As we begin a new school year, I wanted to steer you toward the information I’ve posted about requesting a letter of recommendation. Writing an excellent letter of recommendation is a very time consuming process, but helping students secure opportunities outside of the classroom—study abroad, internships, jobs, fellowships, or graduate school admittance—is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. However, I need lots of information and plenty of advance notice to do a good job.
See the link on my webpage for more information.
–By Taylor Feenstra
Maybe I’ll just SIPP on it.
Thanks to support from the Charles Center, the Government Department, and the SNaPP Lab, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks at the Summer Institute in Political Psychology (SIPP) at Stanford University this summer. This program had its origin at the Ohio State University in 1991 with Professor Margaret Hermann at the helm. It has been hosted at Stanford University since 2005, coordinated by Professor Jon Krosnick. The program is designed to offer students, professors, and professionals in the field intensive training in the latest methods in political psychology, exposure to cutting edge research, and opportunities for collaboration and networking with other political psychology gurus. My experience at SIPP absolutely accomplished all three of these goals.
Each day at SIPP featured a new guest lecturer with expertise in an area of political psychology. The Institute begins with a lecture from Jon Krosnick explaining exactly what political psychology is: is it designed to better understand psychology by using the political context, or is it designed to better understand politics by using psychological methods and principles? Most of the research falls into the latter category, more appropriately called “psychological political science,” although the jury is still out as to which direction is “proper.” Because of the interdisciplinary nature of political psychology, we had lecturers who were social psychologists, political scientists, and sociologists. These fields complement each other quite well and under the umbrella of political psychology, they have led to some invaluable discoveries that have fundamentally changed the way we view the political world.
One thing that was particularly valuable about SIPP was seeing how the lectures connected to one another sans planning or coordination among the lecturers. I often found myself thinking about how Lee Ross’ Naïve Realism connects to Rob MacCoun’s research on experts and how both of these connect to framing effects presented by Amber Boydstun and Robb Willer among others. Furthermore, in discussion groups (held each day between the morning and afternoon lectures) we would discuss the implications of these connections in addition to introducing other literature we were familiar with from our diverse backgrounds. These connections led to more questions and sparked many ideas for future research. My legal pad from SIPP is not only completely soaked in my classic red-ink notes, but it has research project ideas scribbled all over the margins. This is what SIPP is all about.
Although I learned an unfathomable amount from the lectures at SIPP, my favorite part of any lecture was when they talked about the heart of the process. A few lecturers explained why they asked the questions they did and how sometimes their foundational discoveries came from “accidents.” As Jon Krosnick iterated on the first day, research is supposed to be annoying. When it annoys you, that’s when you create your own study to try to better understand it and that’s where discovery awaits. These stories and advisory tales are incredibly motivating for aspiring future graduate students like me and really for anyone involved in research. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in SIPP as it has undoubtedly electrified my passion for research.
Taylor Feenstra and Meg Schwenzfeier, two of the founding members of the SNaPP Lab, were each recently awarded $6,000 fellowships from the Charles Center to conduct research for their honors theses. The Charles Center Honors Fellowships are funded primarily through an innovative crowdsourcing method where anyone, primarily alumni, can contribute to a particular project they take interest in. The website lists a brief description of the project and a video of each prospective fellow talking about his or her research. The Charles Center also has supplemental funds to provide additional resources to projects that are not fully funded through crowdsourcing. Meg and Taylor are both completely funded honors fellows this year.
Meg’s thesis uses a unique field experiment to explore ways to increase the effectiveness of political campaign mail for infrequent voters. Her research could have important lessons for future efforts to increase voter participation and make government more representative. Meg’s project creatively connects political science research directly to the field. Meg’s passion for political participation coupled with her experience in the field complement her thesis nicely. Meg’s honors fellowship allowed her to forego summer employment elsewhere and focus on her research full time, which will undoubtedly help her create an invaluable finished product. Meg claims that her honors fellowship has also given her the opportunity to rule the world.
Taylor’s thesis examines the impact that social pressure has on political conformity. The fellowship was helpful in many ways. First, it allowed her to forego summer employment elsewhere to focus on her research. Second, it helped her pay the tuition and fees for the Summer Institute in Political Psychology at Stanford University. This program gave her specialized training in political science research methods and allowed her to receive feedback from leading scholars in the field on her research design. Third, the fellowship will allow her to compensate individuals for participating in her experiment. Experimental methods are very important to Taylor and she is really looking forward to the opportunity to conduct one, which would not be possible without appropriate funding.
Both of these projects enhance our understanding of the political world and have broad implications. They both make unique contributions to the political science literature and fit well with the research interests of the SNaPP Lab. Meg and Taylor are thankful for the support from all contributors to their projects and the Charles Center for helping to advance their research goals.
Meg’s Charles Center Honors Fellow Profile
Taylor’s Charles Center Honors Fellow Profile