Eric Selbin, Professor of Political Science and University Scholar
Photography by Lance Holt
Photography by Lance Holt
The Mr. Homecoming Award is an honor bestowed upon a member of the Southwestern University faculty as a token of the affection and respect of former students. One student of Eric Selbin, professor of political science and University Scholar, who now considers Eric a friend and mentor, says he was and continues to be his champion and motivator.
For 20 years, Eric has taught young people to understand themselves and the world as creative processes that can be developed for the good of all. His colleagues say that a good teacher needs to be an intellectually stimulating and stimulated person; needs to communicate energy, enthusiasm and insight, and they offer their enthusiastic endorsement that Eric Selbin is such a person.
Once lovingly described as a man whose beard is swallowing his face, Eric has more often been described by peers and students as everything from brilliant to snarky, rebellious to committed, inspiring to verbose, insightful to profound, and more.
Passionate, intellectually omnivorous, a big-picture thinker, and deeply aware of and interested in his students are the words one of Eric’s colleagues uses to describe him. He also calls Eric supportive and inspirational, and reminds him that students - particularly the very creative and lively ones - sing his praises.
One alumna recalls thinking of Eric (after turning in a less than stellar paper), “This professor sees straight through my ‘stuff’ but thinks there is still some remnant of good in there.” Another alumna says she is most grateful for the way Eric took her seriously as an intellectual and insisted that she value her own ideas.
In the world of academia, many people either impact the world through their written work or through their teaching, but very few manage to do both. Eric is one who does both with apparent ease, having written dozens of books, articles, book chapters and professional papers and given numerous public talks, all-the-while making an impact in the lives of his students.
Eric is known for giving the gift of knowledge and having the capacity to draw the very best out of his students. Teacher is a weak term when speaking of Eric Selbin. It has been suggested that master guide of the mind and soul would be a better description. Every day, Eric is seen sitting with students in his office and his laughter heard as the student says something that - to Eric - is delightfully insightful or revealing.
Eric gives his students freedom to explore their interests and is creative in his scholarship, introducing concepts that continue to fascinate them today. One alumnus says he still spends time thinking about “TAZ” and the “rhizome,” concepts her learned from Eric years ago. Another says she continues to send Eric everything she publishes.
Eric has a profound influence on students as human beings. For example, one alumna, now a professor herself, says that Eric sets the example of how to be a professor in a humane way, helping others formulate their ideas and encouraging them to strive to always do better while maintaining a sense of balance and humility. Eric teaches his students to be compassionate, engaging, selfless and to appreciate the value that every person possesses.
His unending capacity for mentorship extends far beyond the classroom. Years after graduation, former students say they receive emails from Eric asking what they are doing to make the world a better place. Their chosen graduate schools receive letters of recommendation from him, and often their parents receive copies of those recommendations because, in Eric’s words, “Parents do so much…”
For some, there are no words to describe how much Eric Selbin matters to them or how grateful his former students are to him. However, one of those students—Farhana Qazi—who received the 2012 Distinguished Humanitarian Award, says Eric has been a professor, guide and true friend, and that her award is Eric’s, too.
For his commitment to the teacher-scholar model inherent in a liberal arts education; for his selfless and dedicated service as a teacher, friend and mentor to his students, the University and the world at large; and for enabling others with the desire and ability to do more, The Association of Southwestern University Alumni presented Eric Selbin with the 2012 Mr. Homecoming Award.