John Altman, Professor of Political Science, School of the Arts, Communication and Global Studies
Knowledge is for everyone, and everyone should be able to learn without the fear of asking questions. That’s Dr. John Altman’s primary goal, which he demonstrates through his teaching.
Dr. John Altman is a Professor of Political Science in the School of Arts, Communication and Global Studies. He holds a B.A. in Political Science, an M.P.A. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Tennessee. He has been teaching at York College for 23 years, beginning in Fall 2000. Prior to starting at YCP, he taught full-time for six years at other universities.
At York College, Dr. Altman teaches undergraduate courses in American Government and graduate courses in the Master of Public Policy and Administration program. He also serves as a Senior Faculty Associate in the Arthur J. Glatfelter Institute for Public Policy.
Dr. Altman’s favorite part of teaching is getting to engage with his students inside the classroom. For him, the classroom is a place where he can just be, he says.
“I love interacting with the students, watching and listening to them in class. For me the classroom is an oasis where everything else going on in the world and my life just fades away. Time stops and it's just me, my students, and our thoughts and ideas,” he adds.
His approach to teaching is breaking down complex ideas for students in a way they understand, and he tries to establish common ground with students.
“I believe that I've been blessed with the ability to explain very complex ideas in a way that a young person with no true academic experience can understand and own. I like to think that I'm pulling back the curtain on the world of academia to show them that there's really nothing difficult about learning,” he explains. “They are all capable of seeing the world in its nuanced way; they just do not yet have enough experience with and exposure to the knowledge and way of thinking.”
The most rewarding part of his job, he says, is pondering questions that address human impact on the world.
“I get to wrestle with ideas and actions that have the most profound and direct impact on how we live on earth. It's the only game in which there are true existential consequences,” he adds.
Above all else, he wants his students to approach learning without fear.
“Don't be too cool to learn stuff. It's okay to be the person that asks questions and contributes to the work. Don't let your ego get in the way of your intellectual development; admit when you don't know something and ask questions that will fill that gap in your knowledge,” he adds.
When he’s not in the classroom, Dr. Altman enjoys hiking and backpacking, scuba diving, riding motorcycles, sitting on the beach, smoking cigars, and “doting” on his two hairless cats, Homer and Poe, as well as his two dogs. Additionally, in July, he returned from a three-week, 220-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail, having now completed the trail from Roanoke, Virginia, to the New Jersey/New York border.
Dr. Altman’s advice to students interested in pursuing political science is not to be afraid to go after what they want, because good public servants are always in need, he explains.
“Public service is the most noble profession and provides the opportunity to improve the lives of people. Making good public policy and implementing it successfully requires smart, skilled, energetic people,” he says. “What students don't realize is that beyond the national government, there are 50 state governments and nearly 90,000 local governments with all kinds of employment opportunities. There is no shortage of jobs in the field, because there is always a need for good public servants.”