Walking into Professor of Political Science Mike McBride’s office, you are instantly surrounded by gifts and memorabilia he has accumulated over the years. From Russian nesting dolls, to a fantasy baseball league trophy, and a wall-to-wall shelf overflowing with hundreds of books, every item has a story.
Over his five decades at Whittier, McBride—affectionally called Doc by his students—has also gathered a cadre of devoted students and alumni. While reluctant to talk too much about himself, once you get him going, Doc will proudly list off the names of his many accomplished former students.
McBride always knew he wanted to teach. He taught undergraduate students while earning his Ph.D. at Purdue University, and upon receiving his degree, was hired by Whittier College to teach Russian politics. Over the last 50 years, he’s taught 40 different courses.
His favorite one is From Russia with Feeling—a true Whittier course that weaves together Russian history, culture, literature, and politics through traditional lectures and readings along with films and games. As part of the class, McBride recreated the purge trials—1930s Soviet show trials that targeted dissidents. He fondly recalls seeing his students’ faces when they realized he was going to “get them” for a crime they didn’t know they had committed by associating with the “arch-villain Michael McBride.”
But perhaps McBride’s most significant work revolves around the United Nations. Since 1970, he has led Whittier’s Model United Nations (MUN) program. Most recently he took 27 students to Burlingame, California, for the 69th annual Model U.N. of the Far West conference. Next April, Whittier will host the conference for the ninth time since 1994, and many alumni will return to participate in what will be McBride’s 50th MUN conference.
“The Model U.N. has become sort of a big love of mine and it’s the place where I probably have the best relationships with our alumni,” said McBride. “Many of these students have moved into leadership positions and are making a difference in the world—and ultimately that is what our teaching at Whittier is all about.”
Several Whittier students have served on the Model U.N. Corporate Board including Michelle Cervantes ‘88 (now working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Yasmin Jamshed ‘04 (now with UNICEF), Erin Clancy ‘06 (now with the U.S. mission to the U.N.), and Caroline Cox ‘10 who will become President of the Board in 2020. McBride has served on the Board as Secretariat Advisor since 1993. McBride has also served as a consultant for the office of the UNHCR since 1993 and served for several years on the Secretariat at UNHCR’s annual Executive Committee Session.
McBride’s contributions to the U.N. and Model U.N. have solidified Whittier’s place among these organizations and created a pipeline of candidates for internships and full-time positions with the U.N. in New York and Geneva.
In addition to his work with MUN, McBride was director of study abroad for 25 years—from 1980 through 2005—and served as chair of the faculty eight different times. In fact, one of his proudest moments came when serving as faculty chair, and he got to announce the name of his daughter, Jennifer, as the outstanding student in biology during the annual Honors Convocation.
Outside of his academic pursuits, McBride has served as advisor to the Lancers and the Palmers. Doc also has a well-developed passion for baseball. He now serves as one of the associate directors of Whittier’s Institute for Baseball Studies (established under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Joe Price), and is a founding member of the long-standing Whittier fantasy baseball league. In 1979, he and former colleagues Bob Giomo and Warren Hanson were approached by a group of students who were interested in starting a softball team at Whittier. McBride was on board. He believed women deserved a chance to play at the college level and the fact that he and his wife Gail, to whom he’s now been married over 50 years, had two young daughters at the time also played a significant role in his decision.
“We’ve had over 270 players over the 40 years of the softball program,” said McBride, who is currently an assistant coach. “A good percentage of them have gone on to coach themselves, at high school, college, or with children’s teams. Seeing them develop and help others along the way is probably the most rewarding thing of all.”
With the softball team winning the All-SCIAC championship this spring and the 50th anniversary of the Whittier Model U.N. approaching next year, McBride has no plans to slow down. He looks forward to teaching more Poets and helping them achieve their goals.