Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies
Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies

Your Award-Winning Instructor: Dr. Rhonda Evans 


rhonda evans If I were going to take a three-week trip to the other side of the world with someone, I’d want to know a bit about them. So, below you’ll find a somewhat unconventional bio as well as a description of my expertise.

 I grew up in Cadiz, Ohio, a village in the Appalachian coal fields. In 1992, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. After receiving a B.A. in Political Science from Kent State University’s Honors College, graduating phi beta kappa, I immediately went on to earn a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law because I thought I wanted to live the rest of my life in Da Burgh. Turns out that wasn’t the case, so I practiced law for a couple of years in Ohio, working as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Tuscarawas County and as a Staff Attorney with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services. Dissatisfied with life as a lawyer (and the weather in Ohio), I moved to Austin, Texas to pursue a Ph.D. in Government at The University of Texas at Austin—Hook em! I entered the program intending to study the US Supreme Court but ended up becoming an expert on Australian politics instead. Gotta admit I didn’t see that coming! Moral of the story: have a plan for your life, but be open to the beautiful opportunities that serendipity can present.

After completing my Ph.D. in 2004, I had to leave my beloved Austin for Southern California. I taught for a year at Claremont McKenna College and saw firsthand all that an elite liberal arts college has to offer its students. [Pro Tip: You can get many of the same benefits right here on the Forty Acres if you know where to look for them.] From Califorgetaboutit, I moved to the other side of the country, Greenville, North Carolina (virtually another planet) to accept a position at East Carolina University, deep in the heart of Pirate Nation. The mothership finally called me home in 2012, and I returned to UT-Austin to direct the Edward A. Clark Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies and serve as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government. Since then, I have been teaching a course on Australian Politics and Society (next offered spring 2021) as well as this course on Human Rights and World Politics (offered every spring). In the summer of 2017, I partnered with Texas Athletics to design a special course on Australian history, culture, and politics for the men’s basketball team in conjunction with its exhibition tour in Australia. I met up with the team in Melbourne, accompanied the student-athletes and coaches on various cultural outings, and attended their game against the Dandedong Rangers. You can learn more about that here.

Over the course of my teaching career, I have received three teaching awards and been nominated for two others. Most recently, in 2019 I won the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence from the College of Liberal Arts. During my time at East Carolina University, I received the Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award and was a finalist for the University Alumni Association Award for Excellence in Teaching. And finally, I received the Outstanding Assistant Instructor Award at the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. My average instructor rating is 4.7 and my average course rating is 4.4 during my time at UT-Austin. 

I’m one of a small number of North America-based experts on Australian politics and policy. I began studying Australian politics in 1999, and since then, I’ve spent substantial time in Australia every year, collecting documents and interviewing Australian lawyers, judges, and politicians as well as activists and public servants. As Director of the Clark Center, one of only two Centers for Australian Studies in the US, I’ve taught a course in the Department of Government entitled Australian Society and Politics. I lived in Australia’s capital city, Canberra, for nearly a year, during which time I interned with a Member of Parliament and served as a visiting scholar at the Australian National University. Apropos to the Maymester, I’ve visited various points along the Great Barrier Reef on three separate occasions. So, I can say from personal experience that seeing the Great Barrier Reef is one of the highlights of my international travels. I’ve also spent considerable time in several of Australia’s cities—Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide—and traveled to every Territory and State in Australia, with the exception of Western Australia. But for COVID, I would have made it there as well. In my 20 years of visiting Australia and studying Australian politics, I’ve developed a deep knowledge and understanding of the country’s culture and politics. I’m teaching this course because I want to share my wealth of experience with students.

As for my current research, I am a principal investigator for the Australian and New Zealand Policy Agendas Projects. My research is interdisciplinary in nature, reflecting my training in Law and Political Science. Current projects examine the Australian Human Rights Commission, apex courts of Australia and New Zealand, and partisanship in the Australian Senate. In addition to contributing to a number of edited volumes, I have published in the Australian Journal of Political ScienceCongress and the PresidencyOsgoode Hall Law Review, and Journal of Common Market Studies. I am co-author of Legislating Equality: The Politics of Antidiscrimination Policy in Europe with Oxford University Press (2014). 

  • Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies

    The University of Texas at Austin
    300 W 21st St STOP F1900
    HRC 3.137
    Austin, Texas, 78712