Meet the Faculty: Jim Zink

Jim Zink is an associate professor of political science in the School of Public and International Affairs. His research and teaching interests focus on American political thought and the nature of American constitutionalism.

How long have you been at NC State? Which classes do you usually teach?

I have been here since 2011. I usually teach courses in political theory, including PS 361 (Intro to Political Theory), PS 362 (American Political Thought), and seminars in political theory, such as “Slavery and Its Legacy for American Political Thought” and “Politics and Science Fiction.”

In what area do you focus your research?

My research mostly focuses on American political thought, especially as it concerns the nature of American constitutionalism. I have a secondary research agenda that explores empirically some of the questions that arise from the formative debates in the American political tradition. For example, I’ve done experimental research on issues such as the determinants of judicial legitimacy and the nature and effects of “constitutional veneration” in the United States.

Why does the study of political science matter?

It offers explanations for and thus allows to understand the world in which we live. It also challenges us to think about what kind of world we should have and what actions we should to achieve it.

What led you to a career as a professor of political science? 

I got tired of practicing law! The parts of legal practice I liked the most were more “academic” in nature — writing-heavy appellate work that features analysis and argument about what the law “is” (as opposed to trail work establishing facts and so on). I also became more interested in producing, rather than merely consuming, knowledge, so I became much more attracted to doing original research. I settled on political science because I’ve always been interested in it and it was my undergraduate major.

What is your favorite thing about NC State?

The students and its location.

What is the next thing you hope to accomplish on your wish list?

Finish a book.

What has surprised you most about your students this year?

Their eagerness to learn! In a political theory course, no less.

If you could time travel, what advice would you give your college-age self?

Develop better work habits so you have more free time to fully enjoy what college is all about.

What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you?

I can’t really imagine. That I watch a lot of tv, I guess.

What is your favorite caffeine fix?



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