Winter/Spring 2015 Newsletter - Department of Political Science

Vol. 2, Issue 1
Department of
Political Science
A Message from Our
Chair, Philip Roeder
Sharing with you these snapshots
of the many accomplishments of
our current and former students,
staff, and faculty has become one
of the rewards of serving as
department chair.
In this third issue we hear from
a faculty colleague of several years
(Professor Gary Jacobson) and
meet our newest faculty member
(Professor Molly Roberts). Brief
up-dates on one of our newest
Ph.D.s (Doctor Devesh Tiwari),
one of our established alumni
scholars (Professor Carl LeVan),
and several of our current doctoral
students reminds us of the
accomplishments of our graduate
students that bring continued
luster to our program. A spotlight
on one of our undergraduates
(Lauren Demos) gives insight into
the innovations in undergraduate
education that we are
implementing in the department
and how our very gifted
undergraduates are using these
opportunities to prepare
themselves for the careers of the
future. Since our last newsletter
we welcomed a new rapidly-risingstar MSO (Samira Khazai) and we
briefly introduce Samira and our
two student workers.
I hope you will enjoy reading
these snapshots as much as I
have. And please keep in touch.
Professor Gary
Jacobson’s Insight on
the 2014 Mid-Term
The 2014 midterm elections left the
Republican Party in its strongest
position on Capitol Hill in more than
eighty years, leaving them with House
and Senate majorities of 247-188 and
54-46, respectively for the 114th
Congress. The election that delivered
the Republican victory replicated two
well-documented patterns in American
electoral politics, one long standing, the
other more recent. First, the electorate
once again treated the midterm as a
referendum on the economy and the
president’s job performance, with
predictable consequences. Second, the
2014 elections extended the trend
toward increasingly partisan and
nationalized congressional elections,
centered on the president, that have
become a hallmark of the new century.
The combination cost the Democrats
dearly, for Barack Obama’s standing
with the public in the fall of 2014 was
near its lowest point in his presidency,
and Democrats could not escape his
shadow. With that shadow so
dominant, the fact that both
congressional parties and Congress
itself were held in even lower regard
than the president—suffering their
lowest popular ratings in any election
season on record—turned out to be
Professor Jacobson is a Distinguished
Professor of Political Science and the
Director of Undergraduate Studies. His
research focuses on American politics,
the Congress, and elections.
Newsletter 3
A Conversation with
Professor Molly Roberts
Recently, our student worker, Adan
Chavez, spoke with Professor Molly
Roberts about her work in Political
Science methodology.
During her third year at
interested in methodology. When she
enrolled in an Econometrics course,
she realized both of her interests
could come together. She recounts,
“[Econometrics] was amazing…lifechanging! You could actually study
politics with math and data and that
was really fun. I decided to take all
the Econometrics I could and ended
up doing a Masters in Statistics. I
took many different classes and
different types of Statistics mostly not
applied to social sciences. I imagined
how it could apply to social sciences
and that inspired me to go into
methodology.” (continued on page 2)
She soon began to understand
the variety of opportunities available
through methodology. She explains,
“There are so many opportunities to
use methodology in the social
sciences right now and part of it is
because we have this golden age of
data. All of a sudden we have so
much more data on what people are
doing politically in their lives, what
governments are doing, etc. People
are participating electronically and
leaving all sorts of political
footprints…We can use it to study
different things that we weren’t able
to study before.”
Although Molly enjoys finding
understands the obstacles. She
elaborates, “The data you have access
to doesn’t necessarily always speak to
the question… I think the hardest
part is trying to match the data to
things that are important … Also, you
want to ask a big question which
sometimes you don’t always have the
data for.” Having studied politics in
China by utilizing the data of Chinese
internet blogs, Molly believes that
data is both interesting and essential
to answering more questions. She
concludes, “I think there are some
questions you can’t answer without
Graduate Student
Bio: Devesh Tiwari, PhD
I grew up in Michigan and received my
B.A. and Master in Public Policy from
the University of Michigan. In between
my times as a student, I worked in
managerial consulting and in program
evaluation for a health management
organization in Detroit. I moved to
San Diego to pursue a Ph.D. and wrote
my dissertation on why parties in
India nominate candidates with
criminal records. In addition to my
research on elections in India, I am
working on projects related to
clientelism, and governing coalitions
with friends and colleagues. I am
currently teaching “Introduction to
Comparative Politics” and I enjoy it a
great deal. My favorite experiences
with undergraduates revolve around
engaging their sense of curiosity about
the world. I want them to use what
they have learned in class to become
even more inquisitive and critical of
the world at large.
