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Washington State University
CAS Connect February 2015

In Motion: Mike Salamone helps students fulfill law school dreams

Assistant professor of political science in the School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs, Michael Salamone specializes in judicial politics and American government. He is especially interested in how the public, news media, and elected officials respond to U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

A member of WSU faculty since 2012, Michael will direct the new Pre-Law Resource Center, slated to open in April on the Pullman campus.

Michael Salamone
Michael Salamone

What are some highlights of your first three years at WSU?

Pullman is the smallest and most rural community I’ve ever lived in (which includes a year in Montana), and that’s been an adjustment. But it’s proven to be a great place to live. It’s an excellent family town, ideal at my current stage of life with two young daughters.

And WSU is a great place to be professionally. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working alongside so many bright, research-active faculty and with a diverse population of undergraduate and graduate students. A definite highlight of my time here so far was being honored with the Faculty of the Year award from the PPPA Graduate Student Association.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

A student who took my American Constitution course recently completed a summer job at a law firm and said she found what she learned in the class especially useful—the material had stuck with her in a positive way. Hearing that was incredibly satisfying.

A large part of a professor’s job is simply to share things that he or she knows and finds interesting. We do this with established academics by publishing our research findings. However, teaching lets us share what we’ve learned with those coming in contact with the subject for the first time. Students can wind up in your class for a number of reasons, and the level of interest they have in the material can certainly vary. But the potential that you can expose them to something new that they find fascinating or helpful creates a good feeling.

What are you exploring in your current research?

My current research focuses on the relationship between courts and the political environment in which they operate. I’m working on a few projects that approach the topic in different ways.

As part of that research agenda, I’m writing a book analyzing how divisiveness affects the Court’s legitimacy. Some longstanding conventional wisdom says that division on the Supreme Court negatively affects its public image. If true, this is particularly troubling, given that the number of 5-4 decisions—in which conservatives line up against liberals—is increasing. However, I find that the public’s reaction to division on the court is not as clear-cut as conventional wisdom would suggest.

I’m also working on a collaborative project comparing the content of television ads in state supreme court races to ads in congressional and gubernatorial campaigns. There’s concern that state judicial races have become as negative and as politicized as traditional political races, raising further concern about the objectivity of state judges.

These types of questions fascinate me because they get at a fundamental tension in our system of government.

What are your plans for the new Pre-Law Resource Center?

The PLRC is something I’ve been working toward since I came to WSU. It will be a place where students can get sound advice for applying to law school and other information about the legal profession, regardless of their major or stage in their undergraduate career. We’ll welcome students who are unsure about whether to apply to law school and who want more information, as well as those who are already working on their applications.

It will be housed on the second floor of Morrill Hall, and I hope it will grow into a distinguished institution on campus, known for helping our pre-law students become highly competitive law school applicants.

To further assist pre-law students, we’re establishing a mentorship program that will connect students with successful alumni who share their interests. We’re also planning a series of events, including panel discussions, lectures, and workshops. Our first panel discussion on Law and Technology will take place in late April.  A need-based scholarship for students to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) preparation course is now in the works, too.

All in all, I hope the Pre-Law Resource Center not only helps WSU students get into law school but also prepares them for success in law school and beyond.

Snapshot: School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs

The School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs (PPPA) was established in 2011 from a multi-department merger that included the WSU Vancouver Master of Public Affairs (MPA) Program.

Political science student and instructorPPPA faculty conduct problem-driven research, teach in-person and online courses, and assist policymakers and government and non-government leaders at local through national levels. Faculty research encompasses two major areas, political science and philosophy, and includes fields from American security policy and political behavior to environmental policy, ethics, and the philosophy of language and science.

Areas of expertise among political science faculty include American politics and public law, global politics, political psychology, public policy, political theory and American foreign policy.

Philosophy faculty specialize in bioethics, ethical theory and applied ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language and science, and the philosophy of religion.

The Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service is closely affiliated with PPPA, and the school actively supports the Joseph Kruzel Foreign and Defense Luncheon Series, the Frank Fraser Potter Memorial Lecture Series, and the Research and Methods Symposium.

Degrees and certificates offered

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
    • General Political Science
    • Pre-Law
    • Global Politics
  • Bachelor or Arts in Philosophy
    • Traditional Philosophy
    • Pre-Law
  • Minors
    • Ethics
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
  • Master of Arts in Political Science
  • Graduate Certificate in Global Justice and Security Studies
  • Doctorate in Political Science
  • Graduate certificate in bioethics
  • Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs
  • Master of Public Affairs

PPPA by the numbers

AY 2015

  • Core faculty: 19
  • Undergraduate teaching hours: 15,136
  • Graduate teaching hours: 700