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The Scarlet & Black

From Russia with a dissertation

Grinnell’s Political Science Department, known among students for being filled with interesting and experienced professors, spent last fall looking for a new colleague. Danielle Lussier, who came to campus with her presentation entitled “Democratizing Citizens: Civil Society and Social Networks in Russia and Indonesia,” was hired this year as the new assistant professor.

Photograph by Kathlyn Cabrera.

“Grinnell embodies a lot of things that I experienced and valued as an undergrad, like a commitment to liberal arts, interdisciplinary studies and an opportunity for students to create their own curriculum,” Lussier said. “I was very interested to be involved in a community that was similar to what shaped me intellectually as an undergrad.”

Lussier graduated from Wesleyan University in 1998 with a degree in Russian and European Studies and then moved to New York City to work at EastWest Institute, a non-profit think tank. Two years later, Lussier accepted a State Department fellowship to spend a year in Russia.

“In Russia, I did HIV/AIDS outreach education and studied at a Russian university,” explained Lussier, who speaks Russian fluently.

Following her fellowship in Russia, Lussier worked in Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as a researcher for three years. It was there that she met her husband, who is a freelance writer and editor and now lives with her in Grinnell. Lussier then enrolled in graduate school at University of California, Berkeley.

“My dissertation was on the relationship between political participation and democracy’s survival in Indonesia and its failure in Russia,” she described.

Lussier’s expertise in comparative Russian politics is demonstrated in the courses she teaches. In addition to teaching a section of Introduction to Political Science, Lussier currently teaches a 200-level class called the Politics of Russia. Next semester, she will teach a seminar called Islam and Politics and a special topic course on Democratization and Politics of Regime Change.

When she’s not teaching or working on her book, Lussier enjoys attending music, theater and dance performances. She also spends a lot of time cooking.

“I am a huge patron of the arts [and] I have been vegan for about ten years, so I have become a good cook out of necessity,” Lussier said.

However, Lussier’s biggest passion is the Javanese gamelan. She started playing at Wesleyan and has been playing for about 15 years. When she found out that Grinnell had a Javanese gamelan ensemble, she was thrilled.

“The Javanese gamelan was actually a huge selling point for me when I was considering Grinnell,” Lussier said.

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