My name is Jessica Templeton, and I am the Director of LSE100 – LSE’s flagship interdisciplinary course taken by all first- and second-year undergraduates.
Tell us about your background and how you arrived at LSE?
I am a political scientist by training. I first came to LSE in 2001 to study for an MSc in Public Policy and Public Administration in the Government Department, and I came back a few years later to work toward a PhD. I completed my doctorate here in 2012, looking at the role of science and scientists in global regulation of persistent organic pollutants. My undergraduate degree foreshadowed my current interest in interdisciplinary research and education - I couldn’t decide between a degree in political science or sociology/anthropology, so I double-majored in both at Guilford College, a small Quaker school in North Carolina, USA.
My experience at Guilford was particularly formative and I often think about some of the Quaker practices that made it such a special place – decision-making by consensus, pausing before speaking after someone else to reflect on their words, the convention of using first names rather than titles to underscore the equality of all members of the community, etc. These habits contribute to respect for and appreciation of everyone in a community, and I try to remember these principles as I go about my work today.
I had a wide variety of work experience before embarking on the path to an academic career, starting as a teenager with an after-school job slicing meat in the local deli (which definitely contributed to my later decision to become vegetarian!). After graduating from Guilford, I worked for a couple of non-partisan political advocacy groups in Washington, DC – one was fighting for campaign finance reform, and the other focused on supporting women around the world who wanted to run for political office.
While studying for my PhD I joined IISD’s Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) team, which provides daily coverage and post-meeting analyses of multilateral environmental negotiations. Working with ENB as a writer and team leader has been an amazing experience, as it has enabled me to get a behind-the-scenes look at diplomacy and decision-making on complex environmental problems. One of the highlights of this job was getting to observe – over a period of years – the negotiation of the newest global environmental treaty: the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
From a political science perspective, it was fascinating to see experts in diplomacy successfully navigating a host of contentious social, economic, and political issues to achieve consensus on the scope and content of this agreement to curb mercury pollution, which is highly toxic. My work with ENB continues to inform my research and teaching on global environmental politics.
Tell us about your time at LSE? What are you most proud of?
I joined LSE100 as a graduate teaching assistant during its pilot year in 2010. I envisioned this as a short-term teaching role that would allow me to build on my previous teaching experience in Government and International Relations, but it turned into much more! Designing and running an interdisciplinary course for 1600+ students is incredibly challenging, but also rewarding. We have an outstanding team of four administrators and about 28 teachers who work hard to make the course a success for our diverse and highly motivated student body.
Working with students is absolutely the best part of the job, and it makes me happy to see our undergraduates taking risks as they engage with unfamiliar ideas, analytical methods, and types of data – especially when they discover their own previously unrecognized talents and interests.
I’m also very proud of the positive, collegial environment that we have created in the LSE100 team, which is exceptionally supportive of PhD students and early career scholars. It is gratifying to see the friendships and productive academic partnerships that come out of the team year after year.
Finally, I’m very proud of our contribution to LSE. The history of this institution is extraordinary, and it is very special to be part of its ongoing work toward “the betterment of society” through education and research.
Professor Niki Lacey said:
Jessica Templeton has shown outstanding leadership and dedication in coordinating LSE100 over a long period and, most recently, in restructuring the course in response to extensive consultation with and feedback from students and colleagues. During the 5 years in which I have been involved in the course as a teacher, member of the exam board and member of the management committee, I have witnessed Jessica’s passionate commitment to the enterprise; her strong intellectual and pedagogical grasp of how the course should be shaped, developed and delivered; and, equally important, her personal skills in motivating students and colleagues. Jessica is a natural leader, and a natural consensus-builder. She is also a phenomenally hard worker. LSE is hugely fortunate to have her in charge of its flagship foundation course.
Professor Mary Morgan said:
When I think about how the course has changed over the last few years under her leadership it is astounding – she improved what was already a good idea into a wonderful creation.