Do You Know Your Professors?: Interview with Professor Nick Kontogeorgopoulos

Do you know your professors?

I mean – do you know your professors beyond their names, departments, classes, grading styles, etc.?
One of the most valuable aspects of liberal arts education, in my opinion, is the close connection you could establish with the professors.
Sure, they could seem intimidating with their crazy educational backgrounds and sophisticated word usage skills, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting to know them.
They are always there – willing to help, and get to know you.

In saying so, I’m presenting you with the first edition of the “Do You Know Your Professors?” Series: Interview with Professor Nick Kontogeorgopoulos, the Distinguished Professor of the International Political Economy (IPE) Department.


BeFunky DesignSo, to start off – Professor Konto, did you always want to be a professor since you were young?
Well, I knew I wanted to be a professor since my freshman year in college. Fun fact actually, I was originally going to study engineering at University of Toronto, because I was doing a lot of math and science in high school. But I got a four-year scholarship called the Morehead-Cain from North Carolina Chapel Hill, so I ended up going there from Toronto, Canada – where I was in High School. North Carolina Chapel Hill did not have engineering, so I started down another path – thought I’d do International Relations. I enjoyed it very much since First Year, so yea. I knew pretty early on – which was nice.

Wait, did you say you grew up in Canada?
Yes. I was born in Canada; I grew up in Vancouver until I was 6, then my family moved to Toronto. Oh, but my family is from Greece. My parents were immigrants from Greece, and they met in Canada, where I was born.

Wow; I did not know that! And your college experience – was North Carolina Chapel Hill different from/similar to UPS? How?
It was totally different, because North Carolina Chapel Hill is a huge research school with thousands and thousands of students. Classes are very large, especially in the first couple of years. So, it was a completely different experience. My first knowledge and exposure to liberal arts was when I got hired to come here.

Due to its nature of being a big university, would you say that the relationship dynamic between a student and a professor at North Carolina Chapel Hill was different compared to that of UPS?
Yes. It was more difficult to get to know the professor, but the professor to get to know you – it was definitely more difficult, and you had to be a lot more proactive. It was a lot easier to melt into the crowd and be anonymous, which is good and bad, but you had to really make sure you got good education. It was very up to you. You really had to make the choices to make the most out of it. Here at UPS, it is naturally set up in a way to ensure students get good education.

How would you define good teaching? What is your teaching philosophy?
When I think about good teaching, I think about the teachers that I enjoyed the most, and what those teachers had in common were high level of organization and genuine passion for the material, but also for teaching the material. So – professors who are excited about learning new things to teach, and being in the classroom in front of students. Professors who have good plan, and intensity… I think I responded to those the most – So I try to do that in my own teaching.

So, How long have you been teaching at UPS?
This is my 18th year.

Oh my gosh.
Yea, is it 18th? Yea. It is.

Has the school changed at all since you first came here?
I think this School has changed, and there are certain things that improved since I have came here, in terms of the reach of the school nationally – its profile – has improved since I got here.

You earlier said that you aspire to be a professor who is always excited about learning new things to teach; do you have current research interests?
The current research I’m doing is volunteer tourism, in which tourists travel and volunteer for short periods of time; and I’m interested in what motivates them, and what impact they have on the communities. In general, my research is related to alternative forms of tourism.

And Lastly, what piece of academic, or even life advice would you give to all of your students?
I would tell my students that it is never too early to think about what you want to do down the road. There are lots of options available to students, and it seems like a daunting task, but often students wait too long to think about what they want to do because they are afraid to make decisions. So, many end up very close to graduation without preparations or plans – it might seem early to think about your future, and of course, young people should keep their options open and explore their choices, but at some point, you should buckle down and make some decisions for career. Another – is to not put too much pressure on yourself to have something perfect when you graduate. People shouldn’t feel so pressured to get paralyzed by it.


~Fun Fact About Professor Konto~

Nick in studio

Professor Konto in KUPS Studio

Did you know that, for 10 YEARS, Professor Konto with Professor Jeff Matthews (from the Business department) hosted a KUPS show called “Back and Black” with seventies to nineties hard rock? YES – he is big on music.

