Allen Springer: A Life at Bowdoin
January 28, 2022
Characterized by his amiable strolls across campus and his preference for 12-point single-spaced Times New Roman font, Professor Allen Springer has become a staple of the Government and Legal Studies department at Bowdoin. Boasting a spectacular record of 45 years teaching at the College, he has maintained a steadfast reputation as an articulate teacher in each and every class he looks over. Since September 1976, Springer has taught and advised thousands of Bowdoin students. Now it is time to shine the spotlight on him.
Turning to what has to be one of the most accessed websites on campus, ratemyprofessors.com, Springer is currently rated an impressive 4.8/5, with 100% of reviewers saying they would take a class with him again. Feedback posted on May 1, 2013 from a former Bowdoin student states, “I took Springer several times almost 30 years ago! He was fantastic then! Glad to hear he still is!” Another, posted on January 30th, 2012, exclaims, “Extraordinary professor! Brilliant guy, facilitates discussions well, and is extremely accessible outside of class … Even if Gov isn’t your thing, take at least one class with Springer before you graduate.” It is impressive how Springer’s reputation precedes him in terms of how his classes and teaching style would benefit anyone who gets the chance to learn under him, regardless of their field of interest.
Earning his Bachelors of Arts from Amherst College and his Ph.D. from Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Springer is clearly a big fan of the NESCAC circuit.
“I had always wanted to go to a small liberal arts school. My dad taught at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY, and I had a cousin who had been to Amherst [College], and I visited it,” Springer said. “It just seemed like the right kind of place for me.”
He later chose Tufts for its wide-ranging International Relations program. However, his path toward Bowdoin was not a clearly defined one.
“Well, you know, as much as I enjoyed both of those places, when I was still at Fletcher, I was not thinking about going into teaching at all. What I thought I was going to do originally was work in international environmental law,” Springer explained.
However, Springer was asked to teach at Bowdoin for a term, and he took the chance. That one term became two, and eventually Springer surprised himself with his decision to remain at Bowdoin.
“I guess I really fell in love with teaching. It was something I really didn’t plan for at all. It just sort of fell into my lap,” Springer said.
“I’ve always felt comfortable in schools like Bowdoin. So if I were ever going to teach, which I really wasn’t convinced I was going to do, it would be at a place like Bowdoin where the size was what it was and where I have a lot of freedom in terms of the courses I would teach,” Springer said. “That’s why I’m a terrible advisor when it comes to people looking for their futures, because I have this tendency to say ‘just see what happens and take advantage of opportunities.’ That’s really what I do.”
This past fall, Springer taught the first-year writing seminar “Pursuit of Peace” along with international law. This semester, he teaches an advanced seminar in international relations and an introduction to international relations course.
“The size of the community [and] the relationship between the College and the community [provided] a great opportunity in Brunswick to get to know a lot of people who weren’t connected with the College,” Springer said while reflecting on what he has enjoyed most about the Brunswick community.
“I did spend six interesting years on the Brunswick school board. My wife and I had an understanding that if our kids were going to go to the public schools in Brunswick, we really had to be involved at the time … It was something else that really connects you to the community in a way that’s really different from simply being a faculty member at Bowdoin,” Springer added.
He also noted that he has enjoyed coaching local baseball and soccer teams in the area.
Springer has witnessed the evolution of the student body and the school itself over the decades, especially regarding the diversification of the student body.
“I always like the spirit and the engagement of Bowdoin students—very active, very independent. But now that we had more and more kids coming from different backgrounds, it really made it that much more of an interesting place [in which] to teach,” Springer said.
However, his advice to students remains the same as it did years ago.
“Take chances and explore areas that you don’t feel as comfortable in. Take advantage of the opportunities Bowdoin provides, particularly in terms of academic subjects to work in unfamiliar areas,” he said.
To students preparing to graduate and move on to pursue their interests, Springer advised, “Beyond Bowdoin, just thinking about my own experiences, just be open to new ideas and take advantage to explore a little bit. Don’t feel trapped very quickly. Honestly, for most, two or three years out there in the world, doing something that isn’t necessarily where your profession is going to lie, is an intrinsically great experience. It could open you up to ideas about doing things you wouldn’t have thought [about] otherwise.”
Springer’s 46 years at Bowdoin are a testament to his passion for teaching and his talent for asking for the best out of his students while also steadily guiding them through life as a Polar Bear. Thanks for all you do, Professor!
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