UCSD Professor Nathan Fletcher Running for County Supervisor after Five Years of Teaching

Photo courtesy of UCSD Communications.

Nathan Fletcher has held numerous positions in an illustrious career: Marine veteran, director for Qualcomm, and as many political science students at UC San Diego know, college professor.

But come November, you may see him in another capacity: Professor Fletcher is running for County Supervisor for District 4 of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

The 41-year-old announced his candidacy in July 2017. He seeks to replace longtime Supervisor Ron Roberts. His platform includes working toward tuition-free community college, pursuing a “Housing First” solution to homelessness, and establishing a county-wide Human Rights Committee. He has the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party, though the position is nonpartisan.

When asked why he is running, Fletcher answered, “If you’re motivated to serve others and make a difference and have a positive impact, you realize that you do that best by elected office.” He is dissatisfied with how the County of San Diego has performed in recent years and wants to guide the county government in a more active, progressive direction.

Fletcher has previously served two terms in the California State Assembly from 2008 to 2012. Elected both times as a Republican, he became an independent in 2012 during his first bid for the San Diego mayorship.

His departure from the Republican Party was nationally publicized. Fletcher had often gone against party policies, especially for social and environmental issues. His most prominent split came in 2010, when he spoke before the Assembly in support of Senate Joint Resolution 9, which called upon the federal government to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” military policy.

He became a Democrat in 2013 and made his second bid for the mayorship following the resignation of Bob Filner, securing the endorsement of both Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Fletcher was appointed the inaugural Professor of Practice at UCSD in 2013. Recalling his appointment, he admitted to feeling uneasy. He had long wanted to teach but was concerned about taking on a professorship without an advanced degree.

“I was a Marine,” he said. “And if someone said, ‘I want to be a Marine, but I don’t want to go to boot camp,’ we’d be like, ‘Nope.’ We all went through it.”

But the Professor of Practice position was designed explicitly for accomplished professionals without an academic background. The position allows Fletcher to use his practical knowledge of various political processes to engage with students, both by lecturing and by helping them to connect with the political world outside the university setting.

“I spend a lot of time mentoring students for career options,” he said. “One of the things I think maybe we can do a better job of in higher education is helping prepare you for those pathways into careers. And so I do a lot of extended office hours and I do a ton of introducing students to organizations or elected officials or political parties to get them internships into careers in politics.”

His classes usually bring in speakers who represent various political entities. The speakers describe their group or official and tell students about opportunities to get in touch with and work with them. Often, the speakers themselves are former students of Professor Fletcher, who acquired internships and jobs under his tutelage.

In helping his students, Fletcher tries to direct them to organizations that match their political tastes as closely as possible. He even offers students extra credit for working a political internship.

“If you’re a fairly conservative student, then I have a good relationship with [California State] Senator Joel Anderson—I’ve sent I-don’t-know-how-many interns his way. If you’re a more progressive student, you can go here. If you care about the environment, you can go there. [I can gauge] what your interest is, and then [help in] opening the door.”

However, Fletcher keeps his current candidacy out of the classroom. He does not discuss his campaign and only mentions it at the beginning of the quarter as a disclaimer. He also forbids students who are currently enrolled in his courses from helping his campaign in any capacity.

“I wouldn’t want any student to feel like someone got an unfair advantage [or to] feel like they had some obligation [to assist my campaign].”

During his five years at UCSD, Professor Fletcher has taught courses that cover topics ranging from California politics to the keys to successful, and unsuccessful, campaigns. Last quarter, he taught POLI 102D, a course that explores the history and effects of the Voting Rights Act.

Fletcher’s experience campaigning and engaging with different kinds of people manifests itself in the classroom. He often paces the room while he talks, sometimes resting a leg on an empty chair in the front row. He incorporates current events and pertinent videos into his lectures. He takes the time to work through a student’s question, even if it requires a more candid answer.

For instance, one student asked a guest speaker whether he truly believed in his candidate or whether he merely worked for them. Fletcher then discussed the difference between believing wholeheartedly in one’s candidate and believing in the general direction that the candidate represents, and that political workers must often confront this difference. He then offered a piece of advice: Although every political worker will experience a crisis of faith in their career, the remedy lies in supporting those who advocate for the values that they cherish the most.