His favorite band is Rush – the Canadian band, because he grew up with them in high school. He really enjoys classic rock from the seventies and New wave music from the eighties. He also likes some contemporary stuff from England – like the Artic Monkeys, and Brit pop from the nineties – like Oasis. Oh, and of course, disco as well – from the seventies.


*Thank you Professor Konto!*

What’s your team?

Loggers are from all over the nation, and world actually. And sometimes we forget where our friends are from, EXCEPT during sports seasons, and there’s always a sport in season, and that can identify where someone is from as well! In the fall, baseball is all abuzz, with many sweatshirts flashing SF Giants especially. And I know based on my Facebook feed and the plethora of students from the Bay Area, that 2016 is an EVEN YEAR, that black and orange are great colors and this year could be the year again. The Giants fans are most definitely the loudest and proudest on our campus. Basketball has a small but tight loyal following, guys mostly watch in their dorm lounges on weeknights instead of wearing jerseys or team swag out, but I know they’re out there especially Golden State fans.

Hockey is a lesser recognized sport, but popular anyway with the proud Chicagoans showing up with their jerseys and Blackhawks knowledge, especially with last year’s Stanley Cup in hand. There’s one guy in particular who always comes into the Cellar durin season to watch the games on our TV! Another less popular sport is football, I mean soccer. While soccer is not that big in the States, men and women; the international draw is definitely there. I’ve seen many Real Madrid fans sporting Ronaldo jerseys, or Brazil fans with Neymar jerseys, and I know of one friend who’s a die-hard Mexico and FC Barcelona fan. And as a huge soccer fan myself (alas I don’t own any jerseys but ask any of my friends or I about USWNT we’ll talk your ear off!) I know soccer fans are some of the craziest in the world and I am constantly amazed by the game, I can’t wait until the rest of America is just as captivated (which let me tell you, we’re just about. More people watching our US Women’s National Team win the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup than any other televised soccer or national sporting competition!)

By far, and I mean by far, football of course has the loudest fans, and these fans really know their stuff! Of course being in Washington the Seahawks fans are everywhere in the staff, faculty, and students too! #BlueFriday is definitely a thing with Seahawks jerseys abounding everywhere in season. And I’m definitely sure there were a few bandwagoners when the Seahawks won their first SuperBowl and were stoked about the second, but f anything these Washingtonians are die-hards and the 12s are still loud and proud. Broncos fans are the next most popular and visible with orange and blue jerseys were out and about every game day. Despite the pounding they received two years, they were always positive going into this year, and with the win were overjoyed (I saw many happy crying snapchats, that I wish I had saved but alas I don’t). And there are a few daring Patriots fans who dared show their faces and swag around campus last year after they won!

The professional teams people tells me a lot about where that person is from, or about their family to be raised as a fan. And how your friends without teams (like myself) can still get sucked into the fandoms and watching sports.

Small Liberal Arts Colleges

Recently on Facebook I stumbled upon this article: Struggles Everyone At A Liberal Arts Colleges Knows on Buzzfeed that basically summed up every thought I’ve ever had at Puget Sound. The statements made in the post which were submitted by the buzzfeed community of people who go to schools like Puget Sound. I could name an incident or moment in time where I’ve had the exact thoughts of the things mentioned at Puget Sound.

And while the title of the articles does indicate the points are struggles, I would say they are also the benefits of going to a liberal arts college. Colleges aren’t just for individuals who want to be a doctor or lawyer, they are for people with a passion for learning, wanting to gain more knowledge about our world and decide how we can impact it. At a liberal arts college we can pull together interdisciplinary learning to be confident in doing unique for ourselves and valuing the arts. yes, I’ve taken some really interestingly named classes such as Medical Discourse and the Body and Constitutional Controversies. Both were my seminar, freshmen English classes that combined redefining writing research papers and how to participate in college-level discussions. And I can’t wait to take a Connections course here, I’m hoping for Health and Medicine but there are so many fascinating options of study that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy if I didn’t come here.

