By Kaden Quinn
LINCOLN UNIVERSITY – Dr. Darius Watson has lived a storied life. A political science professor at Lincoln University, he has spent a lot of time moving from state-to-state in pursuit of advancing his academic career. Watson now feels he has finally found a place to call home.
The decision to pursue political science and international relations began after his time in the Model UN program as a university student. It was through his work inside the program that pushed him away from more a traditional major toward a more worldly profession.
“I tell my students that domestic politics makes my head hurt,” said Watson. “International relations was just more rational. It was easier to understand from a theoretical perspective and so much stuff in domestic politics involves things that you can’t always see clearly. I felt like I could see international politics more clearly.”
The popular professor says he was originally an architectural engineer major. “I took the model United Nations and it basically transformed my life,” he says. “It was just the most incredible learning experience I ever had.”
Watson describes the Model UN program as the most dynamic course any student can take. Covering every aspect of the academic experience, he says the Model UN pushes students towards many important and necessary skills, with each influencing the students professional career.
“You research and then you present,” Watson says. “You have to learn how to write, you have to learn how to co-operate and then get those things passed (and) you learn bureaucracy, legal frameworks – I mean that doesn’t even touch on the cultural, political, and social dynamics of the actual country you’re learning about as well. And then to be able to go to New York and do it with 5,000 students that are doing the same thing – it’s just a complete experience.”
According to Watson, becoming a college professor has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He says that although he is always striving to reach new heights in his career, his work with his students has proven to be his greatest accomplishment thus far.
“My students, they’ve always been my accomplishment,” he said. “It’s funny because I guess in the end I don’t think I’ve achieved my greatest accomplishment yet. I’m satisfied with the things I’ve done but I want to do something bigger. So, for me, it’s just the students on a daily basis.”
Watson says helping students continues to be the highlight of his day. Between requesting funds from research grants and working on a local Town Hall project for Jefferson City, helping a Freshman student sort out the overwhelming aspects of her college experience is still the most fulfilling part of the job.
“To be able to sit down as a professor, an authority figure, or just as a friendly voice…to be able to bring her back in line and make her understand that she’s actually doing very well,” Watson says. “To assure her that this environment is going to increase and improve her chances of being better and to kind of just make her feel better about being here and about education and frankly the struggle she was having – that was probably the highlight of the week.”
For Watson, it’s about having an impact on his students. If he’s not doing that, he says, then everything else is just of kind of secondary. He doesn’t like limitations.
“Aim high and then shoot higher,” Watson says. “If you come in under the bar it better not be because you did your minimum (and) if you’re not doing your best then you’re cutting yourself short. It’s a double-edged sword – pursue perfection, and know that it is unattainable, and if you do that then you’re always pushing yourself forward. There’s always more to learn.”
As his time at Lincoln continues, one thing that Watson has noticed is the acceptance he has received from the people of central Missouri. Formerly residing in New York and Nebraska, he says that it was not only important to preach diversity, but also practice it. He feels good about living and working here.
“No one’s home is perfect but it’s comforting and it’s familiar,” he says. “So, being able to come here and what I do and the way I do has not always fit into other places, but here it just seems to be a natural fit. I feel like I belong and that’s a pretty unique feeling in my life.“ After moving around the country, he feels content with somewhere to call home.
He likes the feeling of communities committed to diversity. “A lot of people preach diversity but very few communities live it,” Watson says. “I feel like the communities I’m in, whether I live up in Columbia and here in Jefferson City, have to walk the walk. I feel like there’s actually more effort to be diverse here.” It’s genuine, he says.
“No one has made me feel unwelcome and I mean that in a way where just neutral responses can make you feel unwelcome. By everybody seems to actually want to engage and that’s what I do. All I do is engage.”
The sentiment extends to his fellow faculty and administration. Since arriving at LU, Watson says the campus has been quite welcoming and open-minded toward both him and his methods. In only his second year, Watson was elected to chair the faculty Senate. He appreciates the confidence.
“Now I actually have an administration that’s like, ‘Hey, just keep this in a loop and we’re behind you,’” Watson says. “I’ve worked in institutions where I didn’t hear that for six or eight years. I’m definitely enjoying it.”