Kate Knutson


Associate Professor and First-Term Seminar Program Director in Political Science

One of my very first political memories involves standing and waving on the side of the road next to giant cut out letters of a candidate's name on Election Day in Mt. View, Hawaii.  I was about five years old.  My interest in politics continued to develop and in high school I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. for a week through a program called Presidential Classroom.  A year later I won another week long trip to D.C. for an essay I wrote on the role of women and minorities in World War II. 

In my first semester of college at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, I took an introductory course on American politics from one of the toughest professors on campus.  I was scared to death of Professor Leichter, but also enthralled by his knowledge of American politics and history.  To this day, I still have the pages and pages of notes I took in his class that semester.  When the time came to choose a major, I did what any good Type A personality might do: I went through the entire Course Catalog and circled every class that looked interesting to me.  Sure enough, I ended up with nearly all of the courses in the Political Science department circled!

The opportunity to study political science at a liberal arts college had a deep and lasting impact on me.  The close relationships I developed with faculty and other students, the opportunities to work collaboratively on research with faculty, and the opportunities to conduct my own original research inspired my interest in pursuing a career as a college professor in the field of political science.

I left Linfield for a PhD program in Political Science at the University of Washington.  Here I had the opportunity to pursue my developing interests in the subfields of religion and politics, interest groups, public policy, and political communication. 

My dissertation research merged my interests in religion, interest groups, media, and policy, examining the question of why some public policy issues are framed in the media as "moral" issues, while others are not.  I found that religious advocacy groups were active in a variety of policy debates, making the argument that policies such as low income housing vouchers were indeed "moral" issues.  Journalists, however, generally resisted these attempts at framing.  Various portions of this research appeared in the article, “Breaking the Chains: Constraint and the Political Rhetoric of Religious Interest Groups,” (Politics and Religion, Vol.4, No. 2, (2011): 312-337) and the book chapter, “Same-Sex Marriage: The Impact of Religiously-Motivated Political Action on Public Policy” (in Church and State Issues in America Today, Steven Jones and Ann Duncan (Eds.), Praeger Publishers, 2007: 37-74).

After completing my PhD in 2005, I left the Pacific Northwest for the great state of Minnesota and Gustavus Adolphus College.  I joined a phenomenal department of award winning teachers, accomplished scholars, and caring mentors in the fall of 2005. 

At Gustavus, I primarily teach courses in American politics, including U.S. Politics and Government, Public Policy, Congress, Interest Groups, and Media and Politics.  I also regularly teach the Analyzing Politics course required for all Political Science majors.  Occasionally I have the opportunity to teach more unique courses such as the First Term Seminar course titled Fast Food and Society and January Term courses such as The Politics of Same Sex Marriage, Inauguration Politics (a travel course to Washington, D.C.), and Hawaii Beyond Tourism (a travel course to Hawaii).  My philosophy on teaching and learning is that students learn best when they can become fully involved in the learning process.  I strive to incorporate many active elements into my courses including regular small and large group discussions, service learning projects, field trips, group projects, films, guest speakers, and simulations. 

In addition to teaching, I also maintain an active research agenda at Gustavus, and have been fortunate to have had many students as collaborative partners. Several students have attended national conferences with me to present our research.  One of these conference papers developed into the journal article, “Sharing the Faith: How Religious Interest Groups Build Media Strategies” coauthored with Mikka McCracken ’09 and published in The Journal of Communication and Religion.  My most recent research project began with the help of Jackie Schwerm '11 who, with the support of a Presidential Faculty-Student Research grant, participated in interviews and data collection on the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition.  I recently completed a book based on this research, Interfaith Advocacy: The Role of Religious Coalitions in the Political Process

When I'm not teaching or researching, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, running, yoga, playing Settlers of Catan and Scrabble, watching Modern Family and Parks & Recreation, trying out new recipes, reading for fun (!), drinking coffee, and shopping garage sales.  I serve on the church council at my church, Two Rivers Vineyard Church in Mankato, and am an active volunteer for Royal Family KIDS Mankato, a camp for kids in the social services system.


B.A. Linfield College; M.A. and Ph.D. University of Washington

Courses Taught


FTS-100 (FTS:Fast Food & Society) and POL-312 (U.S. Congress)

Synonym Title Times Taught Terms Taught
POL-110U.S. Government and Politics162014/FA, 2012/FA, 2010/FA, 2010/SP, 2009/FA, 2008/FA, 2008/SP, 2007/FA, 2007/SP, 2006/FA, 2006/SP, and 2005/FA
POL-220U.S. Public Policy92015/SP, 2014/SP, 2013/SP, 2011/SP, 2010/SP, 2009/SP, 2008/SP, 2007/SP, and 2006/SP
POL-268Career Exploration52010/JN, 2009/JN, and 2007/JN
POL-200Analyzing Politics42014/FA, 2012/FA, 2009/FA, and 2009/SP
POL-312U.S. Congress42013/FA, 2009/FA, 2007/FA, and 2005/FA
POL-344ST: Interest Groups42011/SP, 2008/FA, 2008/SP, and 2007/SP
POL-099Senior Thesis42011/SP, 2008/FA, 2008/SP, and 2007/SP
FTS-100FTS:Fast Food & Society32013/FA and 2007/FA
POL-318American Presidency32010/FA, 2008/FA, and 2006/FA
POL-399Sem:Interest Groups22015/SP and 2013/SP
POL-202Politics of Same-Sex Marriage22008/JN and 2007/JN
NDL-268Career Exploration12014/JN
POL-115MN Politics & Govt.12014/JN
NDL-150Hawaii, Beyond Tourism12011/JN
POL-244Special Topic: Politics and Media12010/SP
POL-111Inaguration @ Wash, DC12009/JN