A political scientist and coeditor of a new book about the degradation of civil discourse in American politics will be the next director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Colby College, President William D. Adams announced March 7. Daniel M. Shea of Meadville, Penn., will come from Allegheny College, where he served as professor of political science and director of the Center for Political Participation. Shea, who will also teach in the government department at Colby, was selected following a national search. He will start at Colby August 1.

The author or editor of 19 books and scores of articles on the American political process, Shea focuses on campaigns and elections, civility in politics, the dynamics of the party system, the politics of the media, and grassroots political activism. In 2012 he coedited, with Morris P. Fiorina, a book titled Can We Talk? The Rise of Rude, Nasty, Stubborn Politics, which addresses an important shift in the tone of political discourse—a shift cited as the reason Maine Senator Olympia Snowe recently announced she would not seek reelection. Another book by Shea published in 2012 is Let’s Vote! The Essentials of the American Electoral Process.

In 2002 Shea initiated the creation of the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny, which offers student-centered programs such as fellowships and internships, community outreach projects, and scholarly activities including conferences and lectures. A number of the center’s initiatives, particularly those centered on the decline in civility in politics, have garnered national media attention. Its April 2010 report, “Nastiness, Name-calling and Negativity: The Decline of Civility in American Politics,” was covered in more than 400 media outlets throughout the United States and abroad.

As director of the Goldfarb Center, Shea will oversee programs and programming, build closer ties between Colby’s curriculum and community outreach activities, and develop and implement a vision for the center as a hub for campus intellectual life.

“Dan’s collaborative nature, his affinity and energy for big ideas, and his desire to connect with faculty and students across campus all fit well with the next phase of the Goldfarb Center at Colby,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer. “His solid public affairs and civic engagement experience will build on the center’s current strengths. I am looking forward to working with him.”

Shea received a bachelor of arts from the State University of New York at Oswego and a master of arts from the University of West Florida. In 1993 he earned a doctorate in political science from the State University of New York at Albany. He has served on the faculty at the University of Akron, Lafayette College, and, since 1999, Allegheny College.

The Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement, founded in 2003, brings faculty and students together with local, state, national and international leaders to explore creative, interdisciplinary approaches to the complex challenges facing today’s world. The center facilitates a collaborative array of public lectures, seminars, workshops, service learning activities, panels, debates, and scholarly research across the liberal arts, helping Colby students make connections between their work in the classroom and contemporary political, economic, social and environmental issues.

“I’m so excited to be joining one of the nation’s finest, most prestigious liberal arts institutions, and to be teaming up with such a thoughtful, committed group of faculty, staff, and administrators. And of course I’m giddy about working with Colby students. I have no doubt that we can do wonderful things for the campus and the broader community. I can’t wait to get started.”

Shea will be joined in Waterville by his wife, Christine Gatto-Shea, and their three children.  

Press release by Ruth Jacobs, Colby College Office of Communication

— March 7, 2012