I am an associate professor in the department, having joined UMBC in 2015. I hold a Ph.D. in political science and an M.S. in applied statistics from Indiana University. When not conducting research on American public opinion, media and politics, and the scholarship of teaching and learning, you can probably find me on a hike, in the pool, or playing with my lab mix, Gus. Originally from Cary, N.C., I received my B.A. at the University of North Carolina, and I will consequently talk your ear off about Tar Heel basketball whenever I am given the opportunity.
Q: What led you to become a political scientist?
A: Though I arrived at college fascinated by the world of politics, I had no idea that I’d wind up devoting my career to the study of political science. On a whim, I enrolled in a First Year seminar which asked students to roleplay as expert consultants who advise fledgling democratic regimes. For the first time I found myself asking questions about American democracy that I couldn’t just ‘Google’—the answers simply hadn’t been discovered yet. I started to dig deeper into the study of public opinion, political inequality, the news media, and political psychology. Unbeknownst to me, I was preparing myself to become a producer of knowledge, not just a consumer. When I realized the most fun part of my day was writing research papers, I knew I had found my calling as a student of political behavior.
Q: What kinds of research questions are most interesting to you?
A: I am chiefly interested in how Americans interpret factual information and make political decisions on the basis of those perceptions and judgments. More specifically, much of my prior and ongoing research examines how political partisans (mis)interpret developments in the American economy. In addition, I’m a big proponent of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (a.k.a. SoTL). My SoTL research examines how to improve student writing assignments, as well as how to provide more effective feedback to students’ writing.
Q: What ideas, skills, or experiences do you hope students will come away with after having taken a class with you?
A: As a pragmatist, I have a real sensitivity to the fact that UMBC political science majors want to hit the job market with marketable skills. To that end, I hope that students get a taste of research design, quantitative data analysis, applied critical thinking, multimedia design, and communication skills in any and all of my courses. But as a proponent of the liberal arts, I also believe that there is much more to a classroom experience than a checklist of super cool skills that students can put on a resume. I want students to develop habits of lifelong self-directed inquiry that will allow them to further challenge their own preconceptions, biases, and assumptions. My ultimate goal as an educator is to encourage engaged, critical citizenship.
Q: What can POLI majors do with their degrees?
A: In my (possibly biased) opinion, UMBC political science is a dream come true for undergraduates. The opportunities for one-on-one faculty interaction is akin to the experience at a selective liberal arts college. The opportunities for performing undergraduate research also favorably compare to those at the highest echelon of research institutions. If students take advantage of these opportunities, they will position themselves as highly competitive candidates for a variety of really exciting careers. Obviously research skills are crucial for careers in higher education, nonprofit research, and consulting. But our majors are also experts in political processes and institutions, which make them great candidates for jobs in government and other fields.