Fletcher’s students are receptive to the combination of his engaging and animated lectures and the outside opportunities he introduces.

“Having Nathan Fletcher as a professor is honestly unlike any other instructor at UCSD,” said Caroline Siegel-Singh, Sixth College Associated Students Senator and second-year political science student. “He’s really passionate about the courses he teaches and is genuinely invested in the well-being [sic] and professional development of his students…I really think the way he teaches makes his classes perfect for second or third years looking to gain real-world experience in the field of political science.”

Regardless of the result of his current campaign, Fletcher intends to continue his professorship. If he wins the seat, he will try to teach at least one or two quarters per year.

“I enjoy being on campus and I enjoy the students,” he said. “And I like helping to open those doors and create those pathways and feel like I’m kind of mentoring the next generation.”

Ryan Maher is a Staff Writer for The Triton.

  • Marcus

    Eww another soft major in politics. That is the last thing the world needs and just because he is from UCSD (a STEM school) does not mean he is good at anything. We need people who actually have a working brain capable of analytical problem solving. Not more hot air.

  • Marcus

    Eww another soft major in politics. That is the last thing the world needs and just because he is from UCSD (a STEM school) does not mean he is good at anything. We need people who actually have a high level brain capable of complex analytical problem solving. Not more high school level hot air. Someone head over to the chem, physics, compsci, and math departments and tell those teachers to run please.

    • ekam

      bruh what lmfao

    • Marcus

      But “bruh” I am serious. I am sick and tired of lawyers, poli-sci dopes, bankers and spoiled brats who paid others to write their papers. The US is on the verge of a 2nd great depression. The middle class is being wiped out. I know your gen doesnt care (probably because you didnt see what happened to Russia nor did the last recession impact you) but I am gen-x, a UCSD (and SDSU) grad, and I do care. Its time for a fundamental change in human politics. We need intellectuals with high problem solving skills in office and making critical decisions. The weaker minds need to step aside gracefully not because I dont like them as people, but because they are not capable of consistently making good decisions. For instance, the use of the word “bruh” which I assume means “bro” but I only know that because I live in Cali and have surfer friends.

      When you are sick, do you see a doctor or a faith healer? Ever wonder why we dont give medical licenses to pastors, magicians, and weed dealers? We actually sort of did until around 1977. But we realize that people with science background make better decisions and thus make better doctors. Prior to that, you could go to med school with an English degree and zero science education. It didnt work out so well for patients.

      If you want to fix a complex system (societal and economic problems) you need someone with the skill to analyze and solve complex problem. A faith healer is not going to cut it. Poli-sci majors are basically similar to faith healers in this capacity. I cant believe it is still a major in a university along with things like English, and other silly stuff that can be learned over a weekend.

    • Arash Akbar

      You don’t seem to understand what Political Science is

    • Marcus

      Nope. My sister is an Ivy league lawyer and she would slap you up top the head if she were here. You are wrong 100%. Poli Sci DO NOT learn critical thinking skills. None of the majors outside of STEM learn critical thinking. What you learn to do is memorize and apply what they memorized to whatever they do in the future. This is not critical thinking, this is “monkey see, monkey do.” That said, memorizing things does grant wisdom of a certain field, but does not make them problem solvers because; A) you dont practice muti-variable, complex problem solving very much and thus B) the minute they are presented with something outside their field, they are completely useless although they are good at pretending they know what they are saying.The problem with politics is that you need to be a mutli-disciplined problem solver with a solid critical thinking background and some math ability because invariably, you are making decisions that involve numbers and a lot of variables.

      STEM majors, on the other hand, are expected to learn how to dissect the most complex of system into its working parts so that they can understand how it happens. They do this all day every day for about 4 years. How often do you do stuff like that? Once a semester maybe? The rest of the time you are just trying to figure out what the professor wants for a good grade like good little students.

      That said, not all STEM majors are the same and certainly, depending on where you get the education, some dont do that at all (more acute in other countries but still happens here) and just focus on practical application of tools which is basically what you seem to believe constitutes “critical thinking.” Its also possible for students to complete a STEM degree without learning anything but just memorizing and passing tests. I went to UCSD and tutored many people who are now doctors. They still cant solve a physics problem if their lives depended on it but I would still take them over you. At least they know how to get the answer even if they cant derive it intellectually.

