Undergraduate Institution: Dickinson College
Undergraduate Major: Political Science
MAPSS Graduation Year: 2009
I wanted to study political theory. Before I arrived in Chicago I had blithely dismissed data and quantitative analysis as tools for understanding the social and political structures that really fascinated me. Yet within the first few weeks I found myself completely absorbed in a quantitative methods class that used data to understand why people vote. At a basic level, taking Eric Oliver’s Introduction to Data Analysis class parallel to Perspectives helped me understand how thoughtful analysis of data is just another epistemological approach to categorizing social phenomena. In the winter I worked so hard on Causal Inference and American Political Behavior with Betsy Sinclair. They taught me the mechanics of coding data, proper statistical techniques, and how to think and write clearly about quantitative analysis. My thesis, with Prof. Sinclair, used national survey data to identify factors that correlated with misidentifying President Obama’s religion as non-Christian. Two years later I was working for the President’s reelection campaign as a data analyst. I used skills from MAPSS to build a career in progressive political data analysis, an entire field dedicated to using smart data-driven research to answer important questions and build a better country through political change.