Burdine Chronicles – August 2013 Letter from the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from your new chair! We have enjoyed seven years of progress under Gary Freeman’s leadership, and I hope for nothing less than continuing to push the department forward. I am extremely grateful for the support I have received to date, and am excited about working with all of you to take the department to new heights.

This is a time of transition in the department, but one being buoyed by several positive developments. On the one hand, we are losing or have lost several faculty in a short period of time. Gretchen Ritter has become a dean at Cornell, Catherine Boone and Peter Trubowitz have accepted positions at the London School of Economics, Jason Casellas has accepted a tenured position at The Univerisity of Houston, and, in January, Sam Workman will move to Norman and become a Sooner. We have also seen a generation of scholars begin passing at an accelerated rate. One-time Longhorn James Soukup died last year, and earlier this year another one-time member of the department, Norm Frohlich, died after suffering a stroke. And within one week this month we lost our friends David Braybrooke and Bill Livingston. John Higley is now fully retired (although he just completed another book), and Henry Dietz, who just won a Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award, is entering phased retirement.

On the other hand, the work Gary Freeman did as chair is really starting to pay dividends. Despite the college and university still reeling from the $92 million cut in state appropriations two legislative sessions ago, Dean Diehl has approved two new hires for us this year, both at the junior level, one in comparative politics and one in public policy. We also have strong signals about opportunities for joint hires with other units on campus. These multiple new hires will further boost the new hires now settling in: Michael Findley in IR, Rachel Wellhausen in IR, Chris Wlezien as Hogg Professor in American and Policy, Maurizio Viroli in Theory, and Paula Newberg heading up the chair in Pakistan studies.

We are extremely grateful to the Dean for his continued support, especially on the heels of our very positive external review, conducted last Spring by Chris Achen (Princeton), Arlene Saxonhouse (Michigan), and Jim Stimson (UNC). Although the reviewers shared some concerns with unique aspects of our governance and questioned certain modus operandi, they were unequivocal in their praise: “[senior hires, such as Wlezien] have been complemented by excellent junior level hiring in each of the fields. If these people stay on board, UT’s future is brighter than its past … UT has been making good decisions with better than normal consistency … many of the major impediments to excellence are the result of financing and curricular decisions at the university level and especially at the state level.” We were also pleased that the response from the Provost’s Office was in agreement with the review, that Freeman’s leadership has “had a positive impact on the department” [and] “We note that the upper trajectory highlighted by the [External Review Committee] has been seriously curbed by our budget constraints.” It is therefore particularly encouraging that Dean Diehl has stepped in to ensure we keep moving in the right direction.

What makes me happiest, however, is that I can say this knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that we could hardly be more deserving. If awards handed out at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association are any indicator, we are on the cusp of something big. Bryan Jones is receiving the Norton Long Career Achievement Award, Chris Wlezien the Seymour Lipset Award, Rachel Wellhausen the Mancur Olsen Award, Kurt Weyland two best article awards and Michael Findley two best paper awards, Zach Elkins the Lijphart/Prezeworski/Verba Data Set Award, and one of our most distinguished alums, Janet Box-Steffensmeier is receiving a career achievement award in Political Methodology. Furthermore, Timothy Werner, an assistant professor in the new McCombs School program — Business, Government and Society — is receiving an Emerging Scholars Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section. Wow, and congratulations to all!

We also continue providing our students with first-class courses and instruction, as showcased by our faculty members’ continued success garnering teaching awards. This year, in addition to Henry Dietz receiving the Regents’ Award, our distinguished lecturer, Alan Sager, won a Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence, and Sean Theriault was selected by The Eyes of Texas to receive the Glenn Maloney Award for outstanding contributions to student life. And this is to say nothing of all the work our faculty, students, and alumni churn out on a regular basis. Keep up with everything (links are embedded in this letter and also posted below). And keep up with each other at APSA! The Texas Reception is Friday at 10 pm, and, of course, quite a few of us are presenting — here is the list we have compiled.

Finally, we have also been moving forward with promotions. Raul Madrid and David Leal join me in being promoted to full professor, and Stephen Jessee has joined the ranks of the tenured faculty. It is hard to think of three more deserving colleagues. I am also happy to congratulate Ami Pedahzur on his appointment as the Arnold Chaplik Professor in Israel and Diaspora Studies. And, it is my distinct honor to announce to you that one year ago Daron Shaw was named to the Frank Erwin Chair in State Government. As many of you will know, this is the chair long held by Dean Burnham, and one which we tried very hard to fill since Dean’s retirement. As it turns out, I know you will agree that Daron is the perfect choice, and we couldn’t be happier with how things have turned out.

There is no denying that we are entering a new chapter in the department’s history, but I hope you will agree that, while we will continue managing within the new budgetary realities, we have every reason to be optimistic and excited as we forge ahead.

Sincerely,

Robert G. Moser
Professor and Chair