Meet the Prof

In conversation with Dr. Robert Joustra

By: Anna Bailey, senior reporter


How long have you been teaching at Redeemer?

I’ve been teaching here since 2013. I was a student here from 2001-2005. I taught in Japan for a year, did a Masters degree at McMaster, and then worked for Cardus until 2013. While I was there I did my PhD part time in England. I’ve been teaching International Relations here since 2008only three years after I graduated!

How did you end up at Redeemer?

Even while I was doing my PhD I never thought I’d be in academia. I came to the areas I studied for practical reasons, but my passion grew when I realized you don’t always get the chance to study what you truly love. Students often can’t wait to be done with all the books, but you will never get this time in your life again!

I did my PhD part time as a hobby. I have a friend who told me, “I’m happy to talk in soundbytes, but I’m starting to think in soundbytes.” You need to be rooted, not only in tradition and scripture but consider the bigger ideas—not just the soundbytes. I never thought I would teach full time; it was a surprise to me.

What courses are you teaching right now?

I am teaching CTS-110, Intro to Politics, and a capstone course called “God and Global Order.” That is a research seminar where students write 6000-word papers. It’s intense but a lot of fun. It’s a good group of students; I’m not even sure if they need me there!

If you could invent any class and teach it what would it be?

I did invent one! A year and a half ago, I created and taught Comparative Political Islam. It was a wild class.

One of the courses nearest and dearest to my heart that I did get to reinvent is CTS-110. It’s the greatest hits, the reason Redeemer exists. I got to develop it with the other Dr. Joustra, my wife, which was fun. I got to discover how little I know.

Do you have any hobbies? What do you do in your free time?

I watch an unbelievable amount of trashy television. For five years I worked full time at a think tank, taught at Redeemer part time, and worked on my PhD part time. Those were all very serious things, and I needed an outlet. When Jessica first told my future mother-in-law about me, her mother said, “He sounds awfully boring!” She hadn’t even met me yet.

So I wrote a book called “How to Survive the Apocalypse” with Alissa Wilkinson. It tells the story of the anxieties of our contemporary age through popular television.  

You wrote a book to relax?

It was tons of fun to work on; this was my guilty pleasure! I could say, “Time to get serious about this and watch some Battlestar Galactica.”

What is your favourite TV show right now?

I’m loving the season of Star Trek Discoveryso well produced, good acting, and it returns to some of the original Trek themes; it’s a ton of fun. I watch it alone as Jess won’t watch this stuff with me. We watch Big Bang Theory together, and The Good Place.

What are some favourite places you’ve travelled to?

A lot of southeast Asia: Vietnam, South Korea, and China. I’ve also been to Vienna and worked for think tanks in Washington, so I’ve been to most of the States. I’m actually still on contract for a think tank in Washington; the academic thing never entirely took! I’ve also been to most European countries, except for some of the Scandinavian ones. Israel is one the most spectacular places I’ve been to.

What is the best part of teaching to you?

I don’t want to say something generic like “student interaction.”

I love when an idea or a book makes something click for a student in their life: something they never knew that they needed but suddenly realized that they did. I see the anger in students, and I remember experiencing it, when they ask why no one told them this before, why they didn’t know Christians had thought about a certain idea before. That’s the privilege of being eighteen; someone did tell youthey just did! You don’t just learn facts; the way you look at the world and the way you live in the world changes because of what you study and the texts you encounter.

What is the worst part of teaching to you?

I don’t love grading. There are different kinds of grading. Grading papers, especially research papers, is fun. It’s final exam grading that really breaks me.