Posted by Liz Zack on June 15, 2016
I am a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at Indiana University. Most sociologists become faculty at colleges and universities, where they teach and conduct fascinating and useful research. However, I knew even before applying to graduate school that I wanted to conduct rigorous research outside of academia, in an applied, political setting. FairVote conducts rigorous research in collaboration with academics. So I knew that Fairvote was a perfect fit. I went to graduate school because I enjoy the research process, and I knew that my Ph.D. program would provide me exceptional mentorship and training in quantitative and qualitative methods. My program also gave me the opportunity to surround myself with peers and mentors who were as excited as I am about sociology. But, I knew that eventually I wanted to return to the policy world.
Rather than focusing on any one specific policy issue, I am interested in a range of political topics. My doctoral research examines how people form political and racial attitudes broadly, and prior to graduate school, I had interned at think tanks, political advocacy organizations, and campaigns that covered a wide range of policy issues, from LGBT rights to immigration to U.S. economic relations with Latin America. While my doctoral research focuses on public opinion, I am drawn to electoral voting issues. Like public opinion, electoral politics have the ability to impact policy broadly, across issue areas. FairVote’s electoral reform goals are to make the democratic process stronger, and thereby make policy more reflective of the interests of all Americans. This approach to policy was very appealing to me.
FairVote is committed to using academic research to pursue real-world goals. Our research team asks interesting research questions, with clear, applicable purposes, and develops solid findings to guide our reform ideas. These findings are made available to the public and policymakers through digestible reports, and also presented at academic conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals. FairVote’s combination of thorough research and political advocacy has given me a stronger understanding of applied research.
This summer I am running statistical analyses for a project on the effects of ranked choice voting (RCV) on political representation. Although I spend most of my day sitting at a computer staring at numbers and hoping my analyses will run, FairVote is a great place to work! My coworkers are engaging, funny, and passionate about getting democracy to function as best as possible. Their dedication to both academic research and real-world results is inspiring, and has made me more firm in my belief that applied research is the place for me.
Liz is the 2015 Research Fellow at FairVote. Learn more about FairVote's Democracy Fellowships and Internship opportunities on our Employment page.