Burdine Chronicles – October 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The more perceptive among you will notice that this edition of the Burdine Chronicles is coming to you long after APSA – such as it was – is over. We could say, “COVID has upended the world and everything is crazy,” but instead we’re going to claim we have been waiting on a few developments to crystalize so that we can share the most up-to-date news with you (which turns out to be at least half true).

First, bucking the national trend, we are conducting two faculty searches this Fall – an open rank search in Racial and Ethnic Politics (REP) and a junior search in Methods. Please share broadly and let us know of any great candidates! Here is the link to the Methods ad. You can find the Racial and Ethnic Politics ad here.

Second, we have organized two election roundtables – an election preview October 29 at 5 pm (Sean Theriault, Bethany Albertson, Tasha Philpot, Jim Henson) and an election review November 10 at 5 pm (Daron Shaw, Alison Craig, Hannah Walker, Eric McDaniel).  Participation is open, but registration is required. We hope many of you can join us.

We recorded another installment in our ongoing, occasional Reflections series. This time we had a great conversation with Pat McDonald and Rob Moser on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and US foreign policy on the global system. We talk about the collapse of the consensus that sustained that global order for so many years, about how that affects US capacity to be a global leader, and how the pandemic has accelerated trends that had been brewing for years, and that underpinned the election of Donald Trump.

Closer to home, it turns out the Government Department at the University of Texas at Austin is not the sole occupant of its own universe. Like many other organizations and most of society, since last Spring we have been engaged in an extended conversation on diversity and inclusion. Raúl Madrid led a diversity task force this Summer and Fall to address these issues.

The conversation and the work of the task force have pushed us to innovate in a number of ways that we think will make us a stronger department. We are hopeful that the REP search mentioned above will bring an exciting new scholar to the department. With strong support from Dean Ann Stevens, of the College of Liberal Arts, we are working diligently to establish a REP research lab that will be co-led by Amy Liu and Eric McDaniel, and that will seek to blend Americanist and Comparative approaches to the study of Racial and Ethnic Politics. Although nothing is yet final, we are hopeful that the lab will become a space for innovation and collaboration across fields, one that will bring together faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, and in conjunction with the REP Lab, we are pursuing a new postdoc program spearheaded by the university’s Vice Provost for Diversity. If we are successful, this program will bring two postdocs to the Department for three years, to work on REP research. At the end of the three years there may well be another position opening up in REP.

Given that you inhabit the same universe we do, I would love to hear about the conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion happening on your campuses. Drop us a line to share what you’ve learned and what you are doing differently.

Speaking of the Zeitgeist, we continue adapting to our new teaching environment in the age of COVID. This fall we have expanded our menu of made-for-virtual online classes. Sean Theriault and Bethany Albertson are teaching a new virtual-native elections class; Eric McDaniel and Daron Shaw are teaching their Gov 310 online; and Pat McDonald and Rob Moser continue to teach their very successful Gov 312 online. In addition, Stephen Jessee has developed a virtual-native Methods class that debuted this summer and is on again this Fall. These are all excellent courses we will be teaching online long after we return to “normal” – whatever that might look like. Many others have adapted their standard in-person classes to hybrid and online formats. This department is full of gifted and committed teachers and COVID hasn’t changed that. Our enrollments are up by nearly one thousand students over last Fall.

Of course, in keeping with tradition, we are here to celebrate the many achievements of our alumni, our students, and our faculty! You can find recent alumni news here, but let me highlight a couple of the less traditional contributions our alums have made.

Johnny Meyer, who earned his PhD this past year, received the TISTA Tech Veteran Academic Leadership Award for his role in creating Veterans’ Voices, a state-wide humanities project. Veterans’ Voices brings soldiers and civilians together to break the silence around the experience of war. The project is sponsored by Humanities Texas, and has received two consecutive grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In addition to publishing a NY Times Op-Ed on criminal justice on Native American lands (This 19th Century Law Helps Shape Criminal Justice in Indian Country), David Heska Wanbli Weiden (PhD 2007) has published Winter Counts, a crime novel that takes place on a Native American reservation. His novel was chosen as a Best Book by Amazon, Apple Books, Oprah Magazine, Time, The Washington Post, and other outlets.

You can find additional recent alumni publications here. They include books and articles in prominent journals, as well as op-eds and other contributions, underlining the wide range of interests our alumni have, and the contributions they make. Be sure to send us your publications, as I’m sure there are many more we are not listing, just because we don’t know about them.

Our alums are moving up and moving around too. You can find the news of alumni promotions and jobs here. And we keep adding to the alumni list. Please join me in congratulating recent graduates, and their placements.

But just because our former students are doing lots of interesting things doesn’t mean our faculty have been idle. You can find recent faculty accomplishments here, and you can stay generally up to date by checking in with our blog.

These are interesting times, for sure. The challenge for us is not merely to survive them, but to learn from them and emerge stronger than ever. In the Government Department at UT we are working as always to make our department better, through new hires, self-reflection and improvement, new approaches to teaching, and continuing efforts to produce research that matters. I’m sure you are all doing the same, and I look forward to hearing from you on the many ways in which you too are constantly innovating and improving.

Be well and keep in touch.

Dan Brinks