SU professor appears on National Geographic


Alison Dagnes - SU political science professor 

If you are looking for an expert in American media, simply follow the aroma of scented candles and soft music trailing from Room 417 in Grove Hall. There you will find political science professor Alison Dagnes who appeared on National Geographic’s “Star Talk” last Monday night.

Dagnes’ office reads like a sleepy nook with dozens of books within arms-reach. Her smile pairs well with her voluminous strawberry-blond locks gives the space a sense of warmth.

The University of Massachusetts graduate’s love of books does not stop at her collection. She said she has written books on mainstream political media as well as political satire — which is why she was asked to appear on “Star Talk” as an expert on political comedy.

On Monday’s show, which can be viewed on, host and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson used clips from his interview with celebrity Bill Maher on political humor, free speech and political-correctness to prompt a deeper analysis from Dagnes and guest comedian Maeve Higgins.

“It was a really fun experience,” Dagnes said. “It was really neat.”

On the show, Tyson picked Dagnes’ brain about the increasing rejection of scientific fact and the growing popularity of the term “alternative facts” in the United States.

“You can dislike those facts and you can have alternate analysis of the facts but you cannot change fact because you do not like it,” Dagnes said. “There are no alternate fact —there are facts.”

Dagnes’ passionate intent is also evident in her 13 years of teaching at SU.

“Ship students are my favorite students,” Dagnes confessed, “bar none. I would not leave here if I was offered all of the gold at Fort Knox in order to teach anywhere else because you guys are the best.”

Dagnes teaches classes on elections, special interest groups, media, advocacy and political satire.

She is currently working on projects focused on the way interests groups, lobbyists and think-tanks use media, the wholesale rejection of the news media and the changing purpose of news media.

“We [my colleagues] all have an excitement about our field that we can then translate to our students,” Dagnes said.

On “Star Talk,” Bill Maher talked about political correctness being an inhibitor of free thought on college campuses, a problem Dagnes has not seen on SU’s campus, describing Raiders as open-minded and curious about the future.

“Ship is a safe space for intellectual curiosity. That is why we have a general education program,” Dagnes said.

“Take a chemistry class, who knows this may be the thing that lights you on fire,” Dagnes said. “Literally in chemistry it might actually light you on fire.”

This “intellectual fire,” as Dagnes terms it is something she hopes to help light in every student she can.

“I always tell kids, you guys are still really young, take college as a time to fall in love a lot, change your major often and bounce around.” 

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