Placement Candidates


Erik Davis

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: American Politics, Comparative Politics, Political Sociology

Dissertation Title: Deindustrial Dealignment: Economic Change and Sub-National Party System Volatility in Appalachia

Committee: Jay McCann (Chair), Eric Waltenburg, Mark Tilton, Patricia Boling

Summary: My research focuses on the effect that economic change has on sub-national party systems. Specifically, I analyze how the loss of coal mining and manufacturing industries and decline of associated labor unions, has affected local party systems in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Using mixed-methods, I find that the decline of these industries has resulted in party system volatility as seen in changing voting behavior, increased independent party affiliation and decreased voter turnout. 


John Megson

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: American Politics

Dissertation Title: The Strong American Voter

Committee: Jay McCann (Chair), Eric Waltenburg, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Tom Mustillio

Summary: The paper seeks to meld the two dominant competing theories of party identification in the US context: the expressive view, where Party ID is seen as a long standing psychological attachment to a political party; and the instrumental view, where Party ID is subject to reevaluation. Using ANES panel data, the paper examines both expressive and instrumental elements of partisanship. In keeping with past research, it finds strong evidence for the expressive understanding of Party ID; partisan groupings tend to be highly stable. However, the strength of identifications varies considerably over time, with perceptions of candidates, presidential approval, policy preferences, and ideological orientations driving these changes. These results are in keeping with an instrumental conceptualization of partisan identities.


Kaitlin Kelly-Thompson

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: Public Policy

Dissertation Title: There is Power in a Plaza: Social Movements, Democracy and Spatial Politics

Committee: S. Laurel Weldon, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman. Rachel Einwohner, and Molly Scudder

Summary: My dissertation uses a mixed-methods approach to interrogate the relationship between the city, as a built and lived environment, and the inclusion of marginalized groups within social movements. Using the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013 and the Women’s Marches in Boston, San. Antonio, and Pittsburgh in 2017, I develop a theoretical explanation for why the built environment can encourage inclusion of diverse groups within movements and the potential effects this can have on local democracy. I then test my expectations through a series of statistical analyses of the 2017 Women’s Marches, using an original dataset. Through this project, I find that the space of the city effects movements ability to develop inclusion, not only when activists are making direct claims to space, as in the Gezi case, but also when activists come together for more abstract goals, as in the case of the Women’s Marches.


Jieyeon Kim

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: International Relations

Dissertation Title: Why Do Countries Participate in UNPKOs? (Working Title)

Committee: Ann Marie Clark (Chair), James A. McCann, Mark Tilton, Kyle Haynes

Summary: Why do middle powers participate in UNPKOs even though there is no clear benefit for them? This is the core question that motivates my research. Bellamy and Williams (2013) provided five reasons for PKOs Participation: political, economic, security, institution, and norm. I will find out the reasons why middle powers, with relatively limited resources, participate in PKOs. Since the existing literature on participation of small and middle sized is very limited, my research on middle powers UNPKOs will be a contribution to the field. Case studies will be conducted to test my hypotheses. Among middle powers, two cases are selected: Canada and Republic of Korea (ROK). Taken together, the combination of qualitative analysis, documentary analyses on PKOs participation, and interviewing of related officials will be able to provide comprehensive findings on Middle powers and UNPKOs.


Sharonda Woodford

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: American Politics; Identity Politics; and Public Policy

Dissertation Title: Responsibility for Housing Matters: News Media Frames of Housing Crises During Hurricane Katrina, The Great Recession, and COVID-19

Committee: Rosalee Clawson, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Patricia Boling, and Jennifer Freeman-Marshall

Summary: Housing is an issue that affects all individuals in society. People have firsthand experiences with housing on a daily basis. Housing is also a macro issue that is affected by and has implications for the nation’s economy and public policy. Despite the centrality of housing for individuals and society, few scholars have examined media coverage of housing issues and housing policy. This gap is especially problematic when considering the critical role the housing market has during times of national crisis and the potential the media have to shape perceptions of housing policy and the economy. In this project, I examine media framing of housing and housing policies between 2005 and 2020 in the New York Times. I investigate whether housing is framed in episodic or thematic ways and how housing media frames change in response to crises. In addition, I pay particular attention to whether housing media frames are racialized.


Janel Jett

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: American Politics, Public Policy, Methods

Dissertation Title: Expanding Skepticism: Populist Climate Change Communication in the U.S. Media

Committee: Leigh Raymond (Chair), Rosalee A. Clawson (Chair), Erin Hennes, Eric N. Waltenburg

Summary: Motivating the political will necessary for fair and ambitious climate change policies is significantly complicated by the rise of populism. Right-wing populist communication targets civil servants and intellectuals as conspirators furthering a climate agenda for their own self-interest. Yet, despite the real-world implications of populist communication, more work is needed to both (1) understand the presence of populist frames in media communication on climate change and (2) untangle the relationships between the far-right and diverse forms of climate skepticism. Completing a content analysis of newspaper opinion pieces and Fox News programing between 2008 and 2020, I find that populist skeptic frames are an important part of media communication on climate change in both the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. Additionally, I find that populist skeptic frames most commonly use process skeptic claims, leveraging conspiratorial language to describe collusion between the government and scientists to falsify the severity of climate change and control the public for their own gain. Using a survey experiment, I find that higher populist attitudes are negatively associated with both belief in climate change and support for climate mitigation policies among Republicans. Conversely, I do not find a significant effect of exposure to a populist process skeptic frame, prompting the need for more work on the connections between populist skeptic framing and climate change attitudes.


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