Bob Van Dyk, PhD

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Teaching is the main thing I do at Pacific. It’s hard work, but super rewarding. I try to make my courses serious, challenging, interesting, and fair. We often cover controversial topics in my classes, such as racial discrimination, the balance between community goals and property rights, and the rights of the criminally accused. I welcome and encourage discussion, require lots of written work, and use small quizzes to reward steady reading. Supervising our senior thesis writers is especially interesting, as no two projects are the same, and the students’ findings are often surprising. 

Fall 2014

POLS 227 | Civil Rights Movement

POLS 498 | Senior Seminar and Thesis

Spring 2015

POLS/ENV 224 | Environmental Politics

POLS 326 | Civil Liberties

POLS 499 | Senior Seminar and Thesis

Other courses that I regularly teach include:

• Constitutional Law | POLS 325

• Civil Rights Movement | POLS 222

I often uses a case-based approach in my classes. Recently, I developed coursework that includes the use of GIS technology to analyze political problems, particularly in relation to environmental policy. I have also won two awards for teaching: one from the students and one from the faculty.


PhD in Political Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., in 1995

Master of Arts in Political Science, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash., in 1989

Bachelor of Arts in History, Duke University, Durham, NC, in 1986

Background & Professional Work

I grew up in Washington, D.C. in a family involved in national politics, so the political world always seemed near at hand.  I remember well the big protests against the Vietnam War, the controversy over bussing when my elementary school was desegregated, and the drama of Watergate and impeachment hearings. I often spent summers in Kansas with my politically-minded, free-spirited grandmother (an artist of some regional note), or in Mexico City with my Mexican grandfather, a conservative businessman who loved to fish and hunt. 

I wrote my doctoral dissertation about the anti-abortion movement, with a focus on activists who conducted civil disobedience and blocked the entrances to medical clinics.  I considered the theories of social movements and the legal issues surrounding the blockades.  I was surprised at the common language and critical worldviews that the anti-abortion activists shared with civil rights and other liberal or left-wing movements.

Since moving to Forest Grove twenty years ago to work at Pacific, I’ve become deeply interested in the management of the commons – the rich natural world we have inherited.  As part of a campus push to connect the classroom to local issues, I received several grants to develop and implement case studies in my courses, and focused on especially on environmental issues. 

My engagement with local forest issues drew me into a statewide debate over how to manage Oregon’s vast forested landscapes.  I turned my scholarly attention to the topic of power in the management of Oregon’s natural resources, especially in regard to the organizations and interests that shape forest laws.

For the past several years I have divided my time between teaching at Pacific and working for a conservation organization to protect biodiversity in Oregon’s coastal rainforests.  My work outside of Pacific in the policymaking realm has deepened and enlivened my understanding of politics. It’s also helped me build a variety of connections in state and local politics that I’m happy to use to help students get internships and explore career paths.

Extracurricular Activities

I live with my spouse and kids in a drafty old house in Forest Grove, where I enjoy drinking coffee, sitting on the porch, and messing around in the garden. I also enjoy hiking and exploring Oregon’s public lands. My wife, Nancy Christoph, teaches Spanish, and as my mother was from Mexico, we are both attracted to Latin America. We’ve taken recent trips to Mexico City, and I especially enjoy returning to the Coyoacán neighborhood where I spent time as a boy. Closer to home, you’ll often find me on the trails of Forest Park in Portland or walking the hills of Astoria.

Office Location: 
Marsh Hall 233
Area of Study I Teach (Undergraduate):