Faculty Spotlight: Professor Cain and The Center for the Study of Democracy


The Center for the Study of Democracy is a self-supportive program that provides the St. Mary’s community with the chance to become involved with local politics. The center, rooted in the Political Science department, is successful in linking the community with the students by allowing students to be connected through engagement with the various guest speakers and events held frequently throughout the year.  The Center for the Study of Democracy does not receive funds from the college to pay for the various events held; in fact, the program supports itself through fundraising and by using the money generously given to it from trustees, alumni, and even community members who want to support the program. The Center for the Study of Democracy offers a unique opportunity for students and the community alike to experience what it is like to be a part of politics. The center is certainly an exceptional and fascinating program that connects the St. Mary’s community through cross-disciplinary events and motivational guest speakers.

Dr. Michael Cain, Professor of Political Science, has been director for the Center for the Study of Democracy for the past seven years. Before he came to work at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Dr. Cain helped with elections as a student, where he learned about political science campaigns. At this point, he knew he wanted to be involved with politics and began working in various parts of the government, including Congress and the Government Accountability Office (GAO). He is very proud of the center and what it has accomplished to bring to the community. “Every governor of Maryland in the past fifteen years has visited the campus,” Dr. Cain said. “Different candidates have come so students can meet them and make decisions for themselves.” The center has provided lectures that have focused on a wide variety of topics, including environmental politics, gender issues, and political history. First-year student Caitlin Andrews said, “The center gives great insight into the current political affairs and keeps students up-to-date on what’s happening. It’s of interest to me because I want to make informed decisions regarding the future of local and national affairs.” There will be many interesting lectures and events held throughout the upcoming semester, and students and members of the community are encouraged to attend. One upcoming event is the 10th Annual Patuxent Defense Forum, held at the college on April 30, 2014.  The forum will include international representatives, defense analysts, government officials, academics, and policymakers. The topic for the forum is “Challenges for the U.S. and NATO in Promoting Middle East Stability and Security.”

The Center for the Study of Democracy brings scholars to the campus that will inspire students and help guide them on the path of discovering whether or not they want to enter the field of politics after graduation. By allowing students to be involved with the program, the center prepares them by giving an experience that will show what it will be like to work in politics. First-year student Lacey Gehring said, “I think the center gives students a wonderful opportunity to figure out how they want to be involved in politics. It sets up a career path for students to follow that will, in the long run, benefit them greatly.” Dr. Michael Cain says that students are welcome to use the resources the center provides. The center welcomes ideas about politics from students, and wants to hear ideas about who they would like to visit campus to give a lecture. In addition, any clubs with ideas about guest speakers or activities on campus can contact Dr. Cain at mjgcain@smcm.edu. The center wants to receive requests and ideas from the students; it is a way to further the students’ involvement with the community. Dr. Cain encourages students to be involved in what interests them. “You can make a big impact here,” he said, “and the center can help you with that.”

Students can also become involved by applying for one of the various internships. For example, students can apply for the William Donald Schaefer Internship for Government Service, an internship generously supported by Terry Meyerhoff Rubenstein, Henry A. Rosenberg Jr., and friends of William Donald Schaefer. The internship serves as a tribute to the successes of Governor Schaefer and his contributions to the college and the State of Maryland. According to The Center for the Study of Democracy website, “the Schaefer Internship for Government Service aims to allow undergraduates hands-on experience in public policy with the hope that they will be inspired to choose public service as a calling.” In the spring, students can apply for the Annapolis Legislative Internship. Additionally, the family and friends of Thomas Penfield Jackson generously support the college’s Thomas Penfield Jackson Award for Civic Responsibility and Democratic Citizenship Internship, which is dedicated to recognize students who aim to work in the field of public service, international relations, or other civil society activities. Anyone who wants more information about the internships should contact Dr. Cain at mjgcain@smcm.edu.