DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Student Spotlight > Political science student passes perseverance, mentorship on to next generation
By Carolyn Brinckwirth /
March 5, 2021 /
Posted in: STUDENT SPOTLIGHT /
Many students are involved in a variety of activities and work, whether on or off campus. These experiences often help students find subjects they enjoy and narrow career choices.Robert Dietterick, a senior political science major with a minor in psychology, has found many ways to stay busy. He works in the undergraduate Office of Admissions, conducts his own research, was a 2020 Chicago Quarter Mentor and is vice president of the Xi Lota Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha at DePaul. All these experiences helped him realize his true passion is teaching and education.“I have always liked the idea of teaching. Since elementary school I have felt at home in the classroom," Dietterick says. “I liked it so much while in third grade I created a test for my dad to take. Now, I know I want to teach as a professor at the college level."
Dietterick noticed a lack of awareness and understanding about the U.S. government among his generation. This disconnect inspired him to want to educate young people on political behaviors and the functions of state, local and federal governments. He believes this work is especially important during modern times, when there is frequent political unrest.
“Many people my age don't really understand what is going on politically or why certain things happen in our government," he says. “It's really important to me that generations beyond ours have a more robust education in civics, and a deeper understanding of the history of our government and what it does or does not do."
Like most college students, Dietterick's path has not been a straight line. He experienced some obstacles on his academic journey.
Dietterick sought and found guidance from one of his professors, the late political science professor and alumna, Cathy May.
“We got to know each other really well. She took me under her wing," Dietterick shares. “She is the reason I have made it this far in school. She represents what DePaul is for me."
Dietterick noted May's teaching style influenced what he hopes to be his own in the near future.
“She used a parenting model of teaching. This places an emphasis on ensuring all students are taken care of and acknowledged for everything they accomplish," he explains. “It had a major impact on me, and this is something I'd like to pass on to students of my own one day."
Dietterick's passion for teaching led him to apply to be a CQM in 2020. Given the year's remote learning model, the position proved to be a more challenging student leadership role than usual.
“I was the CQM for 'Chicago Politics Past and Present.' I applied before the pandemic hit the U.S., but I stuck with the position because I wanted to teach students," Dietterick says. “Mentoring is something that kept me at DePaul. If I could do that for even one student, then I knew my role as a CQM would be more than worth it."
He centered his common hour classes around productive discussion and created an engaging online classroom. To keep students engaged outside Zoom, Dietterick coordinated virtual events throughout the fall quarter, including a movie night and election discussion.
Dietterick's passion to teach has never wavered. He plans to enter graduate school and eventually earn a Ph.D. in political science. He hopes to work in higher education to teach generations of young people.