I was born in Cincinnati Ohio in 1983 and raised in Northern Kentucky. I grew up only seconds away — so close my backyard eventually bumped up to the parking lot of — Northern Kentucky University (NKU). I physically grew up in academia. I am named after my grandfather and father: Harold Nelson Orndorff and Harold Nelson Orndorff Jr. respectively. I am part of a long tradition of home education to which I owe credit to my mother, Cynthia Orndorff, an educator herself, who was ahead of her time in realizing that the smaller the class the better the educational experience.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, I attended NKU for my undergraduate education. I fell even more deeply in love with the academy and realized there were more fields I was interested in than I had time to actively pursue. I eventually alighted upon political science and philosophy in the honors college. While at NKU I was fortunate enough to be part of a progressive honors college where I was steeped in learning communities and seminar style classes as un undergraduate. I owe a great debt to many professors during this period for my intellectual life. The environment not only allowed, but required, students to think cross-disciplinarily. I have never forgotten the lesson.
During my undergraduate career I was highly involved politically and working on a number of campaigns in the Northern Kentucky area. No political Kentuckian has lived until they have experienced Fancy Farm, which I can happily say I have. If you haven’t you should read about it here. I was deeply intrigued on the intersection of the political life and the scientific study of politics. For me, the merging of these two seemed to be philosophy applied.
At the same time I was still continuing a lifelong affair with technology. As a young boy I had worked on programming Adam (Coleco Vision’s) Computer and had continued building my own computers well after undergraduate school. This emerging area of communication hadn’t yet merged with the mainstream, but it held a powerful place in my consciousness and I would like it to be noted in history I was the first NKU Student Government Association Vice-President, and candidate, with a website.
As I neared the end of my degree at NKU I was torn about what to do next. Part of me was intrigued by the law, but after sitting in on several law school classes at Chase College of Law, I realized that it was the underlying nature of human behavior, philosophy and science which truly motivated me. Days after taking the LSAT I would end up also taking the GRE. It was also during this hectic time that I would meet my future wife: Jennifer Kessler. She found me to be crazy and quirky, but I doubt she thought we would end up getting married!
After my undergraduate work at NKU, I was accepted with a graduate assistantship at Miami University (MU) in Oxford Ohio. At MU I would eventually complete both my M.A. and my Ph.D. in political science with specializations in American, comparative, and methods. After wandering in the wilderness, I would end up finding my research agenda in 2008. It would be the intersection of politics and the media, specifically presidential politics and social media. At the same time as working on my new area, I would get the chance to be teaching assistant for the Inside Washington program. I took a group of students to live, study and work in Washington, DC. It would be an inspiring moment to be writing in the Library of Congress.
For reasons still unclear to me Jennifer would end up being my wife as I finished up my Ph.D. She held through it and in 2011 I successfully defended my dissertation on the Obama presidency and social media use. It was not a particularly easy year for anyone in the behavioral and social sciences, but I was fortunate enough to have several opportunities and eventually take a position at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach Florida. It was also in 2011, less that two months after moving to Florida that my wife would give birth to our first son: Harold Nelson “TJ” Orndorff IV. Yes, we did that to him. And yes it undoubtedly aids in the confusion of humanity, but who could stop at “Trey”?
At DSC I had the privilege of working with some exceptionally talented individuals. Further, I would end up being awarded both by the college and the state as an outstanding researcher and teacher. As a result I would be recruited to work in our own honors learning community: QUANTA. I would work for seven years at DSC during which time we would have two more children: a second son named after my favorite political philosopher, Samuel James Locke Orndorff, and a daughter named Elizabeth Lynn Rose Orndorff.
Most recently in 2018 I was hired by Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. Here I have been blessed with the opportunity to pursue small class sizes and big dreams. I direct the political science program and you can find me most days in the American Heritage Building at one of the highest points in Oklahoma City. OC is a world class institution and the political science program here has the students to prove it.
My family now lives in Edmond Oklahoma.