The Department Today

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

As we prepare for a new academic year to begin, I want to take the opportunity to share a few Departmental highlights from the past year. 

The past year has seen our continued (and successful!) efforts to renew ourselves and rededicate our commitments to innovation and excellence.  Chief among our highlights is the great delight we take in welcoming four new and dynamic members to our faculty ranks.

Michaela Mattes specializes in International Relations. Her research focuses on security institutions, in particular conflict management agreements and military alliances. She is interested in questions such as whether these agreements can constrain the behavior of international and domestic actors, through which mechanisms they work and under which conditions, and why they are designed the way they are. She has published articles inAmerican Journal of Political Science, International Organization,Journal of Politics, International Studies Quarterly, and Conflict Management and Peace Science. She has also been involved in a large data collection effort on changes in leaders’ supporting coalitions funded by the NSF.

Thad Dunning is Robson Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and directs the Center on the Politics of Development. He studies comparative politics, political economy, and methodology. Dunning’s work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, Comparative Political Studies, International Organization, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Political Analysis, Studies in Comparative International Development, and other journals. His first book, Crude Democracy: Natural Resource Wealth and Political Regimes (2008, Cambridge University Press), contrasts the democratic and authoritarian effects of oil and other natural resources; it won the Best Book Award from the Comparative Democratization Section of the American Political Science Association and the Gaddis Smith Prize, for the best first book on an international topic by a member of the Yale faculty. His current work on ethnic and other cleavages draws on field and natural experiments and qualitative fieldwork in Latin America, India, and Africa. Dunning has written on a range of methodological topics, including causal inference, statistical analysis, and multi-method research; his book Natural Experiments in the Social Sciences: A Design-Based Approach (2012, Cambridge University Press), develops a framework for the use, analysis, and evaluation of distinct research designs. Together with Susan Stokes, Marcelo Nazareno, and Valeria Brusco, he is the author of Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: The Puzzle of Distributive Politics (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press). Dunning teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in methodology and comparative politics. Dunning received a Ph.D. degree in political science and an M.A. degree in economics from the University of California, Berkeley (2006). Before returning to Berkeley, he was Professor of Political Science at Yale University.

Jennifer Bussell studies comparative politics with an emphasis on the political economy of development and governance, principally in South Asia and Africa. Her research considers the effects of formal and informal institutions—such as corruption, coalition politics, and federalism—on policy outcomes. Her book Corruption and Reform In India: Public Services in the Digital Age (Cambridge University Press) examines the role of corrupt practices in shaping government adoption of information technology across sub-national regions and is based on fieldwork in sixteen Indian states, as well as parts of South Africa and Brazil. Her current research uses elite and citizen surveys, interviews, and experiments to further explore the dynamics of corruption and citizen-state relations as they relate to public service delivery in democratic states. She also studies the politics of disaster management policies in developing countries. She received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley and prior to returning to Berkeley taught in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin.

These crucial additions greatly strengthen the department’s faculty in comparative politics and international relations.   

I am happy to further report that Berkeley Political Science continues to be a vital source of intellectual activity.  A partial list of the recently published books by our faculty includes (in alphabetical order of our colleagues): Christopher Ansell's Pragmatist Democracy (Oxford 2011); Leonardo Arriola’s Multiethnic Coalitions in Africa (Cambridge, 2012); Mark Bevir's The Making of British Socialism (Princeton, 2011); Jennifer Bussell’s Corruption and Reform in India: Public Services in the Digital Age (Cambridge, 2012); Steve Fish's Are Muslims Distinctive? (Oxford, 2011); Taeku Lee’s Why Americans Don't Join the Party (Princeton, 2011); Gabriel Lenz’s Follow the Leader? How Voters Respond to Politicians’ Policies and Performance (Chicago, 2012); William "Sandy" Muir's Freedom in America (CQ Press, 2011);  T.J. Pempel’s Security Cooperation in Northeast Asia: Architecture and beyond (Routledge 2012); David Vogel’s The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States (Princeton, 2012); Steven Weber's co-edited Deviant Globalization (Continuum, 2011); and my own co-edited The Oxford Handbook of the American Congress (Oxford, 2011). 

Our faculty's many contributions to the discipline and to politics on the ground are also visible in journals and other publications. The list of venues here is too numerous and varied, but span a remarkable diversity including American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Annual Review of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Daedalus, International Security, Journal of Contemporary China, Journal of East Asian Studies, Journal of Politics, Journal of Statistical Software, Perspectives on Politics, Political Analysis, Political Theory, and World Politics. 

The Department's faculty also continues to garner formal accolades.  A partial list of recent such awards includes, in no particular order, Sean Gailmard’s receipt of the William Riker Prize for the best book in political economy published in the past three years, Gabriel Lenz’s selection as the winner of the Emerging Scholar award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the APSA, Robert Kagan’s receipt of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Law and Courts Section of the APSA, Rodney Hero’s selection to be the President of the American Political Science Association, Mark Bevir’s appointment to a United Nations expert group advising the UN on the role of governance in development strategy, Jas Sekhon’s receipt of the 2012 Warren Miller Prize for the best article in Political Analysis in the past year; Henry Brady’s receipt of the 2012 Political Methodology Career Achievement Award; Alison Post’s receipt of the Clarence Stone Young Scholars Award and Norton Long Developing Scholar Award from the Urban Section of APSA, David Vogel’s receipt of the Levine Book Prize of the International Political Science Association for his Politics of Precaution (Princeton, 2012), and Wendy Brown’s receipt of the David Easton Award through the APSA foundations of Political Thought Section for her book, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone, 2010).

