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‘His lectures inspired me to explore’

April 19, 2011
Brendon Swedlow

Brendon Swedlow

As a child growing up in southern California, Brendon Swedlow’s garage provided the perfect space for building go-karts, forts and a sailboat with neighborhood friends. His mother believed his creativity eventually would lead to a career as an architect.

Although Swedlow never pursued a career in building houses, he did learn how to implement the same concept into his teaching style and scholarship.

“The engineering piece survived in the work I do now,” Swedlow said. “I think in terms of constructing political theory instead of constructing buildings.”

Swedlow was first drawn to political science as a member of the speech and debate team at Pasadena City College. “I liked to argue and could write well, so getting a political science degree as a stepping stone to becoming a lawyer seemed like the way to go.”

While researching his senior thesis as a political science major at the University of California, Los Angeles, Swedlow came to believe that he might have something to contribute to the study of politics.

This led him to pursue a Ph.D. in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a juris doctorate at the University of California, Hastings.

As a professor of political science at NIU since 2003, teaching courses on constitutional law and the politics of environmental health and safety regulation, he tries to re-create the feel of a law school in his classroom.

Former student Richard Schaller said he benefitted from Swedlow’s ability to challenge his students.

“Not only did he encourage us to learn the facts and law when reading a case, but he challenged us to think critically about the underlying policies and their implications,” Schaller said. “Professor Swedlow’s impact on my ability to think and to use the case method became even clearer when I entered law school years later.”

Gladys Proa Santana is another former student who praises Swedlow’s teaching style.

“His classes introduced me to the rather complex and intimidating world of the law, and his lectures inspired me to explore the curiosities of pursuing a career in the legal field,” Santana said. “He was not only my professor, but he served as my mentor as well.”

Swedlow takes pride and enjoyment in his work, and those qualities are reflected in the time he dedicates to his students. He helps organize the annual Law School Fair, facilitates student participation in mock trials at the law school and has helped design a new major in environmental studies.

In 2006, when a group of students approached him about creating a pre-law society, he didn’t hesitate to become the organization’s faculty adviser. “It’s a great organization for students who want to learn more about law school and legal careers and maximize their chances of success in them,” Swedlow said.

Former student Brad Broughton helped found the NIU Pre-Law Society.

“I served two years as this organization’s president,” Broughton said, “and I can assure you that Professor Swedlow had a tangible impact on many students’ academic and professional endeavors. The impact he has made in my education and my personal and professional development is immeasurable.”

Swedlow credits his wife, Chandra, for much of his success in teaching and advising. They live in Sycamore with their labradoodle, Teach.