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Getting to know...John Farrenkopf

Wofford College isn’t a typical destination for people from the Garden State. But government professor John Farrenkopf is glad he found his way from New Jersey to South Carolina.

farr180“I was attracted to the idea of getting an academic position in the South,” says Farrenkopf, who grew up in New Jersey and attended Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. “I’m originally from the Northeast, but I got my Masters in Government at Georgetown in D.C. and my Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia, so I’ve been gravitating southward.”

Wofford has been a good fit for more reasons than geography. Trinity is a small liberal arts college, as well.

“I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend an excellent liberal arts college,” says Farrenkopf. “Once I had my Ph.D., I was oriented toward getting a position at a liberal arts college. That was my dream job.”

There were other factors, too.

“The fact that I could teach a wide variety of courses also attracted me to Wofford,” Farrenkopf says. “There is no necessity here to become a narrow specialist like they have at research institutions. In addition, the teaching needs they had in this department matched what I wanted to do.”

“Also, Wofford has bright and motivated students. They have good classroom etiquette. That made it even more attractive. And you can develop new courses here to enrich the undergraduate curriculum. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to have designed a course on Chinese politics. It overlaps with my interest in good Chinese food.”

The road to Spartanburg wasn’t a direct line from Hartford, though. Farrenkopf once spent four years in Germany. Two Fullbright and two Thyssen grants took him overseas to the University of Munich. After teaching at other colleges, he took time off to finish a scholarly work, “Prophet of Decline: Spengler’s Philosophy of World History and Politics.”

But eventually he found his way to the Upstate, and he’s loving every minute of it.

“I’m delighted to be at Wofford and Spartanburg,” says Farrenkopf. “I’m an avid hiker, so I love the fact that there are plenty of hiking opportunities here. It’s not very far from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and you can actually go hiking here in town at the Cottonwood Trail.”

One of Farrenkopf’s other passions is classical music.

“I have a collection of CDs,” he says. “I particularly enjoy listening to music by Bach, Mozart, Handel, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Corelli, and Tchaikovsky.”

Both hiking and classical music are good escapes for a man who is very passionate about his work. He also hopes eventually to find the time to indulge more his interest in travel. Visiting the charming city of Charleston and its environs, sightseeing at the Outer Banks, and sailing in Long Island Sound since coming to Wofford have whetted his appetite for more.

“I also enjoy studying foreign languages and find them quite useful in scholarship,” says Farrenkopf, who recently finished a scholarly article for publication that he wrote himself in German. Moreover, he is well versed enough in French to have done scholarly research in it.

“My big passion is studying world politics and history,” he says. “I really love my work. Last summer, thanks to a generous Wofford summer grant, I finished the rough draft of a second book which is based on a course I teach at Wofford called Empire. The provisional title of the book is “Imperial Twilight: the American Empire and the Decline of the West.

“One reason I’m so deeply immersed in my work is that I teach world politics here, which requires you to regularly revise and update your courses. Change in world politics never ceases. For example, this semester I’m offering a course on the politics, economy, and foreign relations of China. One of the things we’re going to touch upon is the effect of the current global economic crisis on China.”

Farrenkopf has traveled from New Jersey to Connecticut to Germany to South Carolina, where he teaches about China. He’s living proof of the benefits of a liberal arts education.