Brown Professor of Political Science
The Go-To Expert
Regularly quoted in the national and international media, Brown Professor of Political Science Shelley Rigger is the person in the U.S. to consult about Taiwanese politics. To wit, a student who had attended a national seminar reported that Rigger seemed “to be a Taiwan-U.S. relations ‘superstar’” and that both retired Colonel Albert Willner and Bernard ‘Bud’ Cole from the National War College had called Rigger “the number one specialist” in her field.
The Far East Beckoned
Rigger’s interest in East Asia goes back as long as she can remember, and when she went to college at Princeton, she signed up for Chinese. “I’m sort of a contrarian.” She taught middle school for three years, then studied political science in the Government Department at Harvard—with a focus on Chinese politics and Islamic minorities in China.
Tiananmen Square, 1989
“Suddenly, my topic was too sensitive, and doing research in China was next to impossible. Lucky for me, Taiwan was becoming a hot spot for studying democratization.” Ph.D. in hand, she came to Davidson and has been key to the development of East Asian Studies at the college. Quoted frequently in the media and published widely in academe, Rigger has published two books on Taiwan and is working on a book for general readers, Why Taiwan Matters.
Lunch With the President
Topping her list of great moments was lunch with Ma Ying-jeou, the mayor of Taipei City, in Taiwan in 2006. They had met at an Aspen Institute Seminar, where Rigger was helping members of the U.S. Congress gain a better grasp of issues in Taiwanese politics. “And now he is Taiwan’s president!” she said.
The Value of Public Service
When she’s not in the classroom or talking to a reporter, Rigger does a lot of “little projects for the government”—such as trainings for military officers, participating in conferences or testifying before Congress. “At Davidson, faculty who engage in public service are encouraged and rewarded—public service is valued. I treasure this.”