Nigel Boyle, Professor of Political Studies

Professor of Political Studies Nigel Boyle talks about the 29 years of experience he has had at Pitzer College, and how crises we face as a society have had a transformative effect on Pitzer’s educational objectives, cultural understanding, social justice and more.


My name is Nigel Boyle. I’ve been a professor at Pitzer for 29 years now. The last few years I was the Dean of Faculty, but now I’m back on the faculty and looking forward to the semester. One thing about having been a faculty member for so long is I’ve seen a lot of semesters come and go. And I think fall 2020 is probably going to be the most important semester for Pitzer College, probably since the first semester. All right, in my first semester, here was actually spring 1992, which was when the Rodney King beating took place, the uprising in Los Angeles, and that had major repercussions for the college and ultimately led the college to transform its educational objectives, introduced a stronger emphasis on its cultural understanding, social justice and so forth. That reflected in my teaching in doing labor, internships and the like.

And I think this semester is going to be just as impactful, both in terms of what’s happening locally and nationally. Obviously, we’re under the new constraints of operating online. But I think Pitzer adjusted mid-semester last semester and made the best out of a difficult situation. But I’ve been really excited to see my colleagues this summer preparing for this coming semester. In many ways, I think this shows Pitzer at its best. Pitzer is a college that stresses experimentation, gives faculty a lot of leeway to try things in new ways, and so I think many colleges are a little like oil tankers. It takes them forever to make a fairly modest adjustment. Pitzer can turn on a dime and do some really innovative things. And I think this is popping up all across the curriculum.

If I can give you a couple of examples of the things that I’m involved with. And the last few years I’ve been very involved with Inside-Out courses, Pitzer courses that are taught inside a local prison with a mixture of the two students. This program was thrown into a lot of confusion because we can’t have face-to-face classes. But fortunately, this coming semester, we’ve been able to reach a new arrangement whereby all the Inside-Out classes we have at CRC prison, will be done by Zoom. So these will be the first classes in the country where we’ll have Zoom-based classes, including students from inside the prison. So the outside students, Pitzer students in these classes, will be able to do these online classes with students that are incarcerated.

We also have in connection with the Justice Education Initiative, a very large reintegration academy. This is where we bring a large number of recently released people, people who have been previously incarcerated, to come to campus and have programming. We’re continuing to do that programming but we’re going to be connecting the reintegration to courses. There’s going to be several courses across the curriculum where part of the class will be interacting with these previously incarcerated students.

So again, a couple of interesting examples that I’m going to be working on this semester, where we’re actually going to be, in a sense, making lemonade out of lemons, taking advantage of some of the new opportunities that the crisis, the COVID crisis, has caused. So I think this this represents, so again, Pitzer at its best innovating, and using the online platform to double-down on what Pitzer does best and deliver excellent educational learning for our students. So, that’s why I think it’s important for students to enroll this semester to participate. It’s going to be a semester unlike any other and I know my colleagues are completely committed to not just making the best out of it but really making this a transformational experience for students. So, I look forward to seeing you in my classes this semester, but also in the whole array of other classes that are being dynamically rethought in the context of this crisis. So, see you soon!