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New professor brings her passion for politics — and sports — to ASU

In addition to teaching political science, Stella Rouse leads Hispanic Research Center as new director

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November 28, 2023

Editor's note: New Faces on Campus is a new monthly feature by ASU News showcasing faculty members who have been hired in the 2023–24 academic year.

Arizona State University’s Stella Rouse has a serious job. She is the new director of the Hispanic Research Center, engages a variety of academics and artists, and writes research articles as part of her duties.

But on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, she is usually parked in front of the television, grading research papers while watching college and professional football.

“I’ve been into playing and watching sports since I was a kid,” said Rouse, who is also a new professor at ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies. “It’s funny, I look back at my teacher evaluations when I was in kindergarten and the first grade; it was noted that I did well in school but that I really came alive in the gym or on the field during PE class.”

Rouse’s athleticism extended into high school and college, and she was particularly gifted in soccer, basketball and softball. She was tendered a couple of sports scholarships but turned them down because the schools were small or too far from home. Rouse was also offered an academic scholarship to Louisiana State University, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in political science.

While in Baton Rouge, she scrimmaged with the women’s basketball team and tore her ACL. Her sports career was essentially over, but her academic career took off. Her enthusiasm for sports has never wavered as evidenced by her cheering on the Arizona Diamondbacks during their playoff and World Series run.

“It was incredible to move to a new city and immediately find myself rooting for the Diamondbacks to make the playoffs. And then to see them get to the World Series was just icing on the cake,” Rouse said. “Usually, my affinity for a team takes time to develop, but the Diamondbacks, with their very likable players and manger, really fast-tracked the process for me.”

In addition to watching sports, Rouse relieves her stress these days by doing cross-training, walking, hiking, running and playing tennis.

Rouse recently spoke to ASU News about her life, her work and her continued love of sports.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about your background — where you’re from and how you ended up in academia?

Answer: I am originally from Colombia, South America. My parents and I immigrated to Miami, Florida, when I was 2 years old. Several years later, we moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where I grew up. I went to college at Louisiana State University. After obtaining my bachelor’s degree, I went to work for the Louisiana legislature. I kept in touch with several professors who urged me to come back to graduate school. Politics — the study of, not running for office — seemed to be my calling, so I eventually went back. I graduated with a PhD in political science in 2008 and was hired at the University of Maryland as an assistant professor.

Q: What is your area of research or academic focus? What are you most excited about regarding your work?

A: I am a political scientist who studies how identities inform representation, political behavior and participation. I focus primarily on Latino and youth politics. My work goes beyond the common perception that partisanship explains how and why people participate in politics. In my research, I show that even among partisans, other identities help us better understand what drives voter attitudes about particular issues and preferences.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to study this field?

A: I don’t think I had one “aha” moment; it was more of an evolution. I started studying Latino politics because I felt that area of research was being under-researched and under-appreciated in the field of American politics — particularly at the state level, as opposed to the national level, which garners most of the attention. Then, I started incorporating other identities into my research, identities that overlapped with Latino — e.g., Latino/millennial generation. The ability to examine overlapping, or intersectional, identities offers more nuanced explanations for how individuals interact with politics.

Q: How do you want to see this field advance to the betterment of society?

A: I would like to see more researchers go beyond writing for niche research outlets to expanding their work to be public facing, and that makes a difference in the lives of those they are studying. In order for this to happen more systematically, academia needs to change the incentive structure — not just rewarding scholars for publishing in academic journals — so that public scholarship is counted toward the overall assessment of how scholars are valued by institutions, and the profession, as a whole.

Q: What is something you wish more people realized about your work or research?

A: I wish people realized that being a political scientist does not mean I know everything about politics or can predict the outcome of elections. Just like other professions, scholars in political science specialize and become experts in certain aspects of the field. And this knowledge does not make us automatically able to predict the outcome of elections. There are political scientists who actually model election outcomes, and even this is an imperfect exercise in many circumstances.

Q: What brought you to ASU, and what do you like about the university?

A: I came to ASU because it presented an opportunity for my work to fully be appreciated and embraced. Doing work on Latino politics in a state that has such a high Latino population and at a university recently designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution presents a unique opportunity for my work to truly affect the population I study. Also, directing a center that focuses on the betterment of the Latino/Hispanic population is a great chance to elevate the work of other scholars and to form collaborative networks with similar interests and goals.

Q: What specifically would you like to accomplish while at your college/school/department?

A: I would like to transform the Hispanic Research Center into a first-class hub for research, education and community outreach on Hispanic-related issues that make a measurable difference in the lives of this diverse group.

Q: What’s something you do for fun or something only your closest friends know about you?

A: I love to be active — working out, being outdoors: running, hiking, biking. I keep up with sports news and can easily converse with other sports enthusiasts about the nuances of different leagues and players. For example, it’s fun to remind ASU football fans that their former quarterback, Jayden Daniels, is now a Heisman Trophy candidate for my alma mater, the LSU Tigers!

I like traveling to new places in the U.S. and around the world. I also like to read and learn new skills.

Top photo: Stella Rouse joined Arizona State University in July as the new director of the Hispanic Research Center and a professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. She came from the University of Maryland and served in various leadership positions while teaching. She appreciates the outdoors, exploring parks and trails, walking, hiking, exercising and going to sporting events. She is photographed at Papago Park in Tempe in October. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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