Ever since growing up in Washington, DC, I have had a long-standing interest in understanding and bridging partisan divides in American politics. This interest has only grown stronger in recent years, as it seems that nearly every issue, including those that I study in the context of environmental politics, from climate change to the funding of the EPA, has been sucked into the polarization/partisanship vortex, which then inhibits any significant action on them. ICER helped me explore how to I can productively engage with this challenge to our democracy as a political science scholar and faculty member at Davidson College.
At ICER, I worked on thinking through a new project related to polarization and deliberation in American politics. The workshop helped me better conceptualize the project as a civically-engaged research project that was founded on a strong collaboration with both relevant offices at Davidson College and local community organizations. It also helped me work through the next steps of the project and the obstacles I would likely face along the way. I learned more about how I might more deeply engage – beyond class projects, interviews and survey instruments — with relevant organizations and interested citizens in both the research process and taking action on the results of that research. ICER also gave me the opportunity to learn from scholars who have successfully made these connections in their own research and get advice from them on the best ways to do so.
Since ICER, the project has evolved into Davidson’s Deliberative Citizenship Initiative, which aims to create opportunities for people to productively engage with one another on difficult issues facing our society. It includes curricular, co-curricular, community, and research components, and has so far involved a wide range of Davidson students, staff, faculty, and community members. We received a generous grant that has supported the development of a Deliberative Citizenship Fellows Program, the hosting of Deliberative Forums and “D” Teams, and more. A variety of local organizations and campus offices are involved in these programs, which we are evaluating using several different research methods. In designing and implementing the project, I have been deeply informed by CER principles and practices related to both collaborative partnerships and rigorous research that we discussed at ICER.
Dr. Maggie Commins enjoys teaching courses in Latin American politics, U.S.-Latin American relations, international political economy, comparative politics of developing countries, and U.S. immigration policy. She is the 2020 recipient of Queens’ Hunter-Hamilton Love of Teaching Award.
Dr. Commins’ research interests include U.S. immigration policy, U.S. policy toward Latin America, civically engaged research, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. She is a 2016 North Carolina Campus Compact Faculty Engaged Scholar.
On ICER: “I was part of ICER’s inaugural cohort, benefitting immensely from participating in this developing network of scholars. It’s empowering to learn that this type of research is valued in the discipline. And, the opportunity to learn from and work with colleagues from other institutions improves both my teaching and research. I am currently working on a CER project in the City of Charlotte, supporting the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Immigrant Integration’s efforts to make Charlotte a truly “welcoming” city. I workshopped my initial idea for this sabbatical project with ICER colleagues, and continue to collaborate on the work with several from my cohort, supported by an APSA Special Projects Fund. I also contributed to a co-authored article on the benefits of CER in the classroom in the forthcoming PS: Political Science and Politics symposium, a product of our ICER cohort.”
Jordie Davies is a Political Science doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, studying American political behavior. Jordie is a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow.
Jordie’s dissertation, “From Adherents to Activists: The Process of Social Movement Mobilization” examines social movement support and participation at the aggregate and local levels, breaking down the various paths to political activism in contemporary progressive and racial justice movements, especially the Movement for Black Lives.
Jordie’s broader research and writing interests include Black politics and political thought, US social movements, and Black feminism. Her research agenda focuses on the influence of social movements on political attitudes, activism, and political participation.
Jordie’s dissertation research is supported by Berkeley’s Center on Democracy and Organizing, and she has been awarded the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the Diversifying Faculty in Illinois Fellowship, and the APSA Minority Fellows Grant.
Jordie holds a Master of Arts in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. She received a BA in Political Science from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA, with a minor in Educational Studies.
Kirstie Lynn Dobbs
I applied to participate in the 2019 ICER cohort because I was eager to build bridges between my research and communities. I also wanted to meet like-minded academics grappling with the same questions around the intricacies of conducting this type of work.
ICER impacted my research agenda and productivity by allowing me the opportunity to “break free” of assumptions about my identity as a scholar. I came into ICER identifying as a comparative politics scholar with a background in international relations and expertise in the Middle East and North Africa. I left ICER realizing that I could connect my work in the MENA region with the political phenomenon happening in my own backyard. I now allow myself to adapt my agenda to fit with major current events while positioning each effort as a chance to better humanity.
For example, post-ICER, I entered into new partnerships with community organizations, including the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange. I am currently involved in a pilot study where I provide the expert “political perspective” on resolving tensions involving environmental policy issues in local communities. This collaboration will lead to a research output that broadens our understanding of creating more avenues for political scientists to work directly with organizations and communities to put political science to work to solve societal issues. Given my expertise on youth political engagement and social movements, I currently collaborate with civil society organizations to provide spaces and create programs that respond to the COVID-19 created education gap among underrepresented youth. This particular experience has broadened my scholarly knowledge of youth activism and civic engagement. It will help me conduct research that will hopefully move youth-driven social movements towards institution building and structural change.
Becoming a part of a civically engaged research network has been one of the most rewarding and career-enhancing experiences I have had as a junior scholar. To start, the scholars in the ICER network base their interactions with one another on mutual respect, camaraderie, and humility. We appreciate each of our colleagues’ experiences to the table, which allows us to work together as collaborators truly. The respect I have for each of my colleagues in this network is immense, and it has helped me transition from a Ph.D. candidate to an active member of an intellectual community.
