The French Paradox: Prosperity and Torment Lecture Series with Chantal Delsol scheduled on March 18th, 19th and 20th (see details below) have been canceled and postponed until Fall 2020 semester.
The French Paradox: Prosperity and Torment Lecture Series with Chantal Delsol scheduled on March 18th, 19th and 20th (see details below) have been canceled and postponed until Fall 2020 semester.
[UVA TODAY] November 07, 2019- Since its inception in 2018, the National Security Policy Center at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy has made something of a name for itself.
Under the direction of Batten School associate professor Philip K. Potter, who also holds a dual appointment in UVA’s Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, the center has managed, in only a short amount of time, to forge new partnerships on and off Grounds, become a leading resource for government agencies and spearhead new courses aimed at enhancing students’ knowledge of security challenges facing the U.S. today. The center’s active role in the defense community demonstrates its high level of engagement and its ability to play an important role in shaping national security policy in the 21st century.
UVA Today had the chance to sit down with Potter to discuss how the center has matured in the last year, upcoming projects, the significance behind some of its most recent partnerships and academic programs, and what the future holds both for the center and the current national security policy milieu.
To access the full article, please visit UVA TODAY to learn about Professor Potter's insights on National Security Policy in the 21st Century.
Life After Politics is our annual event featuring alumni mentors, panel participants, and networking opportunities. Presented by the Department of Politics and The Career Center, this year’s Life After Politics: Global Edition invited four politics alumni to share their experiences working in various fields, as well as offer insider advice on how to navigate the “life after politics,” demonstrating the great diversity of career choices a politics major can lead to.
In this year’s Life After Politics: Global Edition, the panelists also shared their personal stories and anecdotes from working in various locations and organizations around the world. Many of them mentioned the global perspectives they gained while studying at UVA (and abroad), which proved to be influential throughout their careers.
Jason Steinbaum serves as Democratic Staff Director of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Previously, he was Staff Director for the majority and minority of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere from 2006-2012. He has also served as Washington Chief of Staff and Legislative Director for Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In the early 1990’s, Mr. Steinbaum worked for Senator Donald Riegle (D-MI), having served as his Legislative Assistant for foreign affairs and defense.
During his career in Congress, Mr. Steinbaum wrote the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 and the law providing normal trade relations with Albania, has been a leader on policy toward the Balkans, and has monitored elections in numerous countries.
Engage with alumni from the Department of Politics who will speak on a panel and be available for “flash mentoring” sessions afterwards. Learn about their career paths and hear them share their best career advice for current and contemplating Politics majors. Alumni work in a wide variety of careers, including global pathways, and students will gain excellent knowledge about what they can do with these degrees.
This event is co-sponsored by the UVA Career Center and the Department of Politics in partnership with Global @ UVA Week: http://www.virginia.edu/uvaglobal/iew/
11:30 am – 12 pm: Student Registration Opens and Complimentary Lunch
12 – 1:30 pm: Alumni Panel
Jerry Rubin: senior counsel at the Seattle law firm of Williams Kastner & Gibbs
Jason Steinbaum: Staff Director, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs
Christian Yarnell: Brookings Legislative Fellow at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs
Megan O’Donnell: Assistant Director, Gender Program and Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Global Development
1:30 – 3 pm: Flash Mentoring
Alumni from the Politics Department in a variety of careers will be available to speak with students in small groups to make connections and answer individual questions. This is a great way to get to know people who are doing the jobs you want to do in a few years and to learn more about career paths in many fields, especially related to government, policy, humanitarianism, and media!
Starting this semester, top students in the Department of Politics again will have the opportunity to join the Pi Sigma Alpha honor society. Membership in Pi Sigma Alpha is an acknowledgment of outstanding academic performance in the department within the Foreign Affairs and Government majors, and at the University more generally. The honor society connects students to a network of serious scholars in the field as well as political science alumni.
Professor James Todd, a member at UVA during the early 80s says "Pi Sigma Alpha, which was founded 98 years ago, is a national honorary for students who excel in political science courses. In addition to recognizing their academic achievements, it provides them with opportunities to interact with faculty outside the classroom."
Without a sponsor, the department's involvement with the society fell by the wayside during the 90s. Until now. Professor Allen Lynch is stepping up to provide direction and management. Professor Lynch says "the national network of scholars and alumni can be useful to students and give them access to APSA events and publishing opportunities. The benefits continue after graduation throughout their lives."
