VALPARAISO — Amy Atchison knew early on her passion in life.
A self-proclaimed "Army brat," Atchison, now associate professor of political science and international relations at Valparaiso University, she and her family traveled the world.
While a third-grader living in Saudi Arabia, Atchison recalled, she began pondering the politics of the world.
"The government said I couldn't do things because I was a girl. I was questioning the government's control over life and how does this happen," she said.
The passion of answering the questions "how" and "why" never left Atchison despite being detoured into the corporate world for 10 years working as a corporate training manager and IT project manager before deciding to go back to school and earning her doctorate in political science.
A professor at VU for seven years, Atchison said she tries to instill in her students that passion for exploring and understanding how the political world works.
"I don't do it as to mold their minds. I don't care what their political bent is. I want them to make an evidence-based argument for their position. I feel like I'm doing my job when they can make their arguments," she said.
This past week, she was awarded the Valparaiso University Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award during winter commencement ceremonies.
"I was really surprised. We have so many incredible professors at VU. I have so many colleagues who are deserving," she said.
In addition to teaching classes from international humanitarian law to politics in developing states to introduction to political science, Atchison concentrates her research in politics and gender issues. She provides gender pay gap workshops for graduating female students and does research relating women officeholder's effect on environmental policy.
"If you have more women in positions of power, policy is more favorable to women," she said, adding she specifically studies labor market policies and how to make them better for working moms.
Atchison said she's also a proponent for hands-on activities and using simulations in the classroom to allow students to "figure it out" themselves instead of lecturing on a concept.
Atchison is also co-authoring a book with a Rutgers University professor, tentatively titled "Survive and Resist." Published by Columbia University Press and due out in 2018, she describes the book as dystopian fiction, used to explain bad government. While planned for use in the classroom, they hope to gain a popular audience.
In addition, Atchison sponsors the university's Red Cross Club and is chairperson of the Northwest Indiana Red Cross advisory board.