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Dr. Holly Ann Garnett: “+30 to -30 was a bit of a shock!”

Above: Dr. Holly Ann Garnett at the legislature in Canberra, Australia. 

RMC Prof Brings Real-World Applications to the Classroom 

Article by 25366 Anna-Michelle Shewfelt 

Dr. Holly Ann Garnett came to RMC in January 2018 as the newest member of the Department Political Science. Having come from the Australian National University in Canberra, going “from +30 in Canberra to -30 in Kingston,” was a bit of a shock, but other than that, she said, “I was impressed with the small class sizes, the great sense of community on campus and on base, and how friendly the staff and students are at RMC!”

Dr. Garnett is no stranger to cold weather. She grew up in Northern Ontario and did her undergraduate degree in Political Science and History at Nipissing University in North Bay. She’s also no stranger to the Kingston area, having done her Master’s in Political Studies as Queen’s before doing her PhD in Political Science at McGill University.

Her research, she explained, “focuses on electoral integrity, or the quality of elections, both here in Canada and around the globe. This includes issues ranging from voter registration and postal voting, to foreign interference and cybersecurity. I work on research projects that can have an impact on policies designed to improve the quality of representation, the experience of voters, and the security of elections. I also have the opportunity to collaborate with election administrators, international organizations, and fellow academics around the globe.”

In that last capacity she gets around a great deal. Dr. Garnett was at the Australian National University as an Endeavour Research Fellow and was also a visiting fellow at the Abo Akademi in Finland, a visiting researcher at the University of Sydney, and a Killam Fellow at Cornell University.

When asked if contemporary electoral challenges give a heightened significance to her work, she said, “I think the particular challenges associated with running elections are constantly evolving. Two years ago, there was a focus on potentially changing the electoral system here in Canada, whereas this year, new challenges associated with the use of technology have come to the forefront.”

This past term, she taught two sections of the Canadian Politics course (POE 205). And this fall, she explained, “I am looking forward to teaching a Fourth Year seminar in elections, parties, and public opinion in Canada and a course for the Masters in Public Administration Program.”

With such a real-world focus for her research, it should come as no surprise that Dr. Garnett’s teaching philosophy incorporates a great deal of what she calls “active learning.” “I am passionate about this in the classroom,” she said, “to reinforce course content and promote critical thinking. This could be anything from in-class simulations to focused text analysis. I find that ‘learning by doing’ can improve student engagement and performance.”

With the fall term right around the corner, Dr. Garnett is wrapping up a busy summer. “Many students don’t know that our work is comprised of three tasks,” she said, “teaching, research, and university service. We attend to these three tasks all year long, but our research takes a particular focus during the summer months when we aren’t teaching. I have used a lot of my time this summer to work on writing and revising papers for publication. I have also been working with a couple of research assistants who are helping me with data collection.”

As Dr. Garnett went on, “Professors also use the summer months to get together at professional association meetings, workshops and conferences. This summer, I went to Regina SK for the Canadian Political Science Association Meeting, which is a large meeting of Canadian political scientists, and Madison WI for the Election Sciences Reform and Administration conference, which is a smaller group of scholars that specialize in my field. I have also been working on a workshop I will be chairing in Boston on “Building Better Elections” at the end of August (www.electoralmanagement.com/events).”