In addition to Pi Sigma Alpha, the department has advanced opportunities for scholarship through its Distinguished Majors Program, currently helmed by Professor Pete Furia, the Honors Program by Professor Sid Milkis, Political Philosophy, Policy and Law, by Professor Colin Bird, and the Political and Social Thought program, by Professor Michael J. Smith.
The department will hold its (re)inaugural ceremony at the end of April or early May.
The faculty and staff of the Department of Politics celebrated Professor Stephen White's distinguished career on Friday, January 26. Speakers included John Owen—Chair, Paul Freedman—Associate Chair, and Professor White's peers in department's political theory subfield, Lawrie Balfour, Colin Bird, George Klosko, and Jennifer Rubenstein.
The department is pleased to announce that the Virginia Senate introduced a bill commending Professor White. The bill was drafted by a former student of Professor White's, graduate alum Ross Mittiga, now Assistant Professor at Instituto de Ciencia Política, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. The bill was introduced in the Virginia Senate by Senator Creigh Deeds and and in the Virginia House by Delegates Steven Landes and David Toscano. The bill is Senate Joint Resolution No. 316.
The event was held in the Dome Room at the Rotunda.
We are honored to have worked with Professor White.
Read his students' remarks here.
Professor Brantly Womack is on a multi-country visit in Asia. His first stop was in Taiwan where he participated in a workshop at the Institute of Political Science of Taiwan's Academia Sinica with Department of Politics adjuncts Harry Harding, and Shirley Lin.
In Hanoi he met with U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink (M.A. University of Virginia) and gave a talk on Asymmetry and International Relationships at Vietnam Social Science University, and talks on China and the Re-centering of Asia at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, the China Institute of the Vietnam Academy of Social Science, and the Ho Chi Minh Academy of Politics.
Brantly Womack and Ambassador Kritenbrink
Dr. Nguyen Tuan Viet, Dean, Department of International Politics and Diplomacy, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
Dr. Dongryul Kim, associate professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, Professor Brantly Womack, and Dr. Tse-Kang Leng, Director of the Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
His is currently focused on networks, particularly in representative bodies and the behaviors which play out over those networks: indecision, cross-pressuring, trust, grandstanding, and more. His research addresses the conflicts politicians are subject to and the punishment/rewards and repercussions meted out for particular behaviors. The sequence of events in these scenarios can be fascinating and not at all self-evident. Follow his research interests below—naturally a network of his where his attention goes.
One of the great additions to the political science vocabulary is waffling. Professor Kirkland notes that no one waffles in private. Waffling is conducted publicly, and necessarily, over time.
He addresses this process in his book, Indecision in American Legislatures, written with Jeffrey Harden. He and Professor Harden wanted to know why legislators change their minds—theirprevious research suggested things should be predictable and easy to understand for legislators. That is not the case—it turns out legislators face competing pressures. Their district wants them to do one thing, and their party leaders want them to do another thing.
These cross-pressures create an environment in which a bill is introduced and the politician doesn’t really know what to do. Supporting the bill may bring constituents closer, but alienate an important person in the legislator’s career. Kirkland and Harden find on particularly unpredictable pieces of legislation, these cross-pressured legislators make a guess at the beginning of the legislative process and over time they find out they were wrong and then change their minds.
Kirkland states, “it looks like they’re waffling, ‘I can’t decide which side of this thing I’m on, I don’t know how to balance these things,’ and the truth is, they’re using deliberative democracy exactly the way we’d want them to. You don’t know something, you learn about it, then you make a decision—as opposed to being perfectly immovable and uncompromising.”
He continues, “Jeff is a big student of representation and how government reacts to what its citizens want, and I’m a big legislature scholar. There’s a strain of research that suggests that legislating is really easy, that they take cues from their party leaders and their ideology, and sort of simplify a complicated environment for their constituents. In my own work I had observed a bunch of unusual situations where legislators really seemed to NOT know what they were doing; they didn’t really have a sense of what was going on, and as a result they changed their minds about stuff over time. The deliberative nature of the legislature gave them an opportunity to change their beliefs, or change the way they thought about the world. “
Kirkland allows that some politicians are duplicitous, but a lot of politicians just don’t know what to do; there is plenty of evidence that these legislators get punished by constituents for their apparent indecisiveness.
