Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Phil Warf
Associate Professor of Political Science, Phil Warf, hails from Memphis, Tennessee, where he grew up in “Elvis Presley Country.” Seven years old when Elvis died, he says the star's death was a blow for the City of Memphis. “Everyone in Memphis remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when Elvis died,” Warf says. Years later, while doing public opinion research in Beiruit, Lebanon, he noticed, among the portraits of dignitaries on the wall of the hotel where he was staying, a huge photograph that seemed out-of-place. “It was a giant portrait of Elvis!” laughs Warf. “Even in the Middle East, I could not get away from Elvis!”
In his fourth year at Mendocino College, Warf holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Memphis, and a Master of Arts degree in international relations from the University of South Carolina. He started his professional career working in partisan politics in Washington D. C., working for the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 presidential elections. Later, he was employed by a consulting firm to conduct public opinion polls and focus groups. He was working as a research associate for a think tank in Washington, when he started his own research firm, which he later moved to Arizona.
One of his graduate school professors was now at the University of Arizona (UA), and he offered Warf a job teaching part-time. Warf says he immediately fell in love with teaching, and knew he wanted to make a career change. He taught political science part-time at UA for four years, until he was hired at Mendocino College in 2007.
Warf's passion is engaging students in issues they consider important. He notes that in our system of government, wealthy and special interests have a great deal of influence, but he does not want his students to become cynical or to feel alienated on that account. He attempts to turn their disillusionment into a sense of empowerment, by developing an understanding that average people can change things, especially at the local level. While Warf's favorite class is International Relations, he also enjoys teaching American government, as well as a research methods class in the psychology department.
Warf says the best part of his job is being able to help students broaden their horizons and prepare for new career opportunities. The most challenging part of his job is teaching students with a wide range of abilities, which takes more creativity and more one-on-one interaction than he expected, but also provides immense satisfaction when they succeed.
Most people may be surprised to learn that as a student, Warf was terrified of speaking in class. He feels that one of his greatest accomplishments has been overcoming his fear of public speaking, a fact he shares with timid students.
As the faculty advisor for student government, Warf has taken the Associated Student Body (ASB) officers to events in Washington D.C., where they have had an opportunity to interact with Congressman Mike Thompson, and students from all over the country. He also travels with ASB officers to statewide student government meetings, and makes an annual trip with them to Sacramento, where they have a chance to lobby legislators on education issues.
Warf and his wife, Haji, have a farm in Lake County, where they grow walnuts, and plan to start growing vegetables commercially this year. They share the farm with two horses, two dogs, and two cats. Warf has an adult step-daughter, Lauren, who also lives in California.