Job Market!
PhD Placement Candidates:
Look who Thad Kousser ran into while serving as the 2015
Fulbright Flinders University Distinguished Chair in American
Political Science at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.
Phil said we can keep him!
Vol. 2, Issue 1
PhD Alumni Spotlight:
Carl LeVan
When Carl LeVan (PhD 2007) returned
from field research in Nigeria last year,
his phone didn't stop ringing. LeVan's
work is in the spotlight with the release
of his new book, Dictators and
Democracy in African Development: the
Political Economy of Good Governance
in Nigeria (2015) which Cambridge
University Press has already sold
out. Based on his UCSD dissertation
under the supervision of Clark Gibson
and Karen Ferree, the book argues that
the structure of the policy-making
process explains variations in
government performance better than
other commonly cited factors, such as
oil, colonialism, ethnic diversity, foreign
debt, and dictatorships.
Former students still find LeVan on
LinkedIn, where he regularly posts job
opportunities in Washington, and on
Twitter (@Dev4Security), where he
shares updates and insights on African
politics from his blog at
In 2011 he co-led the APSA's Africa
Workshop at the University of Nairobi
with UCSD alum Todd Eisenstadt and
two African scholars. "Honestly it was
the best intellectual experience I've had
since my PhD training at UCSD. It's an
amazing opportunity for intellectual
growth, and APSA has been serious
about sustaining the ties over time."
Separately, Eisenstadt and LeVan are
currently working on a series of projects
related to participatory constitutionmaking. "But just to switch it up this
year," said LeVan, "I'm teaching a
freshman seminar on Rousseau and
Tocqueville. I just couldn't forget the
great classes I took with Tracy Strong
and Alan Houston." LeVan met his wife
Monica while she was studying for her
Master's at IR/PS. They live in
Washington, DC, with their new son,
Undergraduate Local
Research Internship
Political Science
senior Lauren
participated in
the Political
Science Local
Program this
past year.
We had the opportunity to ask her
some questions about her thrilling
Where did you intern for the Local
Internship Research Program? I
interned at Congressman Duncan D.
Hunter’s district office in El Cajon.
What responsibilities did you
have at the internship? My
responsibilities included preparing
Certificates of Recognition, and
accompanying the Congressman on
outings in the district. Additionally, I
had a role in helping to plan and
facilitate Duncan L. Hunter’s 8th
Annual Wounded Marine Golf
What was your research project
and what did you learn? My
research project used SPSS software
to analyze National Election Study
data and compose a report about the
determinants of American public
opinion preferences toward U.S.
defense spending levels from 19802012. In this analysis, I looked at the
impact of period effects, economic
outlook, government spending
tradeoffs, and cohort differentiation.
What opportunities did the
internship lead to? Last summer I
was able to work in Washington, DC
at the American Enterprise Institute
for Public Policy Research where I
assisted Resident Fellow Mackenzie
Eaglen on issues regarding the
defense budget, weapons
modernization and force structure.
At the end of that internship I had
the opportunity to publish an article
“Here’s why the F-35 Joint Strike
is a great investment for America”,
that was quoted in Foreign Policy
Initiative’s overnight brief. In
November, I accepted an offer with
Raytheon Company, a Fortune-500
defense contractor, to join their
Contracts Leadership Development
Program after graduation.
What advice would you give other
political science majors who are
interested in the Internship
Program? The Local Internship
Research Program was absolutely
essential in not only having a
fulfilling college experience, but also
in shaping my career path. I would
strongly advise other students to fully
invest in an internship project that
pushes them outside of their comfort
zone. I ended up with a project that I
was proud of and able to speak about
in the interviews that followed. The
Program was one of the most
rewarding aspects of my time at
Happening NOW: Board
of Pre-Law Advisors
Board members are attorneys
currently enrolled in the doctoral
program in political science and
are available for individual
appointments to discuss careers in
law, selection of appropriate law
schools, or any other concerns you
may have about this career path.
