James Feldkamp – The Power of Engaging Your Students


James Feldkamp was a professor who radically changed the way in which I thought about my studies and even my life, a wonderful professor who had such a way about him that inspired myself and many of my fellow students. As we approached our second year at George Mason university we had a new class which was terrorism history, a class which few of us were looking forward to. Our professor would be the aforementioned James Feldkamp and he was someone who inspired us all, even when none of us really wanted to learn.

The Subject

It wasn’t that none of us cared about terrorism, it is after all something which affects all of our lives at the moment and a very topical debate. Learning about and understanding the history of terrorism however wasn’t something which seemed very appealing to any of us. In fact on day one James Feldkamp took a show of hands to see who cared about this subject, I counted two hands in the air.

Instant Engagement

The fact that James Feldkamp even asked this question meant that he knew how we all felt and it gave him the perfect place to start with us. James then began the next 2 or 3 lectures talking about some of the brutal attacks which had taken place throughout history, including talk of weapons and bombs and plots, all exciting and interesting stuff. This is how he bought us all, show us the gore and the drama first, then get into the whys and wherefores about terrorism, and it worked.


We all held, and still hold the belief that terrorism is a bad thing, an affliction on society and something which must be stamped out at all costs. With this being said however James Feldkamp taught this subject in a way that we could gain a wider understanding of terrorism and its roots.

For example we learned more about the Cuban revolution which saw Che Guevara and Fidel Castro overcome the fascist Batista and place the country under communist rule. This brings up many questions as to whether these two leaders were freedom fighters or terrorists, and whether there is really a difference.

When you look at things in this way it creates a certain guilty empathy for many terrorist organizations, who are fighting for freedom rather than vengeance. Of course any acts of violence or unlawfulness should never be acceptable, but James was able to really play with our emotions on this aspect of terrorism.


Something which we all enjoyed was when James Feldkamp taught us about the psychology behind terror, and how it seeks to destroy minds as well as bodies. This is something which many of us had never considered, that the violence caused was about instilling fear rather than being a solution.

When you get into the psychology of these operations you begin to learn far more about how the whole thing works. And so from a boring subject to one which we all loved, James Feldkamp was able to tap into our motivation and emotions, to give one of the best classes which I had throughout my time at the university.

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