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Kurt Jefferson in Um Qays, Jordan - January 2010 (courtesy photo)
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WIU Alumnus Kurt Jefferson to Deliver CAS "Professor of the Day" Lecture

March 11, 2011

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MACOMB, IL – Kurt Jefferson, a Macomb (IL) native and global educator, will present the lecture, "China Today: From Maoism to Capitalism," on Tuesday, March 22 as the Western Illinois University College of Arts and Sciences "Professor of the Day." The 4 p.m. lecture, which is open free to the public, is scheduled in Morgan Hall 101B.

At Westminster College (Fulton, MO), Jefferson is professor and chair of the political science department and director of the Center for Engaging the World in the college's Churchill Institute, where he oversees the bachelor of arts programs in transnational and international studies, global programming, the model United Nations program and a cultural abroad experience for students known as the "Take a Friend Home" program.

Jefferson, who accompanied Westminster's international student recruiter on a 10-day visit to China in November 2010, found out that most high school counselors, students and parents in the largest country on earth had not heard of the idea of "liberal arts."

"Dr. (Pat) Kirby and I taught Chinese students, educators, government officials and others about the uniquely American concept of the 'small liberal arts college.' This was an interesting challenge, and it proved to be a fascinating experience in cultural perception and misperception," Jefferson said.

In January 2010, Jefferson spent nearly three weeks in Jordan with a dozen American professors from small colleges who participated in a training seminar on "Islam and Middle Eastern Culture." The trip was sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and the State Department. He wrote a guest commentary about the overthrow of the Tunisian government and what it means to the Islamic and Arab world in the Jan. 21 (2011) issue of The Columbia Missourian (

He will speak to Assistant Professor of Political Science Greg Baldi's introduction to comparative government and politics class on the topic "The Middle East Today: Arab, Islamic and Western Civilizations," earlier in the day.

Jefferson has represented Westminster in France, Germany, Britain, Jordan and China. In 2008 and 2010, he served as a visiting professor of global business and politics at the ICN Graduate Business School in Nancy, France, where he taught French executive MBA students and Russian and French graduate students in the double magistratura program, in conjunction with the Moscow Institute of International Relations in Russia. His lectures and courses focused on "Russian-American Relations in an Age of Globalization."

In 2009, Jefferson was voted by the Westminster Alumni Council as one of the "Top Ten Legends of the Faculty," a distinguished list of Westminster's exceptional faculty dating from 1945. He also has won a student government award for teaching.

Jefferson has taught mainly on European and international politics during his 18 years at Westminster. He was a guest commentator on C-SPAN for the 60th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill's famous "Iron Curtain" speech, which was given in Westminster's gymnasium on March 5, 1946. He has produced several media commentaries on a wide range of topics from American to British politics to U.S.–Russian relations. More recently, he has written articles on communist warlords in battle (Josip Broz Tito and Leon Trotsky) in the popular military magazine, Armchair General. He has written for, has been quoted in or has been interviewed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Christian Science Monitor, BBC World Service (Arabic Service), Voice of America, The Columbia Missourian, The Columbia Daily Tribune, The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL), International Herald Tribune (Paris), La Vanguardia (Barcelona), Jamaican Public Radio (Kingston) and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He also participates in local radio and television broadcasts on election nights and on programs related to global affairs.

Jefferson has written two books. The latest is: "Celtic Politics: Politics in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales" (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2011). His first book is: "Christianity's Impact on World Politics" (New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2002).

The Professor of the Day, Jefferson literally grew up on Western's campus, attending the Laboratory School and later earning his B.A. (1988) in political science, graduating with high honors (magna cum laude). He was also the elected WIU's Student Government Association (student body) president in 1987-88. His father, Robert "Bob" Jefferson, and mother, Sally, came to WIU in 1965. Bob was a faculty member in marketing, and Sally was a part-time instructor in business education. Bob Jefferson served Western as a professor and chair of the marketing and finance department, acting associate, as well as acting assistant, provost and academic vice president and then dean of the College of Business (1984-1989). In 1989 he accepted the College of Business dean's position at Illinois State University. He ended his career after working at Western Kentucky University (1996-2004), where he served as dean of the business school.

The younger Jefferson received his M.A. (1989) and his Ph.D. (1993) in political science from the University of Missouri. He taught at MU (1988–1992) and Stephens College (1992-1993) in Columbia (MO) before going to Westminster College.

Jefferson is married to Lori J. Merriman, and they have three daughters. His nephew, junior Jason Gilbert (Bloomington, IL), is a religious studies major with a minor in international relations (Middle East) at Western.

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