Last year was another banner year for our undergraduate and graduate programs.  Political Science now has the largest number of majors in the College.  The course of recent world affairs surely has something to do with the rising popularity of our major, but we like to think the relevance of a political science degree and the quality of our faculty and staff has a role as well.  We again celebrated our graduating seniors with Commencement, made memorable this time by stirring addresses from our commencement speaker, Governor Jerry Brown, and from the 2013 Department Citation winner, Marjon Momand.  (There were three other finalists for the Department Citation: Daniel Chen, Eleanor Freund, and Elizabeth Vissers).  We also held a separate Honors Ceremony for twenty-five seniors who wrote amazing senior theses, and last year's Travers Scholars were treated to a luncheon with members of the Travers family.

The graduate program admitted one of our smallest yet in many ways most competitive incoming classes in years.  Out of 475 applicants, 37 were admitted, and we welcome 16 bright-eyed new students in August.  We also sent forth to prosper another graduating class of Berkeley Ph.D.s who fared remarkably well in the midst of a challenging academic job market.  Recent Berkeley graduates were placed in tenure track appointments ranging from liberal arts colleges like Bryn Mawr College, Colby College, and Whitman College; research universities like Yale University, MIT, UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Chicago, and Rutgers University; and to professional schools like Notre Dame Law School and Whittier Law School.  Several others found post-doctoral fellowships or short-term research positions, including appointments at the Fairbanks Center at Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Davis Center at Harvard, the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, and Stanford University.

One secret to this success is the sedulous dedication of our faculty.  In fact, the service of department faculty continues to contribute to Berkeley's excellence in myriad ways.  This year we are fortunate to have three Vice-Chairs: Jonah Levy who continues in his role as Director of Undergraduate Affairs; Sean Gailmard as Director of Academic Personnel; and Thad Dunning as our Director of Graduate Affairs.  Our faculty also serves the broader campus community and UC System in various capacities: George Breslauer as the University's Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost; Robert Price as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Research; Henry Brady as Dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy; Pradeep Chhibber directs the Institute of International Studies; Jack Citrin directs the Institute of Governmental Studies; Jason Wittenberg is the Acting Director of the Institute for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies; and Kevin O'Brien is newly-appointed as Director of the Institute of East Asian Studies.  Provost Breslauer will be retiring from his administrative position in December but will continue to be a vital contributor to the Department.

Last but certainly not least among our high points in the Department is the continuing expertise and professionalism of our first-rate staff.  Vicki Lucas continues at the helm as our Director of Administration, Kathleen Spaw provides crucial service as Academic HR Analyst, and Suzan Nunes is stepping into a new position as Graduate Student Advisor.  Janet Newhall, who has done stellar work overseeing both the admissions and placement processes in the Department, will be leaving the Bay Area.  We are grateful to her for her tremendous contributions to the Department.  We welcome Charlotte Merriwether as the Department’s administrative coordinator.  She will fill the rather large shoes of Gwen Fox, who retired at the end of June. We will all miss Gwen, not to mention Bode, her Golden Retriever.     

As is clear from this letter, we have a lot to celebrate and many people to thank!  On the register of thanks, let me also express my heartfelt appreciation to those of you who have so generously contributed in the past to the Political Science Department.  Your gift funds are an invaluable source of funding for our core activities for which there is no State funding like faculty research support, research colloquia and public lectures, graduate and undergraduate fellowships, and research travel for our students.  Whether from anonymous and modest individual donors or from substantial named programs (e.g., the David William Bell fellowship, the Peter Kujachich fellowship, the Charles and Louise Travers fellowships, the John Gross American Democracy Project, and the Baxter Liberty Initiative), all gifts are treasured and put to immediate and good use.  In you are interested in contributing to the Department, please visit our website at or feel free to contact me at

As I wind down this letter, I reflect on both our recent achievements and the challenges we face going forward.  Berkeley has long been one of the best political science departments in the country.  Following a period that included the retirement of several longtime contributors to our program, we have attracted and nurtured a group of new outstanding faculty members who are reinvigorating the Department, forging a foundation for many more decades in which Berkeley will be the place to study political science.


The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science has long been one of the world's finest. We pride ourselves on our deep commitment to intellectual excellence, and to supporting inquiry and teaching that combines rigor, relevance, and openness to a variety of methodological and analytical approaches. The size of our faculty, currently fifty-two, allows us to do justice to the study of a vast range of important issues in political life. We offer an unusual combination of depth and breadth in the major subject areas of political science, covering not only the traditional subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory but supplementing those subfields with very substantial strength in areas such as formal theory, methods, organizations and public policy, political behavior, and public law, as well as the politics of every major region on the globe. Reflecting the department's broad understanding of our subject matter and enduring commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry, many members of the department have joint appointments in other schools (including business, information, law, and public policy) or departments (including economics and sociology), as well as strong connections to a variety of research centers around campus.

Each year, the Department serves approximately 1,000 declared and intended undergraduate majors, and graduates approximately 400 students with a B.A. degree. Outstanding undergraduate education is central to our mission. To reflect our commitment to undergraduates, we have made several major innovations in recent years, including a new set of requirements for graduation, a substantially enhanced Honors program, and a new seminar program to increase opportunities for undergraduates to work with faculty in small groups.

The Department has an outstanding Doctoral program, designed to prepare students for careers in university teaching and to conduct advanced research. Approximately 25 students enter our program each year and roughly 150 are enrolled at any given time. Our graduate students take courses that offer state-of-the-art training in the conduct of research, combined with a very wide-ranging curriculum addressing fundamental issues in politics. We also seek to integrate them rapidly into an intellectual community that prizes scholarly development through the exchange of ideas and the sharing of work in progress. After completing their work here, many will go on to take jobs at the country's leading colleges and universities.

On behalf of the Department, I welcome you to this website, which is designed to provide detailed and easily accessible information about our programs and the people who make this such an exciting place to study politics.