And the one thing I am so happy to be a part of is the community, that we can hold discussions in class about the readings we actually did, that I know the names of my classmates to interact with that, I know the names of the people who make my chai lattes at Opp (thanks Em!), silently laughing in the Library because I accidentally fell down. These experiences in our Puget Sound, liberal arts, community, wouldn’t be possible if I went to a big state school, or a one-track college to just get my science degree. These can be  the struggles if you don’t like someone or you see people that saw you make a complete fool of yourself last night, but those are the small things that when I’m gray and old I won’t remember, I’ll only remember the good times.


Last night I attended my first ASUPS (Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound) Senate Meeting, and tonight I attended my second. Let me make immediately clear, our Senate is a hardworking group of dedicated individuals willing to ask the difficult questions, and challenge each other to improve the actions and hold accountable the responsibilities of ASUPS as a whole for us, the students.

I can’t speak to how the Senate has functioned in the past; at my first meeting this Senate tackled the difficult task of taking action on the compromised state of the current Fall 2014 Elections. They looked at all aspects of the topic and decided to halt the Election so the Election Process and Committee could be revised to uphold the higher standards and responsibilities we aspire our future Senators to have. They took immediate action to fix the problem willing to call an Emergency Senate to finalize the changes, by sacrificing part of their Parents & Homecoming Weekend.

Since the new elections are going to be conducted soon, I encourage all students to get involved. There are all kinds of ways to represent and participate in Senate, by running in the election, coming to the Open Forum to share ideas, issues, or information. I truly believe everyone could benefit from coming to a Senate meeting, as an active participant or passive one to personally see the good ASUPS is trying to share with us. Even check out their website ( for tons of links, updated information and ways to get involved! All the clubs and even sports fall under the jurisdiction of ASUPS and can be supported through funding, participation and insight into the development and implementation of new clubs, events and other opportunities! I wish more people could hear and know about the multitude of options that are available to make Puget Sound their own within this community.

I’m so excited to be working with ASUPS this year; it truly is an organization guided, decided and acted with the students. Yes there is a staff, faculty and Dean Representatives but tackling the issue and being a part of the solution is all with our student’s initiative and that is so powerful. Being a part of this group will truly help me manage myself better after college, working with others following the interests of the community. Even beyond the Senate, the Media Board, Programmers and Directors all have responsibilities and ways to make UPS even more so Home for everybody and find their niche, to combine intellectual interests with hobbies and participate in our democratic society.

ASUPS is awesome, come and check it out, I’m sure you’ll see how much they truly are for us students and make any idea become a reality, don’t be afraid to speak up, every individual is a part of ASUPS. I just got in on this amazingness as a sophomore, the opportunities are endless truly, and this experience makes me so proud to be a logger. #oncealogger #alwaysalogger


Happy Parents & Homecoming Weekend Everybody!


The Community Conversation

While we were unsure if spring would actually come with all the rain and summer suddenly pooped up on us, one is for sure, excitement and conversation is in the air at Puget Sound. I love how welcoming and varied our campus us in activities, individuals, groups all with the same passion for learning, helping others and being a part of the bigger world outside the Puget Sound bubble.

I’m not exactly sure how it started but opinion pieces and guest blogs in Puget Sound publications, such as the Trail and Wetlands began to gain a lot of buzz. And these weren’t frilly op-eds about the political scene but about student opinions about the diversity and culture of Puget Sound. While some people have heard or read some of these articles and felt disgust or brushed them off, I however was pleasantly surprised and intrigued. Surprised that this topics were occurring on campus that I have not personally been affected nor subject towards but pleasantly so that Puget Sound does foster a strong welcoming environment that students can feel safe and make a difference sharing their views.

It’s especially hard to share your thoughts, as unpopular as they may be because the discussion may not be welcome and the path towards resolving the problem is often rough. However, I applaud the courage for these individuals to challenge the students, our community and university to step up and address these concerns; to ensure the safe and compassionate nature of the small liberal arts education Puget Sound provides makes every individual feel welcome. Being at Puget Sound has opened up my eyes to the multiplicity of awareness and support of everything that makes people unique, and I am willing to continue to follow along and participate in these conversations.

Here are links to the two websites of Wetlands & the Trail that contain the guest blog and articles about diversity, culture appropriations and the inclusiveness of our community.;