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Rourke adapts to demands of new post

One Friday morning Suzanne Durdan, a secretary in the graduate studies office of the political science department, walked into John Rourke's office and told him one of her file drawers was stuck.

Being a jack of all trades is not what Rourke had in mind when he was appointed chair of the political science department. But he helped anyway.

"I got my tool set out, and I took my screwdriver and hammer to repair the cabinet,' Rourke says. "I did not know this was going to be such a multifaceted position."

Even with the added responsibilities, Rourke has had an opportunity to address some of the more immediate concerns facing his department.

"We lost three faculty members," he says. "We have to get them replaced. I think it is time for the department to reconsider what it does along with the direction and emphasis we want to take. We have some areas like public law and political behavior that have been traditional strengths, and we should build on those. I am also looking for people who will help us with other specialties we want to develop."

One of those areas is political minority studies. Last year the department approved this program as a requirement for students majoring in political science. Although it has not been fully implemented yet, "we have been working with the Women's Studies Program to fill a position in this area of concentration," Rourke said. "I have also been talking with the Institute for Puerto Rican and Latino Studies and the Asian American Studies Institute to recruit faculty in this area."

Rourke, who replaced George Cole as department head in June, began teaching at UConn in 1974 after completing his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University.

He was hired to teach at the Hartford campus, and that is something he says he will continue to do even as chair. "I want to continue teaching in Hartford," Rourke says. "An interesting mix of people take classes at the campus. There are older people, younger people ... people at all different stages of their lives and careers."

A Vietnam veteran, Rourke credits his tour of duty as a naval officer for piquing his interest in foreign policy, his area of expertise. He believes the war served as a foundation in helping Americans understand that the United States is not the only player in the world.

"The world does not always have to run the way we want it," he says. "I think Americans have come to realize this, but they continue to struggle with this fact."

Luis Mocete