Aug. 5, 2021

Let’s Meet an UCalgary Political Science Alumni: Dr. Mark Harding!

His new journey as an Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph, being quoted and cited by the Supreme Court of Canada, the life-long friendships created during his graduate studies …and the importance of writing even when you don’t feel like it!
Winter in the mountains

Dr. Mark Harding graduated with an MA in 2011 and a PhD in 2017 both from the Department of Political Science. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary to pursue your graduate degree? 

I am a political scientist, and my research is in the area of law and politics and constitutional theory. I pursued not one, but two graduate degrees at UCalgary (MA and PhD)! I’m from Fredericton, New Brunswick. I completed my undergraduate studies at St. Thomas University, a small liberal arts-focused institution. I was part of a contingent of students from St. Thomas studying political science at Calgary during the 2010s. In undergrad, my first passion was for political theory. But I had become increasingly keen on Canadian politics and constitutional issues. I found many of same skills necessary to write political theory papers—close reading of dense texts and working with primary documents—were also useful for researching constitutional law. When I was considering graduate programs, Calgary had been the program to study in law and politics in Canada. The fact that Calgary has always punched above its weight in political philosophy was a bonus as well.  

Mark Harding

Where has your PhD in Political Science taken you now? 

In 2018, I began a position at the University of Guelph (first in a contractually limited capacity and now as a tenure track faculty member). Guelph has a been a great fit for me and for my research in law and politics. The department now boasts eight faculty members researching and teaching in that area, three of whom have Calgary PhDs. I daresay that Guelph is now the place to study law and politics in Canada the same way the Calgary was in 1990s2000s.

One recent accomplishment I’m proud of is an article I co-authored with my supervisor (Rainer Knopff) was recently quoted and cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in one of its decisions (R v Chouhan 2021 SCC 26). It’s not uncommon for law professors to be cited but for political scientists it’s fairly rare. The quoted article is based on some of my graduate work I completed at Calgary. I’ve been reading the Supreme Court’s decisions since I was in undergrad and I never would have imagined I’d be quoted by the Court. It also shows how times have changed when the Supreme Court cites a UCalgary faculty member approvingly!

What would you say to a student considering the University of Calgary for their graduate studies in Political Science? 

I would strongly encourage anyone interested in pursuing graduate studies in political science to apply to UCalgary. I would especially encourage those students coming from smaller programs to consider UCalgary. One of the things that makes the UCalgary special is the community and friendliness in the department. During your studies, you form friendships with faculty members, including ones outside your subfield. I am still in contact with former students, faculty and staff I worked with while I was a student there

Do you have any words of advice for current graduate students here in the Department working towards their degree? 

I’m sure you’ve heard a partisan say that it is important to “vote early and vote often”. My supervisor would tell us to “write early and write often”. I’ve always been a slow learner, so it took me a while to understand this insight: The key is to write even if you don’t feel like it--especially if you are not sure what to write about next. The writing process clarifies your thinking because it helps you sort what you know and what you might need to read about next. Also, if you get stuck, it’s important chat with your supervisor (or friends) about what the next step should be. Lastly, Calgary is wonderful place to live. I miss the mountains and the skiing, in particular. You take them for granted when they are close by, so be sure get your fill while you can!


Thanks for sharing Dr. Mark Harding!