After growing up in California, I received my BA in Government from Harvard and my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California Berkeley. I joined the UMBC Political Science Department in Fall 1971, taught POLI 100, POLI 300, POLI 325, POLI 388, and POLI 423 among other courses, and served as Chair of the department from 1985 to 1991. I retired from active teaching in 2011 and have since held the position of Research Professor (and Professor Emeritus). I am a past editor of the Journal of Theoretical Politics and a past president of the Public Choice Society.
Q: What led you to become a political scientist?
A: I went off to college expecting to major in physics. Probably it was the excitement of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election that led me to switch to political science. Then I went off to graduate school expecting to focus on strategic and security studies, but I ended up taking my field exams in American government, political behavior, and international relations. In my last few years at Berkeley, I discovered the newly developing field of formal political theory, which has defined my research interests ever since.
Q: What kinds of research questions are most interesting to you?
A: My research lies in the area of formal political theory and social choice. I have published articles and chapters on logrolling, majority voting, information pooling, voting agendas, spatial voting models, and voting power. In recent years, much of my work has focused on aspects of the U.S. Electoral College. I have published a monograph on Committees, Agendas, and Voting and am co-editor the Handbook of Social Choice and Voting. Most of this work is posted on my UMBC webpage: http://userpages.umbc.edu/~nmiller/ .
Q: What ideas, skills, or experiences do you hope students will come away with after having taken a class with you?
A: I am no longer teaching, so the question is not entirely relevant. But on my POLI 300 syllabus I said that the course should help students: (1) understand evidence presented in tables, graphs, and statistics in textbooks and journals as well as more popular books, newspapers, and magazines; (2) better understand and evaluate political and public policy debates, which often rest on quantitative claims and involve the use of statistics, sampling, and causal reasoning; and (3) develop the ability to do quantitative (and other) research and to make reasonable decisions on the basis of quantitative evidence.
Q: What can POLI majors do with their degrees?
A: Almost anything! Particularly a lot of things that need not involve going to law school or graduate school. A political science major (like other liberal arts majors) should help you develop analytical and writing skills that will serve you well in a wide range of professional, semi-professional, and business careers.