Meet the academic: Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos
Senior Lecturer in European Politics and Deputy Head of Department for Politics, Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos explains how he found his calling in academia and reveals his current projects.
Please could you introduce yourself – perhaps you could tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page?
I joined the University in 2011 just one year after receiving my PhD and I am now the Deputy Head of Department for Politics and Director for Learning and Teaching, which makes my daily routine quite interesting. Beyond my own research and teaching activities, I look after the overall teaching profile of the Department, working with my colleagues to provide outstanding experience and pastoral care to our students. I am about to start work on a H2020 project on international and European regimes on refugees and migration in collaboration with another 10 institutions from around the world. I am also preparing a textbook on research methods in politics and international relations for Palgrave with a colleague from Aberdeen – that is a truly challenging project!
How and why did you become an academic?
I was inspired by two of my university professors – their dedication to research and teaching in terms of transferring knowledge to students and to the world was extremely motivational. Following my masters degree and having been primed by my dissertation supervisor, I found my calling in the inquisitive world of academia. I always felt that universities are the place that nurture future leaders of all kinds and hence, if I wanted to make a difference, I would be able to do it by contributing to that mission. My instinct told me back then that this was the right choice for me and having seen how things evolved, I know that I made the right choice.
What excites you most about your current role?
There are two things that excite me the most. The daily contact with young, inquisitive minds and seeing how my students evolve from first to final year are the most rewarding elements of the teaching side of my job. For the research aspect, unlocking new knowledge and taking a deep dive into explaining and understanding political phenomena is the most exciting part.
What is your particular area of academic expertise, and why are you passionate about it?
My expertise revolves around European Union politics and the impact that European integration has on domestic politics, policies and polities. I have taken an interest in exploring the impact of the European financial crisis and austerity on citizens’ perceptions of European integration and the values that come with it. I have a specific focus on Greece and Southern Europe, especially when it comes to public policy and administration reforms.
The reason why I am passionate about it is the fact that I see the world around me and I feel that everything I look at is so contemporary and evolves on a daily basis. Working with practitioners has also shown me how my research and academic expertise can be relevant in shaping the future prospects of policy-making and eventually make a difference in people’s lives.
Why should people study at postgraduate level in your academic area?
Postgraduate courses in politics delve into the reasons behind the political behaviour of citizens, how high-level political decisions have an impact in our daily lives, and how citizens can influence those decisions from the bottom up, as well as insights into the mechanisms of how the world operates. Such courses not only make someone more informed about what makes the world go round, but also give a unique opportunity to develop argumentation, debate and dialogue based on evidence and high-quality research.
What are you looking for in a postgraduate student?
The main element has to be passion. A postgraduate student should not only come with the appetite to gain knowledge but also with the motivation to generate new knowledge for themselves, challenge established beliefs and views and develop their critical thinking based on evidence. We want a community of vocal and active postgraduate students looking to enhance their skills and become true leaders in the future.
Is there a particular memory of your time at Surrey (so far) which stands out for you?
I always remember fondly graduation ceremonies, ‘thank you’ cards and emails I receive from graduates, even years after they’ve left. They remind me of what the best thing about my job is – seeing people grow into something they’ve dreamt of.