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Portrait Gallery: Jackie DeMeritt, assistant professor of political science

Jackie DeMeritt, political scienceJacqueline DeMeritt specializes in the study of human rights and international relations, and encourages local involvement in groups that monitor and fight abuse. Away from UNT, she enjoys her family, especially her dog, Apollo.

What is your official title, and how long have you been at UNT?

I am Assistant Professor of Political Science and have been here since Fall 2009.  

What is your academic background?

I completed my undergraduate work at Binghamton University in 2003, and received my masters in 2005 and doctorate in 2009 in Political Science from Florida State University.  I also studied at the 2007 NSF-funded Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models Summer Institute, and am a 2011-2013 Boone Fellow. I’ve received a grant from the Boone Family Foundation for the Texas Project for Human Rights Education. My job at UNT is my first since completing my doctorate.

How did you become interested in conflict, war and human rights?

I learned about the Holocaust as a child in Hebrew school, and it sparked an interest in historical genocide.  And, I have always really liked finding and solving patterns and puzzles.  I took a few great political science courses at Binghamton, and realized that there was a way to combine those interests and make a real, positive difference in the world.  That's what I love about social science; by looking for patterns and regularities over time and space, we can - try to - learn to anticipate likely behavior - including state-perpetrated atrocities.

Gas chamber, Majdanek Concentration Camp site, PolandYou visited Holocaust sites with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program during the 2011 winter break. Do you have family or friends who experienced the Holocaust?

I have known a dozen or so survivors in my life - friends, my grandmother's neighbor, folks I've met through survivor groups.  Everyone's story is different, yet it's easy to think of the Holocaust in terms of total numbers, at least 11 million dead, including 6 million Jews.  We went to around 21 different sites on this trip, and I had a visceral reaction at almost every one.

Every site is different, and being so immersed in the thing, it became less about the numbers and much more about every person's own individual experience. Right, gas chamber at Majdanek Concentration Camp, Poland.

What human rights abuses in today’s world deserve more public attention?

There are more places in this world where human security is threatened than places where it is assured. It isn't safe to go outside in Gaza or the West Bank today, people are displaced and starving in Ethiopia, and I can't imagine what it's like to be a civilian in Sudan or North Korea … the list goes on and on, and I think they all deserve public attention and outcry. 

Most of all, I think it's really important for the public to realize how many opportunities there are to act locally. There are some organizations doing amazing work in our area. The Center for Survivors of Torture comes to mind, and we have many Amnesty International groups in DFW.  Plus, the mission of UNT’s Castleberry Peace Institute is to support research on peace and conflict management.

Away from the classroom, what are your interests?

Outside of work, my life is about music, my husband, our dog and our two rescue cats. Apollo, the dog is a pit bull mix, and I am absolutely in love with the breed. When I find the time, I'd love to volunteer with North Texas Bully Rescue or a similar organization.

Do you have a favorite book, movie, restaurant?

Catcher in the Rye and Islands in the Stream are two of my favorite books. I like movies and restaurants, but would rather stay home, cook dinner and watch brilliant old-school comedians. Andy Kaufman, Gilda Radner and John Belushi are some of my favorites.

(It's not possible to know everyone on a big, busy campus. So InHouse periodically publishes Portrait Gallery features to help us learn about our colleagues and their contributions to the university's success. Send suggestions for Portrait Gallery subjects by email to InHouse with "Portrait Gallery" in the subject line.)

Posted on: Mon 06 February 2012

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