Faculty Spotlight: Amanda Gillespie

photo of Amanda Gillespie

  • assistant professor in Political Science
  • born in Jackson, MS; high school in Decatur, GA
  • teaches courses about American politics, diversity, and the politics of gun control
  • conducts research on the public policy narratives around immigration, the Stand Your Ground Law, and Black Lives Matter


"My family and I moved to Atlanta from Florida when I was in the 8th grade. I've always been a straight-A student, but it wasn't until I moved to Atlanta that I met a physical science teacher who told me that I was going to be someone. She made me want to inspire students who have never been encouraged like that to believe that they can succeed.

"My undergraduate degree is in political science from a historically black college named Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. I then graduated from the University of Florida with my MA in urban and regional planning. I then sort of veered off and became an urban planner for a few years before I went back to get my PhD in public administration.

"I am a nerd, and I love the smell of books. Political presidential elections are like my Olympics! I've always been interested in government, politics, and more specifically, institutions and how they interact with people. I tell people how lucky I am that I am actually paid to learn forever. My job is awesome because I get to talk with bright, young students and really learn from them.

"The happiest time in my life was when I was in college, when I was learning, and I am glad that I get to capture that feeling for the rest of my life.

"Coming to Miami, I had no friends or family in Ohio, so it was a big change for me — but I truly believe I was meant to be here!"


"The two classes that I currently teach are POL 142 (American Politics and Diversity) and POL 345C (The Politics of Gun Control). Race and guns are two of the topics that people say you do not talk about in polite company!

"In relation to the first class, most of us grew up in insulated environments where the people look like us. Often when people come to college, it is their first time being exposed to difference. My class tries to remind us that we each have blind spots, these preconceived notions of other races, genders, and sexual orientation. This impacts how we view the world. I try to challenge that view and disrupt the narrative.

"In my gun control class, we talk about a very polarizing topic. Some people really hold this issue near and dear to the heart. My class seeks to uncover the reason that there is a disconnect between policy makers and public opinion. I try and present this topic from an unbiased point of view, because it's important for students to know that I am not trying to convert people but I want to provide context on why this topic is so polarizing and isn't so simple as many would believe.

"My favorite part about teaching are my students. The outpour I get from them is really great. Learning is a two-way street. I love when my students engage me in dialogue. My teaching philosophy is application over memorization — not just memorizing names and dates and times. While that's important, I want my students to take what they learn in class and apply it to everyday life. These are current and future leaders, so I hope they will take the skills they've learned in my class and throughout their years at Miami, and apply them in the real world."


"Right now, I am actually working on a book. I am adding on to my dissertation and looking at public policy narratives — the language, images and symbols people use to talk about those things. I am examining three controversial topics: The Stand Your Ground Law, Black Lives Matter, and immigration.

"My research requires me to scrape through Twitter, which is still so foreign to me. I have been working on this for three years throughout my PhD program and my time here, so it's my research baby!

"In the near future I would love to get students involved in this project. I am still trying to figure out the capacity of their involvement would look like, but I know students are a lot more well-versed in social media than I am."

Outside the Classroom

"One of the things that keep me motivated outside of academia are my nieces. I want to teach them that they can do anything. Sometimes in order to so something, you need to see someone that looks like you do and then you'll feel like you can.

"My faith in God is also paramount. Teaching can be physically and emotionally draining, but I feel as though I am destined to be where I am. No matter how bad the situation can be at times, I know it is only temporary.

"I also love interior design. In another life, I would have gone to school for it! I cannot be in a poorly designed or decorated place, it just does something to me. I am also the new mother to a puppy named Spade. I could say he is the love of my life, but that might be an exaggeration, but he is pretty close to it!"

[June 2016]