Jake Carver ‘21
This fall, Davidson welcomed Dr. Timo Lochocki, who is serving in the semester-long role of the James K. Batten Visiting Professor for Public Policy. Unlike most of the Batten Professors before him, who tended to be veteran American journalists, Lochocki is a German expert in European public policy and former fellow of the German Marshall Fund. His doctoral thesis correctly predicted the rise of right wing populism in Germany; since then, he has been respected as a voter-behavior guru among academics. His writing has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, POLITICO, and many other major publications.
Dr. Scott Denham, Charles A. Dana Professor of the German Studies Department, described Lochocki’s politics as “nonpartisan… but committed to the idea of a cooperative Europe and a functioning social market economy.” Unfortunately, Lochocki’s current political forecast does not bode well for European unity—he predicts a “conservative rollback” in Germany that would include stricter border laws and rapprochement with Russia.
Although much of Lochocki’s work emphasizes the power of growing right-wing extremism, Denham calls him a “harbinger of bad news” rather than an endorser of it. “He talks about what the center needs to do to win back voters [from right-wing extremism],” said Denham. “It’s difficult medicine sometimes… to say that the center has to move right without alienating its supporters.”
Denham was instrumental in recruiting Lochocki to Davidson. They met two years ago when Denham hosted Lochocki through the American Council on Germany, an organization that supports transatlanticism through educational visits between American and German professionals. After finishing his fellowship with the German Marshall Fund last summer, Lochocki and Denham discussed taking on a temporary position at Davidson. “The Batten position was available, the Department Chair Ken Menkhaus and the rest of the Political Science Department were enthusiastic, and the Dean of Faculty Wendy Raymond made it happen,” said Denham.
To Lochocki, one benefit of coming to Davidson was the exposure to new ideas. He has expanded his political expertise by learning from fellow professors. “[Discussing with faculty] has been very fruitful. I have been learning about American policies, constitutional law, and political communications, among other things,” commented Lochocki. “Dr. Menkhaus told me stories and insights about Africa that I would have never thought possible.”
Lochocki’s professorship also coincides conveniently with major German elections. While he admits that it was odd being abroad for the Bavarian state elections in October, which he analogizes to an American midterms in terms of importance, he will return to Germany before the vote deciding Angela Merkel’s successor as the chair of the Christian Democratic Union.
These elections have been topical in Lochocki’s classes, POL 269 (Crises in the EU) and POL 448 (Populist Politics—The Case of Germany). “In class we often talk about who is being appealed to and who the target is,” explained Claire Brantley ‘21. “How did Trump gain so many voters? We can look at Germany… as a point of comparison and reference.”
“We are expected to do our own research on a specific subject… for example, in Crises in the EU, to start the xsemester we were all assigned a region in Europe and were responsible for debriefing each other on that region each class,” Brantley continued.
Lochocki has been pleased with the level of dedication his students have had to their research. “[My students] are much more eager to work than I expected. In Europe, when people are [in their late teens and early twenties] they are still in high school and not as open to new topics,” he said. “[My students] like to talk and learn quickly—and I learn a lot from them. They pose questions that European students would never ask, because to them it is either redundant, obvious, or they don’t care.”
“In class I talk for about twenty minutes, and then the students do the rest. This is only possible because I have a selective bunch of committed students in a great setting.”
Lochocki has also emphasized networking in his classes, and required his students to contact German government officials. Even when he returns to Germany, Lochocki himself is committed to being a contact for former students looking to work or study in Europe.
“This was a terrific opportunity for me because I have engaged in topics that represent politics in a globalized world,” said Lochocki. “Every conversation to me has been a tremendous intellectual feast.”