Dr. Benjamin Peterson was a recent addition to campus faculty this year.
He teaches Political Science and History and gave advice to students of all class standings.
Peterson gave some advice for current students at Alma College about finding their path.
“Take advantage of everything offered while you’re here [including] the classes, professors and community because you’re never going to get something like this again.”
Peterson also mentioned that students should not over-plan because of how flexible the job market is in our current climate.
“Don’t over-plan the rest of your life now. We no longer live in the kind of economy in which the major that you have in college is fundamentally going to determine what you spend the rest of your life doing.”
Peterson said that he knew several people who worked in admissions offices in medical schools that can verify his claims.
“I asked them what kind of majors do you like to see people coming out of. I was thinking biology majors and they said those are great, but you know who we really love? English, History, and Political Science majors,” said Peterson.
“What they loved is people [who came] in with a lot of critical thinking and writing skills.”
In his last words of advice, Peterson counsels students to get out and take advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom.
“Do internships. They’re fantastic opportunities. You get college credit, learn about yourself and serve the community,” he said.
“There are these amazing opportunities to get really involved in your community —to do good by it— but also to develop those pragmatic connects and skills that will serve you for the rest of your life through internships,” said Peterson.
On a different note, Peterson spoke about his hometown and how it influenced his interests.
“I’m from Yakima, Washington. I always say I’m from a small agricultural community, but to be clear I’m actually from a city of 100,000 people,” said Peterson.
“Compared to Seattle, where my family is from, it’s a small town mixed in with large farms and a thriving urban center.”
Dr. Peterson cited his mother, who involved herself in local politics, and his grandfather, an old union man, as figures that greatly influenced his interest in History and Political Science.
“My grandfather was a teamster. He always had these stories when I was a little kid about the old strikes that were stumbling fights for survival. I became really interested in that because it was a history I didn’t see anywhere else.”
In terms of career path, Peterson has worked several different jobs. “I was a lobbyist while I was still an undergraduate. After that, I became a political organizer and worked in electoral politics, community organizing, and labor organizing. I first taught when I went to graduate school, and I love teaching both History and Political Science,” said Peterson.
“History allows you to really meditate on things in a meaningful way whereas politics and Political Science [are] so constantly and directly relevant that they’re two different classroom dynamics and subjects to study,” said Peterson.
Peterson also talked about his hobbies. “My main hobby is cycling. In addition, I [have done] hobbyist microcontroller stuff like home automation. For example, I built my own lighting system in my apartment that responds to voice commands.”
“I also do photography, but specifically time-lapse photography, and reading.”
Finally, when asked about the inflatable alien in his office, he explained it.
“There’s a town near Salem, Oregon [which I used to live in] named McMinnville. McMinnville is notorious because it had a series of alien abductions there,” said Dr. Peterson.
“They haven’t had anyone say they’ve been abducted there in a very long time. Instead, it’s become a cultural institution there like around Roswell. Every year they have an alien festival.”
“Some people take it seriously, but most people see it as an excuse to dress your dog up as an alien or dress up as a Wookie. I picked it up there,” said Peterson.