He says, “You wind up with a bunch of legislators getting tossed out of the legislature, and you are left with those who are NOT using the deliberative process to learn; that describes much of what you see in legislatures now—those who are not indecisive. That causes problems for policy makers who are learning about solutions. The American public might decry politicians for shifting with the political winds, but there’s a necessary element of learning in policy making.”
Dr. Kirkland says he has been fascinated with politics for most of his life—there are family stories about him campaigning for his great uncle as a cute four-year-old knocking on doors asking for votes.
Like many political scientists, he considered law. He started out in prelaw at Campbell University, where an influential professor, Don Schroeder, pointed out that it sounded like he enjoyed the study of government more than the practice of government. No one had made that distinction to him before—that those were two separate things, both viable career paths. Until that point he assumed one did political science because they wanted to be a civil servant, politician, or lawyer.
The more he thought about it, the more sound it became, “I liked knowing why things worked the way they did. Why our government made the decisions it did and that set me on the path of study and discovery.”
Professor Kirkland also asks why citizens trust government. He’s less concerned about whether you like what government is doing (you’re always going to dislike something), and more interested in if you think government has your best interest at heart. Even if you don’t like what elected officials are doing, you recognize maybe they are making some choices that are important for the country.
He says, “A lot of research shows trust is an aggregate thing – ‘trust is declining in the United States’ or ‘trust is increasing in the United States.’ My co-authors and I wanted to pull this apart and see in which states there was more or less trust, or what causes some individuals to be more trustworthy or less trustworthy. We find that in keeping with the indecision aspect, legislators who don’t represent their constituents very well are generally not trusted.”
He thinks this is nice because it demonstrates a kind of accountability. But on the flip side it causes some problems—it indicates constituents are not granting any leeway to their legislators; if they do something you don’t like, you automatically don’t trust them.
As a professor he says, “If my students mistrusted me every time I did something they didn’t like, they would have no faith in me. It’s a democratic problem—faith in legislators to do the task of legislating has declined and become partisan and polarized” and “there is evidence in political science that it’s getting hard to get people to run for Congress because being a Congress member sort of sucks right now. It’s not a fun task, no one enjoys doing it anymore. Enjoyment of doing something good is important to people. It’s hard to motivate people into politics right now. If you walk a minute out of step with your constituents, you’re in all kinds of trouble.”
Kirkland took game theory classes early in graduate school. Game theory is largely about how multiple players interact with one another, how actors’ strategies, decisions, and behavior are interdependent on one another. In his early work he asked how can we take what we know about legislatures and put it in a social networks context?rather than in a standard quantitative context, which may not be well adapted to game theory environments.
He says, “In legislative studies we tend to think about these legislators as individual actors who have lots of agency and do whatever they want to do in a particular circumstance. However, I come from a tradition that tries very hard to understand aggregate patterns, like ‘why does public opinion in the country shift as it does,’ or ‘why does the approval of the President go up or down?’ I started to think of social networks as a place to bridge these two places. Researchers haven’t spent a lot of time grafting one on the other, but as a guy who studies legislators andinstitutions I was interested in them at the same time.”
He discovered, having worked with legislature data for a while, that there was much more room for legislators to influence one another than previous studies had acknowledged. He began to think of a chamber being legislators as individuals on a networkrather than some kind of massy legislature object. For example, with an individual legislator, a small effort may affect their decisions, but as a legislature gets larger a more partisan environment emerges. Small legislatures tend to be very cooperative, large ones tend to be very partisan.
The repercussions of this cascade can be problematic. Kirkland states, “If you just trust 5% of your colleagues and distrust 95% of them, as you scale up, that compounds across the legislature in a complicated way and makes partisan events happen really fast—it’s one of the reasons I don’t trust large legislatures very much.”
Are Facebook, Twitter and Google viable career paths for political scientists? Yes,says Kirkland. Several peer scientists he met during school are employed at Google and Facebook. He indicates they were researching “techy, quantitative stuff” and that research now looks directly into the problems Twitter and YouTube are having.
On YouTube the Next Suggested Videois a small design element which algorithmically recommends a video based on your own viewing history. If it were a randomly chosen video, there would be no repercussions, but since the algorithm is based on the viewer’s past, they go down a rabbit hole of stories, ever-reinforcing what they already believe.
“Most of the problems Facebook, Twitter, and Google face are social science problems, they’re not technical, mathematical problems. How does the content on my newsfeed influence my decision making?That’s a social science question.
