Homegrown Scholar

Paul Musgrave became interested in news as a 4 year old, watching PBS in his home near Haynie’s Corner. Today, he is an expert in foreign policy, teaching political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and writing for notable publications like Slate and The Washington Post.

Though he found an interest in news and politics from a young age, his journey to the professoriate was not a straight path.

A graduate of F.J. Reitz High School, his career began with the speech and debate team where he participated in foreign extemporaneous speaking and realized anyone can participate in political conversations even if they are from a small city like Evansville.

From high school, Musgrave went on to complete his bachelor’s degrees in political science and history at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and his master’s degree in politics at the University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. During this time, he briefly wrote for Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines as a contributor and editorial extern.

He eventually went on to Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., where he earned his doctoral degree in government. While Musgrave says he never pictured his career heading towards academia, it was no surprise for his mother Cheryl Musgrave.

“He took an active interest early on in world affairs,” she says. “We were peculiar parents and weren’t big fans of TV then or now, but we allowed ourselves to have a tiny black and white TV. We watched PBS until [Paul] got so freaked out as a 4 year old by environmental news, because he thought the world was dying. So we had to cut out the news.”

Musgrave says it still is hard to wrap his mind around being an expert in foreign affairs and political science.

“It’s a very bizarre sensation to have people asking you to analyze President Donald Trump’s foreign policy plans, and I’ve found the easiest way to do that is to constantly be checking your own work,” he says.

It is his Evansville upbringing, however, that keeps the Amherst, Massachusetts, resident grounded. He says it’s easy for east coasters to feel they are important because of where they are.

Though some people in New York or Washington, D.C., have influential jobs — some more than the highest positions in Evansville — he notes it doesn’t mean everyone in those cities has an important job.

“One of the things about being in Evansville is you can quite consciously cultivate an understanding that just because something seems important to some people doesn’t mean it’s actually important,” he says. “You really can have a better sense of proportion.”

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