Professor Spotlight: Dillon S. Tatum


Photo by: Elodi Breg

Assistant professor of political science and geography, Dillon S. Tatum, loves to read and exercise when he has time off.

Dillon Tatum, assistant professor of political science and geography, wasn’t always going to pursue a life of studying and teaching political science.

Tatum, a Las Vegas area native, got his Bachelor of Arts in Near Eastern studies from the University of Arizona before moving on to get his Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies and political science and a Ph.D. in political science from George Washington University.

“I didn’t do my undergraduate degree in political science; it’s in Near Eastern studies,” Tatum said. “Even my first master’s wasn’t in political science. I really got interested in it by just a few random courses that I took in graduate school, and then I wanted to do a Ph.D.”

“Right when I graduated from graduate school, FMU made me an offer and I accepted and came down here,” Tatum said. “One of the things that attracted me to FMU was having the small class sizes, the real focus on teaching and learning and also just the area. I really like living in Florence.”

Originally, Tatum discovered a love for Middle Eastern studies, because he said he really enjoyed learning about the Middle East.

“My first master’s degree was in Middle Eastern studies,” Tatum said. “I was really interested in studying the Middle East, and Middle East history in particular. So, I was mostly a history geek and interested in history stuff in my undergrad. It really wasn’t until I took this course in graduate school called ‘turbulence in world politics’ that I really got interested in international politics and political science.”

Tatum enjoys living in Florence, and said what drew him to FMU was the small class sizes and a more intimate community.

Tatum said teaching is a passion of his. He enjoys his job at FMU and educating students who are excited about learning.

“I really like teaching political science,” Tatum said. “I would love to teach courses at some point in the future that are more interdisciplinary. One of the courses that I’m trying to find a place to schedule is an honors symposium on humanitarianism, which would be more interdisciplinary. But, I’m trained as a political scientist and I feel most comfortable teaching political science courses.”

In January, Tatum organized a debate team and took several students to a debate tournament in Charleston.

“The administration was really interested in starting a debate team on campus,” Tatum said. “I volunteered to help with the initiative, and ultimately ended up being in charge of it somehow. For the debate team, we put together a team and went to a tournament in Charleston. The students with very low preparation and practice did very well and had a really good time. So much so, that we’re expanding the program and we’re going to do another event in early March in Maryland. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn rhetorical skills and persuasive skills and good public speaking. So it’s a project that I’m really excited about.”

Tatum’s favorite part about teaching at FMU is the students who are just as excited about learning as he is about teaching.

“I have really good, motivated and curious students, especially in the political science department,” Tatum said. “I think the political science department here and the quality of the students is just very high. It’s just always a joy going into those classes where you can see what they thought about the readings or the topics for the day.”

When he’s not empowering young minds, Tatum enjoys spending as much free time as he can relaxing.

“I read; I read a lot,” Tatum said. “I go to the gym, I try to stay physically active. Mostly, I try to just relax. As a professor, it’s not a 40-hour-a-week job. Sometimes you can be working 60-70 hours a week. So, any of the free time you get, it’s very much enjoying leisure. You know, being able to catch up on movies and books, or Netflix and tv shows and all that kind of stuff.”