Douglas R. Hess is an independent scholar and has taught political science and policy studies for Grinnell College, Smith College, Georgetown University, and George Washington University. He has published research in PS: Political Science and Public Administration Review. With three colleagues he met through ICER, he is co-editing a special symposium on civically engaged research in PS: Political Science (Oct. 2021). His research interests are in voting rights, food security, social policy, and program evaluation. In addition to his scholarly work, he spent twenty years in DC working for a variety of leading nonprofits in the areas of community and labor organizing, LGBT rights, human rights, food policy, and voting rights. He holds an MA in Policy Studies from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD in Public Policy from George Washington University.
Jenn M. Jackson (they/them) is a queer genderflux androgynous Black woman, an abolitionist, a lover of all Black people, and an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Political Science.
Jackson’s primary research is in Black Politics with a focus on group threat, gender and sexuality, political behavior, and social movements. Jackson also holds affiliate positions in African American Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and LGBT Studies. They are a Senior Research Associate at The Campbell Public Affairs Institute at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, as well.
Jackson is the author of the forthcoming book BLACK WOMEN TAUGHT US (Random House Press, 2022). The book is an intellectual and political history of Black women’s activism, movement organizing, and philosophical work that explores how women from Harriet Jacobs to Audre Lorde to the members of the Combahee River Collective, among others, have for centuries taught us how to fight for justice and radically reimagine a more just world for us all.
Jackson’s first academic book project POLICING BLACKNESS investigates the role of group threat in influencing Black Americans’ political behavior. Methodologically, they utilize quantitative analyses of survey data and experiments as well as qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with young Black Americans ages 18 to 35 to investigate both intergroup and intragroup differences in responses to and ideas about group threat. Jackson finds that Black women are most likely to express concerns about state-based and intragroup threat. Comparatively, Black men vary drastically in their responses to group threat depending on their sexual orientation, gender expression, and vulnerability to stereotypes.
As a recipient of many prestigious honors and awards, Jackson is a 2020 recipient of the Tenth Decade grant ($20,000) and the CUSE Seed Grant ($5,000) funding her book research.
Brian Shoup is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Administration and a research fellow at the MSU Social Science Research Center. He teaches courses and conducts research on intra-state conflict, ethnicity and politics, nationalism and politics, and public policy. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, he received his PhD from Indiana University in 2007. He co-founded the Civic Life Lab in 2018 in order to study how political order can be sustained in the face of centrifugal forces that erode civic bonds. His research has appeared in such journals as Perspectives on Politics, Democratization, Journal of Democracy, and Journal of Labor Research. He is the author of Conflict and Cooperation in Multiethnic States (Routledge).
Randy Villegas is an assistant professor of Political Science at College of the Sequoias and a Ph.D. Candidate in Politics, with a designated emphasis in Latin American and Latino studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A Kern County native, Villegas earned his B.A. in Political Science at CSU Bakersfield in 2017, and his Associates Degree in Political Science from Bakersfield College in 2015. Villegas’s research interests are rooted in the experiences and communities he comes from: Latino Politics, Immigration, Civic Engagement, Poverty, and California’s Central Valley.
Before beginning graduate school, Villegas worked as a journalist and an organizer in Bakersfield, CA, where he helped lead the 2016 Social Justice series and the 2017 May Day Resistance march in Bakersfield. Villegas has written many reported pieces as well as opinion editorials in publications like the Los Angeles Times, the Bakersfield Californian, South Kern Sol, and El popular, a Spanish newspaper in Bakersfield.
Randy was recently re-elected as a delegate for the California Democratic Party, representing the 31st assembly district (formerly served in the 32nd ), and serves on the board of directors for Alisal Community Arts Network (ACAN), and Power California. After graduate school he hopes to return to the Central Valley to inspire other young scholars and make a difference.
H. Howell Williams
I am currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Western Connecticut State University. My scholarship is oriented toward history and political development, and I am interested in family as a site of policy implementation and the impact of public policy on identity over time.
As a faculty member in a small department, I am often looking for colleagues outside my home institution for whom improving democratic participation and addressing social and political inequalities are pressing scholarly concerns. My ICER cohort was instrumental in helping to orient my research and teaching toward engaging community partners in the western Connecticut region.
Participating in ICER helped me incorporate civic engagement into two ongoing projects. The first project focuses on the impact of the Supreme Court case Loewe v. Lawlor (1908) on laborers in the hatting industry in western Connecticut. In collaboration with community partners, my co-author and I are developing tools that apply the lessons from this historical period to contemporary efforts to secure greater labor protections and rights for immigrant groups in Danbury, CT. The second project concerns fatherhood as a site of welfare policymaking. Conversations with my working group at ICER pushed me to incorporate community organizations that are presently working to develop more equitable family policies in my historical analysis. In both projects, I seek to connect history and political development to contemporary challenges facing minoritized groups.
ICER also benefited my pedagogy in important ways. The diversity of examples of engaged research we encountered helped me expand the range of materials I assign in class. While I have always valued experiential learning, my ICER experience deepened my commitment to breaking down barriers between classroom learning and life outside the academy.