Burdine Chronicles – April 2015 Letter from the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Among the many responsibilities of being chair, taking a few moments to brag about our department is one of my favorites. And this go-around, there is plenty to brag about, beginning with our faculty’s publication record.

In the past year we have published books with Cambridge, Chicago, Oxford, and Penn, covering topics and regions spanning the discipline and globe. Bat Sparrow’s biography of Brent Scowcroft has drawn national attention, including reviews in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

With five articles accepted in the American Political Science Review, including graduate student Lewis Fallis’ “Six Portraits of Political Ambition in Xenophon’s Memorabilia” and alum Aaron Herold’s “Tocqueville on Religion, the Enlightenment, and the Democratic Soul,” and six articles in AJPS, our journal record can only impress. We have also placed numerous articles in other noteworthy journals, including International Organization, BJPS, Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly,Perspectives on Politics, Political Science & Politics, Political Behavior, Electoral Studies, Studies in Comparative International Development, and Journal of Democracy.

Our graduate students have been following suit in producing quality work. In addition to the APSR article referenced above, two examples are the awards won by Peter Harris and Daniel McCormack. Peter Harris won the 2014 Marvin Gelber Essay Prize for the best article by a junior scholar in a volume of International Journal, and McCormack won the Stuart A. Bremer Award for the best graduate student paper delivered at the 2014 Peace Science Society meeting. These students’ success on the job market is not surprising. Peter has a tenure track position at Colorado State University, and McCormack has a postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Pennsylvania’s Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics.

We have placed other students this year in postdocs at Harvard, Stanford, McGill, Tulane, and Australian National University, and placed students in tenure track positions at Louisville, UT-Arlington, and Western Carolina. Students received tenure track job offers from Barnard, Singapore National University, and Illinois-Springfield. We also interviewed at a diverse group of schools, including Georgia, LSU, Georgetown, LSE, Providence, William & Mary, West Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Brandeis, College of the Holy Cross, UNC-Asheville, and Miami of Ohio.

This year has also seen increasing graduate student entrepreneurship. This is most evidenced by our first student-organized public law conference, spearheaded by Connor Ewing and Robert Shaffer. The two-day conference brought together leading emerging scholars from around the country and our distinguished faculty served as discussants. Conference papers were meant to bridge the intersection of political science, law, and public policy, something Shaffer and Ewing began in 2013 when they launched a public law lunch series to strengthen connections between our department, the law school, and LBJ School.

Graduate student efforts like this are supported by enterprising faculty whose research agendas bring new opportunities. Keeping with public law, Zach Elkins and his Constitute project has a team of graduate students in constant motion, working on various comparative constitutionalism projects. Mike Findley’s Innovations for Peace and Development Lab keeps about 50 graduate and undergraduate students busy with research projects. In fact, we have five undergraduate students presenting posters at the Midwest conference – all projects coming out of Findley’s lab. Further, Bryan Jones continues to maintain a bustling fifth floor in Mezes Hall with the Policy Agendas Project, and, in conjunction with Sean Theriault, the Pickle Research Program offers our undergraduates unique research experience. Additionally, we now have routinized department workshops in American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and experiments, all of which have added tremendously to the department’s vivacity and intellectual vigor.

Anchoring all these activities is faculty retention and recruitment, and there is more good news on this front. Jason Brownlee’s promotion to professor has been approved, and we have at least two new assistant professors joining us in the Fall — Zeynep Somer-Topcu, from Vanderbilt, and John Bullock, from Yale. But we have more hiring to come! The department has been selected by the Provost to participate in a targeted program to raise the university’s profile. As part of this faculty investment initiative, the department will be making up to 10 senior-level hires. We began this process with a search in international studies and are targeting three top-flight scholars. So, stay tuned… We are losing one colleague — Terri Givens received promotion to professor, but she is returning to the west coast to be Provost at Menlo College. We will miss Terri, but wish her all the best at Menlo.

On to some more awards! At Saturday evening’s MPSA business meeting, Rachel Wellhausen will receive an award (with Leslie Johns, UCLA) for the 2014 best paper in international relations. Among our alumni, last year, David Crockett received Trinity University’s Scott Faculty Fellowship for outstanding teaching and advising. This year, Oya Dursun-Ozkanca won Elizabethtown College’s Kreider Prize for Teaching Excellence (Oya is the award’s first recipient). Finally, we have some repeat winners! Manuel Balan, for the second year running, has won two best course prizes at McGill: best comparative politics course and best political science course. And once again, Danny Hayes beat out John Sides for GW’s best professor award.

For all of you who will be at Midwest, the Texas Reception will be Friday night, 10:00-11:30 pm in the Monroe Room. I hope to see you there!

Please keep up to date with department news at this site — sites.utexas.edu/government — and please let us know what you are up to!


Robert G. Moser
Professor and Chair