    • whtbbb

      Quite a lot of false statements from someone claiming to be so smart.

      You can go to medical school with a BA in English. All medical schools require is a set of coursework: calculus, biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, etc.

      You do not need a STEM major.

      Beware long, pontificating posts with someone with basically little to no knowledge.

    • Marcus

      Beware of people who use reductio ad absurdem to make their point.

      You know a lot of people who only major in English and still complete the set of courses you listed? Its not practical and although it can happen, I think we can safely say that the numbers are very small. Further, those requirements only came to play around 1977 and practically speaking, if you have finished said courses you will have earned about 2 STEM minors or AS degrees, possibly 3.

      Also, if someone actually finishes the above courses, some of which are upper divisions such as O-Chem, some of the calc and some of the bio, you would be about 1 year out from completing a BS/BA STEM degree anyway. Those are the hard courses. Everything else is super easy. They would most likely complete the degree.

    • whtbbb

      The number of courses required for medical school admission is not large and not that close to a BS major at a reputable school.

      Not sure what the requirements were at UCSD for you. I know it’s not a top school like Harvard, Stanford, Caltech, MIT, Berkeley, etc., but as a mid-tier school I am sure the requirements for a BS are much more than the med school post bac reuqirements.

    • Marcus

      I said you would need 1 more year (or about 9 upper div semester courses or 12 quarter courses) for a BS degree. That is fairly universal across the colleges you list. I also said that if you have the med school requirements done those alone probably earned a minor or associate degree.

      Most medical school require about 8 semester courses in sciences for entry. 4 chem, 2 bio & 2 physics. Some require more, some less, but in general, you need at least those for the MCAT.

      Those would qualify you for a minor or associate degree in chemistry and probably also biology. Depending on where you go and whether or not you did the calc-based versions, it may also qualify for a physics minor.

      But wait, we are not done. To reach the 2 years of physics you need to have reached or completed at least calc 1 in most universities. In the calc-based physics programs, you need to reach at least calc 2 for better foundation in electromagnetism math (namely infinite series and such) and some will want advanced calc (or calc 3).

      Next, college rankings are a farce. They are paid for by special interest groups or are generally administered by groups with relations to their top ranked colleges. Its a marketing tools to sell magazines (or in modern times, get clicks). They are not based on actual education quality but rather other stuff like campus services, job outlook, and money (how much they have). Ivy league colleges are really only considered such because of who goes there and how much money they have. They have a high percentage of kids from rich and powerful families which means that you are more likely to get a high paying job by going there and making friends with these kids simply due to association.

      But most of the numbers are meaningless like job outlook. Many Ivy league students already have a job lined up for them through family or friends so it greatly skews the job outlook numbers for said schools when they had nothing to do with the job outlook. Their education however, is no different than anywhere else.

      Ive worked with grads from Yale (and I am sure other Ivy league uni’s, but I never asked), and the Yale guys were just about the worst programmers I have ever worked with and those guys had at least 2 years of experience at their jobs. I would have taken no-name college programmers from Brazil or India over them and those guys tend to work harder. Actually I would take high schoolers and teach them myself over 6 months than hire those Yale twits to write anything for me.

    • whtbbb

      Stanford, MIT, and Berkeley are not Ivy League schools. They are universities far superior in STEM than UCSD. And it’s not because of connections for jobs. It’s because they have the best STEM faculty in the world getting the grants and doing the top research.

      I’ll take you at your word on what the BS requirements are at UCSD. They seem thin.

    • whtbbb

      And you are wrong on how college rankings are determined. Some is based on resources (which is why public schools unfairly suffer), but a lot is based on how selective the admissions are (which is market driven voting with your feet). It’s why Berkeley and UCLA are ranked above UCSD. You have to be a lot smarter to get into Berkeley as compared to UCSD and the experience of being with that caliber of student is baked into the ranking.

    • Marcus

      Lol if you think that is a basis for ranking schools then I have some magic beans to sell. Interested?

    • whtbbb

      You definitely sound like someone who is still pissed about getting rejected from Stanford, MIT, Caltech, Berkeley, and UCLA

    • Marcus

      There is no such thing as “superior” in STEM. And most certainly, Berkeley is not. Its only well known for CS due to its location. Not that any of that matters.