Burdine Chronicles – April 2019

Dear Alumni and Friends,

This newsletter is somewhat bittersweet for me. This is my last semester as chair, and thus my last newsletter. With that in mind, I hope to see many of you in Chicago at the MPSA conference. The Texas Reception is Saturday night, April 6, 8:30-10:30, in the Honore room. I hope you will give me the pleasure of handing you a drink ticket one more time.

As always, we have plenty to celebrate. Recently, I am especially encouraged by the success that our alumni and graduate students have been enjoying. For example, in Fall 2019, Steven Brooke moves on from Louisville to start a tenure-track position at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which I and my predecessor, Gary Freeman (being proud UW PhDs), have always maintained is the top department in the country. This comes on the heels of Brooke publishing his book with Cornell, Winning Hearts and Votes: Social Services and the Islamist Political Advantage. We have other exciting placement news as well. Ken Miller, coming off a Princeton post-doc, will begin a tenure-track position at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Miller’s article, “The Divided Labor of Attack Advertising in Congressional Campaigns,” is forthcoming in Journal of Politics. Christina Bambrick will begin a tenure-track position at Clemson; Thomas Bell a tenure-track position at Knox College; Nadine Gibson a tenure-track position at UNC-Wilmington; Kyosuke Kikuta a tenured position at Osaka University; Joe Tafoya a tenure-track position at DePaul; and Michelle Whyman a tenure-track position at Florida State. Matthew Wright’s book A Vindication of Politics: On the Common Good and Human Flourishing, has been published by University Press of Kansas, and Wright has some exciting news about a prestigious visiting appointment for 2019-20 that should be ready soon for public announcement. Giorleny Altamirano Rayo’s dissertation, “Securing Territory: State Interests and the Implementation of Ethnic Land Rights in the Americas,” won the Western Political Science Association’s best dissertation award, and Kate Bersch’s book, When Democracies Deliver: Governance Reform in Latin America, has been published by Cambridge. And Trey Thomas has won UT-Arlington’s President’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

I am also pleased to note some of the many ways that our faculty members continue to impress. First, a note about promotion. In Fall 2019 four associate professors will be promoted to full professor: Dan Brinks, Devin Stauffer, Jeff Tulis, and Scott Wolford. Congratulations to these four most-deserving candidates! A quick word about two of these professors. Devin Stauffer’s book, Hobbes’s Kingdom of Light, will be the focus of an author meets critics roundtable at Midwest, at 8am Friday morning. And Scott Wolford’s new book, The Politics of the First World War: A Course in Game Theory and International Security, is available from Cambridge University Press. Other faculty members continue to make waves as well. Kurt Weyland and Raúl Madrid have published their edited volume, When Democracy Trumps Populism, and Tom Pangle’s next book, The Socratic Founding of Political Philosophy: Xenophon’s Economist, Symposium, and Apology, has an expected 2020 release from Chicago. Bryan Jones, Sean Theriault, and Michelle Whyman’s new book, The Great Broadening: How the Vast Expansion of the Policymaking Agenda Transformed American Politics, will be published with Chicago in June 2019.

In the category of “making waves,” Nate Jensen is something of a media phenomenon. Jensen and graduate student Calvin Thrall released in February a white paper, “Who’s afraid of sunlight? Explaining opposition to transparency in economic development.” Since January 2019, the College public relations team has collected more than 500 media clips mentioning Jensen’s work on economic development incentives, which far outpaces any other faculty member at UT. Bethany Albertson has won a President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award, Zach Elkins’ project, Constitute, has been made available in Spanish, Amy Liu received a President’s Award for Global Learning to lead a team of undergraduates student maternal mortality rates in Europe, Russia, and the Caucasus, and Zach Elkins, Ken Greene, and Eric McDaniel have received Provost’s Authors Fellowships to support their current book projects. Finally, this Spring we hosted the Southern Political Science Association’s annual meeting. Organized by Chris Wlezien, this year’s Southern was the association’s most well-attended meeting on record.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to a couple of faculty members who are retiring or entering phased retirement after this semester – Jim Enelow and David Prindle. Our many thanks and best wishes go out to both of them. Another fine colleague, Paula Newberg, left the department at the end of the Fall semester to return to DC. We wish her the very best.

As my time as chair comes to end, I can’t help but to get a bit introspective. I became chair in 2013, and sent my first newsletter before that Fall’s APSA conference. At the time, we were coming off our most recent external review. The external reviewers noted that a 2-2 teaching load is standard at a leading research university, but that the number of students our faculty teach is well above the norm and thus our teaching load is “very difficult to reconcile with a scholarly career.” A key part of our teaching load, of course, is the introductory sequence of GOV 310 and 312. On this front, I believe we have made important changes that have lessened this teaching burden for the bulk of our faculty by introducing online courses. Make no mistake, we are teaching more students than ever. Our count for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019 had us teaching more than 9,000 students across 310 and 312. However, we have succeeded in shifting this burden away from the majority of our faculty. Our online course offerings routinely teach nearly half of these students, while graduate assistant instructors and non-tenure track faculty teach the bulk of the rest. Every semester a few tenured and tenure track faculty also contribute significantly to this teaching load, but overall, I believe the innovations we have pursued, especially the online course offerings, have been a net positive for the teaching burden carried by the bulk of the department. Simultaneously, we have been a stand out department within the College given the disproportionate college-wide teaching burden we are carrying.

Two other areas that the external report flagged for improvement were faculty leaves and graduate funding. I will be the first to admit that the progress we have made on these two issues is not adequate, but I am pleased that we have been able to make some progress. Again, the progress we have made can be attributed to our online course offerings. In Fall 2019, two faculty members will receive a semester-long research leave that is a product of an agreement with the Dean that translates our large enrollments in online courses into extra faculty leaves. Moreover, beginning in Fall 2019 we are giving an across-the-board increase in graduate student teaching assistant stipends with money generated by online course enrollments through University Extension. To reiterate, in neither of these cases is the progress we have made sufficient. We would still welcome and benefit greatly from a systematic sabbatical policy. And our graduate students have been suffering for too long as their wages have not kept pace with Austin’s increasing cost of living. We continue to work to improve this situation, and will continue doing so. Thanks to some generous programs from the Provost, Graduate School, and College, in combination with department resources we have been able to allocate toward this effort, we are pleased that we have been able to make some improvements, even if we wish we could do more. Improving the graduate student experience here I am sure will always remain a priority.

Serving as department chair has been an unforgettable experience and a great honor. I appreciate all of your support over these past six years. While there were always surprises waiting for me around the corner, what has remained consistent is the professionalism and high level of scholarship and teaching provided by our faculty, students, and alumni. I want to thank all of you for contributing to the department’s record of academic excellence. I hope to see you in Chicago.


Robert G. Moser
Professor and Chair