Syed Mahmud Raza Rizvi, won a fellowship from The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, the premier graduate school fellowship for immigrants and children of immigrants in the United States to support work towards a JD at Harvard University. While at UT, Syed was elected as vice president of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS). Traveling the country hosting empowerment seminars for blind students, Syed chaired the NABS’ legislative committee and worked to remove arbitrary barriers within higher education through policy making. Syed cofounded the NABS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and as the appointed Central Texas field director for the NFB, he traveled to Capitol Hill, promoting domestic policies and international treaties to empower the disabled in academia.Syed was named a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate and graduated in 2020.
Rudy Metayer, class of 2003, and a 2006 graduate of the School of Law, is running his first political campaign, hoping to win election to the Pflugerville City Council: http://www.vote4rudy.com/.
Metayer is Special Advisor to Procurement and Contracting Services for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, a member of the Pflugerville Finance and Budget Committee, President of the Austin Black Lawyers Association, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Young Lawyers Association.
The world of political campaigning is nothing like what it used to be. And the change is not just about social media and the emergence of new technologies. These are critical parts of the story, but only when combined with the reliable data that campaigns can use to get the right message to the right people.
We have learned a lot in recent years about election campaigns. As Distinguished Teaching Professor and Regents Outstanding Teacher Daron Shaw explains in this video, political scientists have increasingly turned to experimental data to determine the effectiveness of campaigns. And as Sasha Issenberg discussed in this Texas Politics Speaker Series Video, and in his book, The Victory Lab, there has been a scientific revolution in campaigns based on these field experiments, combined with commercial marketing tools providing individual-level data that campaigns use to statistically model voting behavior.
Now, a Department of Government alumnus is helping this revolution continue and evolve. Simultaneously, philanthropic donations to the department are providing students new opportunities to forge a career path at the intersection of technology and political communication.
Jeff Mason graduated from the Department of Government in 2003. Inspired by his classes with professors such as Daron Shaw, Jeff entered the world of political consulting. From 2006-2008, he was the director of targeting and voter contact at the Republican National Committee, and he is now senior director of data structure and targeting at Targeted Victory, a digital advertising agency.
Jeff’s current story begins with a 2014 “Off the Grid National Survey” sponsored by Targeted Victory, Google, Public Opinion Strategies, Global Strategy Group, and Well & Lighthouse. The survey demonstrates the decreasing effectiveness of reaching key voters through live TV advertising and the increasing importance of streaming, smartphone and tablet viewing, as well as viewing recorded TV through TiVO or DVR, which allows viewers to skip through commercials (obviously bypassing political ads in the process).
Jeff’s work involves deploying technology that can win elections in this new campaign environment. A central component is a more scientific approach to reaching the target audience, and driving down the cost of doing so. Targeted Victory’s audience-based television makes it possible for small-budget campaigns to run their operations with the sophistication of the big media buyers, and their new advertising platform makes it possible to coordinate media buys across all platforms with a few clicks of the mouse. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Borrowing lessons and personnel from Silicon Valley, political operatives are figuring out how to harness big batches of data to upend the multi-billion dollar business of American politics.”
On campus, the recently endowed Applied Political Strategies Scholarship is giving students an opportunity to get involved in this fast-evolving world. Traditionally, department internship programs have focused on legislative or executive branch opportunities. This new scholarship opens doors for students whose primary interest is in running and winning election campaigns.
“The APS Scholarship allows UT students the opportunity to develop and apply their theoretical and analytical knowledge in real campaigns,” says Professor Shaw. “Listening to professors and reading the research is one thing, but trying to understand the connection between voters and candidates in a live election is an invaluable experience for anyone interested in democratic politics.”
Charles Jackson (B.A. 1983) is running for election to AISD School Board District 5.
Trey Roberts (B.A. 1999) officially launched his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. Roberts was the first to file for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in the newly created Texas 34thCongressional District. Roberts is an attorney at Roberts & Roberts, PLLC and a lecturer at the Red McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas. He also as the President and on the Board of Directors for the Marley Memorial Foundation, a charitable nonprofit organization that grants scholarships for deserving students to attend college.
Emily Brandt (B.A. 2010) has been awarded a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Chinese in China during the summer of 2011. Brandt is among the approximately 575 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students who received a scholarship from the U.S. Department of State’s CLS Program to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla/Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Turkish, or Urdu languages. The 2011 CLS Program received over 5,200 applications.
The Department of Government is indebted to Betty Dooley Awbrey, who has agreed to a planned estate gift in honor of her father, Claude Dooley, to support graduate fellowships in the Department of Government. Betty Awbrey received her B.A. in Government in 1970, received M.A. degrees from Texas Tech and UT-San Antonio and made a career as a public educator. This is the type of private philanthropy that can take the Department of Government to the next level. The entire department extends its thanks to Betty Awbrey.