Burdine Chronicles – September 2015 Letter from the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends,

The APSA conference is just around the corner and thus it is time once again for me to send out greetings, invite you to have a drink on me at the Texas reception (Thursday, September 3rd, 7 pm, Hilton, Union Square 22), and, of course, tell you about all the great things happening at the UT GOV department.

This is a time of much excitement and anticipation in the Department of Government. We are on the cusp of big changes carrying the promise of pushing us that much closer to our goal of being one of the country’s elite political science programs. Some of these changes are thanks to an influx of institutional support giving us the freedom to attract the discipline’s top faculty to Austin. Although we cannot make any official announcements just yet, I am confident the Faculty Investment Initiative (FII) launched last year will soon add some prestigious new faculty members to the UT GOV family. Stay tuned…

Incrementally, we have been improving thanks to the dedication of key department leaders and a steady commitment by our faculty and students to excel. For example, recently we have made some important improvements to our graduate program. Since becoming graduate advisor, Dan Brinks has implemented a host of reforms that are fine-tuning our graduate program and creating a more detailed, systematic map to help our students navigate their career path. Much of this consists of a renewed focus on the timeline and milestones of progressing through the program, ensuring, for example, that students are timing their research activities and publication submissions in sync with the job market cycle. Dan also undertook some simple, but significant changes to our admissions procedures, streamlining the process and making it more effective. Most importantly, we have directed more resources directly to our graduate students. With generous support from the College and Provost, along with investment of departmental resources, we have increased graduate recruitment packages and provided increased TA stipends for all our students.

Now, more than ever, the department is in a position to put diligent graduate students into a position of strength on the job market. On the back end of the program, our placement director, Wendy Hunter, has instituted important changes to ensure that our students are as well prepared as possible to excel when going on those critical job interviews. She has also made changes to our pedagogical training to make our students better teachers in the classroom.

For me, the proof is in the pudding. Last spring we admitted a new cohort of 18 talented students who have now arrived in Austin eager to start their graduate careers. Last year, we managed to place 19 out of 21 job candidates in academic positions (tenure-track, visiting professorships, and post-docs). Looking at this year’s list of job market candidates, I am struck by the pool of talent I see. I am also struck by the candidates’ breadth. We are producing scholars across a wide spectrum of the discipline – from international security, to electoral politics, comparative democratization, and the history of political thought. This breadth across the many subfields of political science has always been a positive feature of our department and continues to be part of our legacy as seen in this newest crop of job candidates. What’s more, the level of professionalization and achievement I see in these students leads me to believe that we are very close to some high-profile placements that, in the future, we might look back on as watershed moments in the department’s growth.

This work on the programmatic end is bolstered by continuing to do what we do best – research and teaching. At the APSA annual meeting Kurt Weyland will receive the comparative democratization section’s best book award – the third time since 2004 our department is taking home the honor. Indeed, we are cleaning up in the comparative democratization section’s awards this year, as Ken Greene is receiving the best paper award. On the teaching front, H.W. Perry received a Regent’s Outstanding Teaching Award, one of the university’s most distinguished – this would come as no surprise to anyone who has had the privilege of being taught by H.W.

In other faculty news, I would like to congratulate Jason Brownlee on becoming the department’s newest full professor, and welcome once again our new faculty – John Bullock and Zeynep Somer-Topcu join us as assistant professors, and Wendi Wang is our newest lecturer. Thank you to all the alumni who remain in touch and share their good news with us. Here I will just recognize the latest promotions to cross my desk – Jeremy Teigen is now professor at Ramapo College, David Williams is professor at DePaul, and Greg Michener is associate professor at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, in Brazil. To all our alumni, please keep news updates coming in, and keep the publications rolling. I hope to see many of you at APSA, either Thursday night, 7pm at the Texas Reception, or at one of the many presentations with UT connections throughout the conference.


Robert G. Moser
Professor and Chair