Despite what might be otherwise suggested, Kirkland maintains high nerd credibility. “I’m an R guy, some Stata, and enough Python to be dangerous. R is a native language for me. I think in R,” he says. These packages come in handy for his geospatial research (e.g. in New York City where districts are really compact and oddly drawn, sometimes legislators aren’t sure where their districts begin and end at the street level), and his work on grandstanding (e.g. extreme Republicans like Michelle Bachmann and Ted Cruz vehemently opposing a Republican proposal—they took extreme positions to appease constituents who didn’t want them to appear to compromise… and yet by not compromising their anti-votes became tacit support for Obama policy).
Professor Kirkland notes that legislative scholarship and representation hasn’t always taken networks as seriously as it should. He says, “More generally, I’m interested in unusual, substantive problems. The network lens is helpful, but I use it to try and look at stuff I’m interested in rather than an end goal in itself. The embeddedness of networks within unusual geography is how my first big publication came about.”
He continues, “The weak ties in a legislature are the ones which are important—Ted Kennedy working with his fellow Dems isn’t surprising, but Ted Kennedy working with Orin Hatch is VERY important. That original work comes from how do we circulate information in a small geographic environment and what happens when we scale it up? How do we circulate information in an efficient way at that scale?”
Professor Kirkland is excited to be among ambitious students who are close to Washington, D.C. and plugged into the political environment. As a recent outsider he notes UVA has a strong presence in the social sciences and humanities.
“I’m getting to teach classes on Congress for the first time this fall, I’m a legislature guy and excited about being in a classroom with this topic.” He also expects to do some quantitative instruction for both grads and undergrads. He considers Big Data—quantitative approaches—important to thinking about politics.
Professor Kirkland is optimistic, enthusiastic even, about the new semester, “UVA students are some of the best in the country. Being around students who are comfortable about pushing back and who are comfortable challenging me—these are things which are exciting. Hopefully I can provide them with experiences that are different than they already get and we can have some engaged and enjoyable discussions.”
He also anticipates strong connections with his colleagues (strong ties!). He says, “these are wonderful colleagues and I’m looking forward to doing research with them. There are lots of folks interested in the same kinds of questions that I’m interested in. (In the department) Comparative Politics is strong, American Politics is strong, and it will be fun to have a collaborative environment I can get plugged into.”
And he will continue his current research with authors outside the University. Big projects include generalizing findings on grandstanding in legislatures, building on the earlier, more specific work he’s done on the British Parliament and U.S. Congress with Jonathan Slapin.
He will also conduct new research on empathy and the construction of political ambition. Where, and in what cases, are people interested in running for office? In what locations and scenarios are they notinterested? This continues Kirkland’s work with Scott Clifford and Elizabeth Simas at University of Houston.
His bounteous research agenda also includes figuring outif open-meeting laws, that is, allowing citizens to observe meetings are good for the policy process or not. Professor Kirkland acknowledges they are obviously good for combating corruption and for keeping people accountable, but not necessarily good for making policy and solving problems. He conducts this research with Jeffrey Harden.
He says, “The environment at UVA encourages high-risk research, the opportunity to maybe be wrong about something, but try to say something important. I’m excited about trying to take a stab at some important questions that maybe I won’t get right, but will get the chance to say something important.”
“In terms of service, I tend to live and breathe the college environment. I’ve been on a campus for a really long time. I spent most of my graduate school living on campus as a residence hall director. I’m excited to be at a place that has a lot of spirit and is the center of town and is motivating most of the action that’s happening in town. It’s good to be back in a small-town environment like where I got my graduate degree, Chapel Hill.”
Kirkland indicated, somewhat pathetically, that he is excited about being on the East Coast and in ACC country and getting to watch Carolina beat up on Virginia for several years in a row, first hand. I remind Professor Kirkland that the future is unknown.
Professor Shiran Victoria Shen joins the Department of Politics after receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her recent scholarly honors include the 2017 Paul A. Sabatier Award from the American Political Science Association for the best paper on science, technology, and environmental politics and the 2018 Malcolm Jewell Award from the Southern Political Science Association for the best graduate student paper. She is also the recipient of numerous highly competitive university, national, and international fellowships and grants.
Professor Shen’s research probes into how incentives shape environmental politics. Sheobserves that politics plays a significant role in the regulation of air pollution, which kills more people than AIDS and malaria combined and endangers the health of over 95 percent of humanity around the world. The high responsiveness of air pollution to regulation makes it an excellent case to fathom the effect of political incentives on policy implementation over time.
