic Individualism, Lexington Books, December 2009.
Tell me about your family’s legacy at UMaine and where your siblings are now.
Justin graduated in 1999, with a degree in chemical engineering. He was co-salutatorian and now works for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. Jennie graduated in 2000 with a degree in education. (She was Jennie Lynne Hebert when she was a student; she’s now Jennie Hebert Martel.) She knew she wanted to go south, so she was able to get teaching licenses in four states — Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She is teaching fourth grade in Franklin Mass., and is completing a master’s degree in literacy. Jill graduated in 2003 in the pre-vet program. She earned her DVM degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana last May. (She was Louise Jill Hebert at UMaine; she is now Jill Hebert Ellis.) She found out that she could be hooded by anyone with a doctorate, so I did it, which was especially neat for me. Jill works at Norway Animal Hospital, in Norway, Maine.
And the UMaine connection doesn’t stop with your siblings and mom. Right? My wife, Elena Hebert (nee Riabinina), began her degree in Russia, where she’s from, and completed it at UMaine. And both of my brothers in law — Larry Ellis and Dan Martel —went to UMaine.
Why UMaine for your undergraduate degree? It was an easy decision to make financially, logistically and psychologically. As I became aware of the opportunities for a great education, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.
Why philosophy? And how did that prepare you for an advanced degree in political science? I gravitated toward philosophy because of a growing interest in the great questions and ideas that have shaped our world over the centuries. The Honors seminars were especially powerful in helping me see that this was my calling. I also found that the most fascinating of all questions to me were political in nature or effect, and I enjoyed my political philosophy courses immensely. This inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. in political science, with a concentration in Political Philosophy.
Your most memorable moment at UMaine? There are many, but I will never forget the opportunity to be a disc jockey and host a B-movie marathon while writing an honors thesis on Friedrich Nietzsche.
Favorite UMaine professor? And what lessons did he/she teach you that you now employ in your classes? Steven Cohn introduced me to the love of ideas and became an invaluable mentor to me throughout my UMaine years and beyond. Michael Palmer introduced me to the riches of political philosophy and set me well on the path I have since taken. I constantly think back not only to the specific things they taught me, but also to the example they set of a thirst for knowledge and a love for pursuing it and sharing it effectively with others.
The class that nearly did you in? My drama professor was not as impressed with my passionate soliloquies as I had hoped, but we both lived.
Favorite place on campus? North Stevens, where I took political philosophy and worked as a custodial assistant. Also the third-floor coffee shop in the Memorial Union, where I had so many discussions with dear friends.
How did your UMaine experience shape your life? UMaine is where I encountered the people and ideas that would come to define the course of my adult life. I discovered my calling there and cannot imagine being my mature self without the experiences I had there.
Any advice for UMaine students? Look at your education as an opportunity, not a burden. Find what you love and the people who will support you in striving to become your best. Make the best of these precious opportunities and have confidence that your life will be changed for the better.
Image Description: Joe Hebert