Students in my classes learn the skills that are at the core of a liberal arts education: how to critically analyze information, how to use that information to make arguments, and how to communicate these arguments clearly. These are essential skills for all students, from those who intend to never take another political science course to those who hope to spend their whole careers in politics. Along the way, students in my classes learn something about politics: the actors, processes, and institutions that determine how human societies make collective decisions. Finally, I hope to prepare students to become “deliberative citizens” who are capable of critically analyzing political information while fairly considering the reasons and perspectives of those who disagree with them.
Current Classes (Fall 2019)
POL 8160: Experimental Methods (Graduate)
The course is oriented around understanding the statistical basis for using experiments to make causal inferences about the political world. This will start by introducing the potential outcomes framework, then using this framework to describe the unique statistical properties of experiments and the implications of these properties for the design of experiments. We then will build on this framework to discuss issues related to choosing samples and designing experimental treatments. The class will end with a discussion of replication, pre-registration, and the central importance of statistical power in the design of experiments.
POL 1001: American Democracy in a Changing World
Why doesn't Congress seem to work? Why do Americans love democracy, but hate politics? Why are there only two political parties, and why do they seem to despise each other so much? This course introduces students to politics in the United States, addressing these and many more questions about how the American political system really works. We will begin with the founding principles and historical development of the American system of government and then move on to examine the contemporary structure and function of American political institutions and the role that average citizens play in the political process. Students exit the class with a better understanding of how the American political system succeeds or fails at living up to our ideals and what we can do about it.
POL 8360: Small Group Processes and Democratic Deliberation (Graduate)
The “deliberative turn” in democratic theory has inspired a range of new empirical research. This work asks how deliberative existing democratic systems are and what can be done to make them more so. Drawing on work in political science, communications, and psychology, we will examine this new literature, exploring such questions as: How can we measure the quality of deliberation? Can conversation about politics, whether in small groups, in the media, or in everyday conversation, meet the standards of deliberative theory? What can empirical research tell us about how to improve the quality of deliberation?
POL 3767: The Political Psychology of Elite Behavior
Why do some countries cooperate with each other while others go to war? Why do some Presidents effect major change while others are relegated to the dustbin of history? Can we predict what leaders will do, and can we trust the predictions of so-called experts? In this class we will address questions like these by exploring the psychology of political elites, those members of society who wield outsized influence over political decisions. This outsized influence means that understanding how elites think is particularly important. It is also unusually difficult, leading some to argue that political psychology can play little role in understanding elite decision-making.
POL 3108H: Thesis Preparation and Political Science Inquiry
Political science is one of the most intellectually diverse disiplines in the academy. In this class, students will explore the range of techniques political scientists use to ask and answer questions. This survey will help them to make their own contribution to the study of politics by preparing them to write their senior honors thesis. Students will leave the class with a clear and tractable research question, a literature review that describes how this question fits in with the existing scholarly literature, and a research design that will enable them to answer their chosen question.
POL 1903: Political Deliberation in the 2016 Election
What if the most important part of democracy isn’t voting, but talking before the vote is taken? That’s the claim of deliberative theories of democracy, which argue that political decisions are only legitimate if they are preceded by a fair deliberation among those affected. Are average citizens capable of this kind of conversation, especially in this age of political polarization? We’ll explore this question through a range of academic research. But we won’t just seek answers from academic sources – students in this class take a hands-on approach by hosting the 2016 Minnesota Election Forum, a deliberative public forum where average citizens will discuss the presidential election.