Winter 2015 Sanford
Lakoff Award
The Lakoff Fellowship, established in
honor of Sanford Lakoff, the founding
chair of the Political Science
Department at UCSD, is designed to
support graduate student dissertation
research. Congratulations to the
following 2015 recipients:
Maya Duru, Michael Davidson,
Adeline Lo, Michael Nicholson,
Aditya Ranganath, Deborah
Seligsohn, Mona Vakilifathi, Jack
Vol. 2, Issue 1
New Opportunities in
the Department!
Local Internship Research
Program. For more
information visit:
New Research
Apprenticeship Program.
For more information
Resources for
Current Undergrads
Like our Facebook page
“Political Science Chair’s
Desk at UCSD” for
consistently updated
information on internship
and career opportunities.
Political Science Student’s
Association (PSSA) at UCSD
Like their Facebook Page
“Political Science Student’s
Association at UCSD”
or contact the club directly:
[email protected]
Vol. 2, Issue 1
Fall 2014 Pre-Law Workshop
The Pre-Law Advisors presented information that was relevant to
students at all stages of their academic careers. They discussed the
necessary steps to first apply to law school: including what classes to
take, the LSAT, different prep classes, and the application process.
They also went through what one could expect in each year of law
school, the financial implications of going to law school, and
networking opportunities. Finally, they discussed the California bar
exam process and the repayment of law school debt upon completion
of law school. Students were then invited to pose questions and many
of them inquired about different LSAT prep brands they could take,
the type of pay one could expect in various careers, and the job
opportunities that typically present themselves upon law school
Graduate Student Fellowships
Elaine Denny
It is our pleasure to announce
that graduate student, Elaine
Denny, along with five other
UCSD graduate students have
been selected for the 2015
cohort of the UC San Diego
chapter of the Bouchet
Graduate Honor society.
These students will have an
opportunity to attend the
Bouchet Conference on Diversity
in Graduate Education held at
Yale University on April 10-11,
2015 where they will be
inducted into the society.
Jack Zhang
UCSD Political Science- International
Relations Rankings!
Scholars ranked the top 25 IR Programs for undergraduates,
master’s, Ph.D.s. UCSD was ranked 13th in the world as a Top
U.S. Undergraduate Institutions to Study International
Relations, and 7th in the world in Top Ph.D. Program for
Academic Career in International Relations.
ALUMNI INFO: One of our esteemed alum, Josh Odintz
would be happy to act as a resource to UCSD students who are
interested in government from an academic or employment
perspective. Josh has spent five years in government as a tax
attorney (Senate Finance from 2007-2009 and the Treasury
Department from 2009-2011). Josh Odintz is a partner in Baker &
McKenzie’s North American Tax Practice Group in Washington
D.C. Josh can be reached at [email protected]
CONTACT US! Email: [email protected]
OR visit:
Jiakun Jack Zhang will travel to Beijing,
China, to begin his Fulbright U.S. Student
Grant term this March. Jack's core
research interests are East Asian political
economy and security, with a focus on
contemporary China. The Fulbright will
support his fieldwork on the economic
effects of regional political crises in Asia
on China based firms. Jack holds a
bachelor’s degree in political science and
a certificate in East Asian studies from
Duke University. Prior to coming to UC
San Diego, Jack worked as a China
researcher for the Eurasia Group in
Washington, DC. He currently serves as
Senior Advisor to UCSD’s China Focus
Blog. Follow Jack on Twitter @HanFeiTzu.
Samira Khazai joined us in January as our new
MSO. Samira came to us from the Ethnic Studies
department, where she served as their Academic Business
Officer. Her experience also includes serving as the
Director of Student Affairs & Development in the Computer
Science and Engineering department, as well as an
Administrative Analyst in the Jacobs School of Engineering
Dean’s office. Samira is an outstanding MSO and with her
vast UCSD experience and knowledge, will bring much to
our department.
Adan Chavez joined us as our student worker this Fall. He
is a first year student intending to major in Political Science
and Spanish Literature. In his first couple of months at
UCSD, Adan has gotten involved with First Year Council,
Thurgood Marshall College Student Council and has
performed at UCSD's Founders Day with Ballet Folklorico
La Jolla de Mexico. Adan’s professionalism and enthusiasm
are a wonderful addition to our department.
Michelle Markiewicz joined us as our student worker this
fall. Michelle is a transfer student from Mt. San Jacinto
College, where she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honors
Society. She is a USP major here at UCSD and brings
wonderful expertise and enthusiasm to our department.