Her dissertation, The Political Pollution Cycle: An Inconvenient Truth and How to Break It, offers a new answer for the systematic variation in air quality over time, emphasizing the whenover the why. Using China as a natural experiment, Professor Shen finds that local agents in China catered to the policy prioritization of their political superiors, who decide their career advancement, and in the process fostered local political regulation cycles. These cycles resulted in regional patterns of air pollution over time. Towards the end of a local leader’s tenure in office, the leader would ease environmental regulation when the economy and stability were highly priced, leading to what she calls “political pollution cycles.” When the environment became significantly valued, the leader would order more environmental regulation near the end of tenure, giving rise to what she calls “political environmental protection cycles” in some regions. Both types of political regulation cycles incurred tremendous welfare losses and human costs. She also identifies preliminary supportive evidence for political pollution cycles in the United States and Mexico. She argues that electoral and career incentives of local politicians or leaders influence their prioritization of multiple policy goals over time, with systematic environmental consequences, and this may hold across regime types.
In her other works, Professor Shen employs survey experiments to understand the determinants of public support for green energy as well as integrated assessment models (IAMs) to illuminate the social dimensions of climate impacts. As many extant works have suggested, climate change affects the incidences of violence—on a large scale such as civil wars and at a smaller scale as in the case of interpersonal violence. A current paper integrates the costs of climate-induced violence in projecting optimal carbon prices for the next two centuries.
Professor Shen is very interested in the applied aspect of research. She asks, “how could policymakers use the research results to achieve desired policy outcomes better?”
Her dissertation suggests that the intensity of regulation towards the end of tenure was underpinned by the desire to (over)comply in the most critical policy area. Independent monitoring provides a promising solution for reformers.
Her work on public receptivity towards wind energy generators in China offers critical insights into the types of information that, if provided, would solicit urban support for the development of wind energy.
Her work on carbon pricing connects the climate-economy and the climate-violence systems by putting forth a new way of pricing carbon to help contain climate-induced violence. It may provide a reference point for climate negotiations.
Why UVA? Three New Research Initiatives
The University of Virginia is a magnet for researchers like Professor Shen. She is especially excited by two new pan-University initiatives.
She is naturally drawn to the new Environmental Resilience Institute, helmed by Professor Karen McGlathery of Environmental Sciences. The Institute pulls from broadly disparate disciplines including professors from Urban Planning and English Literature. Two other Politics professors participate in the Institute: Sonal Pandya, working on international political economies, and Paul Freedman in media and politics.
The Data Science Institute is a precise match to her expertise in machine learning and data-driven research. She indicates ML has a lot of future in political science research. She previously used machine learning to predict and map pollution burden scores at the census tract level in the U.S. Because there are missing data values she uses machine learning to determine what those values could be and then arrive at comprehensive pollution burden scores.
Her broad computing experience in statistical and spatial analysis (R, ArcGIS, ENVI, Google Earth Engine) and programming and modeling skills (Java, Python, GAMS, DICE, MATLAB, SimaPro, and even Fortran – some more developed than others) will be a strong match to the collaborative environment of DSI.
In the coming semesters, she hopes to teach a graduate seminar to students from across grounds who are interested in environmental resilience, particularly air pollution. She envisions a course filled with scholars from environmental science, urban planning, computer science, and of course, students in the Department of Politics. Scheduled classes in Fall 2018 include The Politics of Air Pollutionand Environmental Politics in China, and in Spring 2019, Approaches to Environmental Politics.
Professor Shen will continue research based on her dissertation, turning it into a book manuscript (working title The Political Regulation Cycle).
Professor Shen will be co-director, with Todd Sechser, of the Lansing B. Lee, Jr./Bankard Seminar in Global Politics. She hopes to bring climate scientists in as speakers and more broadly, comparative political scientists who are focused on quantitative methods using “fairly fancy techniques to study comparative topics of general interest.”
FYRE – First Year Research Experience is a program offered to rising 2nd years. The program aims to increase the number of underrepresented students pursuing graduate education and careers in the humanities and social sciences.
This year’s visitors include four students, Emily Laurore (Spelman College), Myles Whitmore (Morehouse College), Renato Sepulveda (Heritage University), and Gabby Gladney (Spelman College).