November 29, 2023

Doing What He is Supposed to

Doing What He is Supposed to

Doing What He is Supposed to

By Tucker Mitchell  |  November 2023  |  FMU Focus Magazine Fall 2023

Scott Kaufman

Trustees’ Research Scholar 2006-07 to Present

Scott Kaufman says being a Trustees’ Research Scholar at Francis Marion University is a tremendous honor that “honestly, inspires me every single day. I can’t overstate how much it means to me.”

That’s great, but there is a little bit of downside, too. It’s the pressure — entirely self-inflicted — to keep it going.

“You know, you have this honor and that means people are looking at you, which is good, but they’re also looking at you to see what you’re doing,” says Kaufman. “I feel that. It may just be me, but I think there is an expectation that you should be continuing to add to your work. … I’ve felt that a lot lately. Covid and all kind of messed everything up. A lot of publishing and all just stopped. So I haven’t had anything out in awhile. I don’t like that. It feels like I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

No one should worry. Scott Kaufman is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.

The author of 12 scholarly books, Kaufman is currently hard at work on three more. His current work represents a further flourishing of his skills and interests, and something of a departure from earlier areas of specialization centered on, of late 20th century U.S. presidencies and U.S. diplomacy.

Kaufman is working on a book comparing the histories of the Suez and Panama Canals, and is teaming up with FMU colleague Dr. Will Bolt on a (timely) history of impeachments in the United States. A third book is tentatively titled American Visions. Kaufman says it’s a social and cultural history, “kind of a future history, almost,” he says. (Kaufman teaches a “History of the Future” course at FMU.).

The research and scholarship bug bit Kaufman at an early age, perhaps leaping over from his father Burton, a history professor at the University of Miami (Ohio) and a few other places. (Later, the two Kaufman’s collaborated on a book on The Presidency of Jimmy Carter for the University of Kansas

Press’ American Presidency series.)

“I can remember being interested in research, in figuring out how things worked, from the time I was in the sixth grade,” says Kaufman. “Of course, I saw my father doing this. I’m sure that was part of it, but mostly I think it was just something I enjoyed.”

Kaufman says rejection early in his academic career helped motivate him. He wanted to pursue his doctorate with a particular professor at the University of Texas. He went for an interview, thought he did well, and was excited about his prospects, only to return home and find a letter waiting that told him he hadn’t been admitted.

He completed his PhD. at Ohio University instead and entered the academic life “with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.

“I went out there — I was going to prove that I could do research. And I have,” says Kaufman. “That’s not the main driver. It never was. I really do love (research), but that’s motivation that has been there. And, I would say the Trustee’s Research Scholar honor plays a big role, too. I do think about it, and fairly often.

“You know, when I came to FMU I really did not know what to expect,” says Kaufman. “I don’t think you know what it will be like anywhere you’d go. But this (the TRS program) happened not long after I got here and it tells you something. It’s one of those reasons why FMU is consistently rated a great place to work. (FMU President Dr. Fred) Carter, he was a researcher, he was in the trenches, so he understands.

“The course release (that is part of the TRS) is not enough to fit in the research, per se, but it is recognition that research takes time,” says Kaufman, “and it’s so important to what you’re doing. There’s a lot of compatibility between research and teaching. It’s hard to see how you can do one without the other. … it just keeps you fresh. You stay aware of trends, of new insights and ideas, and you can bring that into the classroom. When you publish, you contribute to that world of ideas, in your field and beyond, and that just enriches it for everyone.”



Pictured left to right: Dr. J. Mark Blackwell, Dr. Ana-Elisa Iglesias, President Fred Carter, Dr. Jason Doll, and Dr. Hubert Setzler. Four Francis Marion University faculty members were honored for their outstanding work during the university’s annual faculty awards night held at the FMU Performing Arts Center in downtown Florence Thursday evening.  Dr. J. Mark […]

Lisa Pike, Professor of Biology, was named the J. Lorin Mason Distinguished Professor at Francis Marion University for the 2023-2024 academic year at an awards ceremony held Thursday evening at the FMU Performing Arts Center in downtown Florence. The Distinguished Professor Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a faculty member at FMU. The annual […]

Francis Marion University will hold commencement ceremonies for its spring 2024 graduating class on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4. Both ceremonies will be held in the Smith University Center on campus and include graduates from the university’s four academic schools and college.  Students from the School of Business and School of Health Sciences […]