Starting in Spring 2017, Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) will join the College as a visiting professor of leadership studies, joining Visiting Lecturer in Leadership Studies Jane Swift, the former governor of Massachusetts, as the second former politician currently on the faculty.
Gibson, a retired Army colonel who served 24 years on active duty, has been in Congress since 2011, representing New York’s 20th district from 2011 to 2013 and its 19th district since 2013. (The change was due to redistricting.) No stranger to academia, Gibson holds a Ph.D. in government from Cornell University and, over the course of his military career, spent three years teaching American government at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is looking forward to heading back into the classroom. “As a self-governing nation, I don’t think we were ever intended to have a permanent political class,” Gibson said. “Moving to academia will allow me to make a meaningful contribution teaching and publishing while balancing family commitments. This decision allows me to enter a third phase of my professional life: soldier, statesman and, soon, teacher/scholar.”
Though Gibson had pledged to not run for re-election to the House of Representatives, transitioning into academic life after leaving Congress has never been his definitive plan. “I was also strongly encouraged by many to run for governor of New York in 2018,” he said. “I told my supporters I would consider that possibility. However, after doing so, I’ve ultimately decided not to run for governor. Given the political realities of [the state,] I concluded that to be competitive and win I would need to work seven days a week straight through for the next two and a half years. My wife and I have three teenagers in their last years at home before they go off to college, and we decided that [running for governor] was a burden we did not want to place upon our family.”
At the College, Gibson will be teaching one course in the leadership studies program, tentatively titled “Transformational Leadership,” that will be cross-listed under political science. He also hopes to take on a larger role as an intellectual resource within the community at the College. “In addition to teaching and mentoring students, I plan to make myself available to help the faculty and administration,” Gibson said. “For faculty members teaching courses in political science and national security, I’ll be available to serve as a guest speaker and, for students and faculty doing research in these areas, I’ll be available to help consult as they pursue their research projects. For the administration, I’ll make myself available for development efforts where they believe I can be helpful.”
As to why Gibson was drawn to begin the next chapter of his career in the Purple Valley, the soon-to-be former congressman cited the caliber of the College as an institution and the career potential of its student body. “I have the highest regard for Williams College. It is the first-ranked liberal arts college in the nation for a reason. It excels in all facets of academic and campus life. I’m very fortunate to be joining your ranks and I’m very much looking forward to being back in the classroom … I intend to spend time with students to help them develop their leadership skills. Williams College has consistently produced effective leaders for our nation, and I hope to do my part to help enhance the leadership potential of my students.”
The leadership studies program is similarly enthusiastic about Gibson’s arrival at the College, especially in light of the fact that Swift will not be teaching next year. “A few years ago, [Gibson had] expressed tentative interest in teaching a Winter Study course in [political science]. For a variety of reasons, that never came to fruition, but it put him on my radar,” Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of Leadership Studies Justin Crowe ’03 said.
“When Jane Swift decided she wasn’t going to teach her ‘Political Leadership’ course next spring, the administration gave me permission to hire someone in her place. Thinking that it would be useful to have someone who could offer a similarly applied and practical perspective for that course, and knowing of his interest in Williams and how he had both a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell and experience teaching at West Point, I reached out to his office in early April,” Crowe said. “Between his service in the military and now in the House of Representatives, the congressman obviously brings a unique, practical, hands-on perspective to the questions of leadership that are at the heart of our program in leadership studies … I know he’s excited to get back into the classroom and, for our part, I just think that his accomplished background in public affairs will be a wonderful resource to our students and a terrific asset for our community.”