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Department of Political Science

College of Social Sciences and Public Policy

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Job Candidates

The following FSU graduate students are currently seeking academic positions:


David Macdonald (Ph.D. expected January 2020)
Curriculum Vitae

I am currently a Ph.D. candidate in the department of political science at Florida State University. My research is broadly in the area of American politics, public opinion, and political behavior. My dissertation examines why American public opinion has failed to shift in favor of redistribution despite decades of high, and rising economic inequality. I am also interested in studying the causes and consequences of public attitudes toward immigration and race, public opinion toward government spending in an era of economic inequality, as well as the political consequences of low, and declining labor union membership. I have solo-authored work that has been published in Political Behavior, Political Research Quarterly, and Social Science Quarterly and a conditionally accepted paper at the British Journal of Political Science. I also have several others that are currently are under review. I have taught multiple courses at the undergraduate level, including Race, Ethnicity, & Politics, Political Parties & Campaigning, Public Opinion & Electoral Behavior, and Introduction to American Government.

Dissertation Committee: Brad Gomez (chair), Matthew Pietryka, Robert Jackson.

Matthew J. Uttermark (Ph.D. August 2019)
Curriculum Vitae

I am a Post-Doctoral Associate in Political Science Department at Florida State University, where I also received my PhD. I defended my dissertation in June, 2019 under the direction of Carol Weissert. My major field is in American politics—focusing on state politics, federalism and public policy. My dissertation examines what information influences vote choice in initiative elections. Previous research on direct democracy finds that the institution maintains broad support from citizens. Given this support, it is important to know what information matters to voters when determining how to vote in an initiative election. However, present scholarship remains nascent—relying on theory developed from studies on candidate-centric elections. My dissertation works to resolve this. Paper one leverages a panel experiment to determine when citizens respond to partisan versus policy cues. Paper two examines how newspaper cover ballot measure elections finding evidence that newspapers provide more favorable coverage to measure that receive positive endorsements. Paper three explores how federalism intersects with direct democracy – I find that citizens are more likely to support ballot measures which are decentralizing and that this support can be explained—in part—by a citizen’s trust in state government.

Dissertation Committee: Carol S. Weissert (Chair), Charles Barrilleaux, Matthew T. Pietryka.

Jessica Parsons (Ph.D. May 2020)

I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Florida State University. I will finish my dissertation this academic year and graduate in May 2020. My research focuses on the behavior and preferences of political elites and the representation of disadvantaged groups. 

My dissertation research focuses on the timely issue of political bias in America’s universities. I conduct three field experiments to examine whether university administrators are biased against conservative students and in favor of liberal students. Utilizing large-N experimental designs, I randomly assign university administrators to receive a request from a politically liberal student, a politically conservative student, or a student whose ideology is unspecified, requesting help with either forming a new political student organization, securing campus space for a guest speaker to lecture on political issues, or publishing a political editorial in the student newspaper. By comparing the rates of response across experimental conditions, I will provide high-quality evidence on the hypothesis, widely espoused in popular media, that conservative students face systematic discrimination in higher education. The results of the first experiment show no statistically significant difference in the responsiveness of university administrators to requests about establishing a new political student organization for liberal and conservative students. It thus appears that, with respect to starting new political student groups, the alleged bias against conservative students in higher education may be more myth than reality. These findings will contribute not only to my subfield and to the discipline, but to a long-standing, vigorous, and spirited national conversation. My advisors and I anticipate significant media attention to my findings when they are published. I will submit an article detailing the first experiment to the American Political Science Review within the next month. I plan to submit another article to Science detailing the results of the subsequent experiments.

Dissertation Committee: Brad Gomez (chair), Doug Ahler, and Hans Hassell.


Richard Saunders (Ph.D. expected August 2020)
Curriculum Vitae

My dissertation applies a behavioral perspective to explain international conflict processes including onset of international rivalry, dispute resolution between rivals and the timing of war and other violent episodes between parties to ongoing disputes. The first major chapter is complete and under review, while the second chapter is a complete draft. Chapter 1 draws on Prospect Theory to explain how major domestic political changes such as revolution in one state lead to the breakdown of friendly relations between that state and others into enmity.  Chapter 2 explains how major changes to the institutional structure of a state, such as regime change, effect dispute resolution efforts between long-lasting rivals. Finally, chapter 3 will explore how changes in the domestic politics of a state effect the timing of violent episodes between states engaged in ongoing disputes.

Other projects: My second project centers around military air power.  We seek to explain the determinants of air power as well as the effects of air power on the conduct and outcomes of military operations.  The first paper in this project “Command of the Skies: An Air Power Dataset” (with Mark Souva) was published in Conflict Management and Peace Sciencein July.  We are working on a follow up paper now and intend to have it under review in the early fall. 

Dissertation Committee: Inken von Borzyskowski, Sean Ehrlich, Mark Souva (Chair).


Jordan Holsinger (Ph.D. expected Spring 2020)

Jordan Holsinger is a PhD candidate who studies NGOs, Latin America, courts, and repression. Prior work in the NGO sector in Latin America informs his research interests.  His dissertation asks how regimes negotiate the tradeoff between NGOs providing goods and NGOs strengthening civil society. He uses a signaling model that highlights different NGO types and the information asymmetry between NGOs and regimes. NGOs wish to execute their goals and regimes that try to avoid risky or problematic NGOs. He tests predictions from the model with a quasi-experimental dataset from Nicaragua. He employs a natural experiment design to show that increased regime sensitivity to NGO costs encourages NGOs to adjust their activities in ways that reduce their negative externalities and bolster authoritarian consolidation. Other projects of his include a book manuscript, Can Courts be Bulwarks of Democracy?, (with Jeffrey Staton and Christopher Reenock), which shows how judiciaries incentivize elites to engage in forbearance. This project leverages new data, including an update of Latent Judicial Independence (Holsinger, J., D.A. Linzer, C.M. Reenock and J.K. Staton (2017). Judicial Independence Dataset, 1948- 2015. Emory University). The working project Missing Tools from the Repression Toolbox (with Kimberly Frugé) explains state repression through institutional variation at the subnational level in Mexico. Different institutional arrangements empower constituents with varying abilities to hold politicians accountable for repression and executives respond in kind with repression tactics that maximize control and minimize consequences of electoral accountability.

Dissertation Committee: Christopher Reenock (Chair), Amanda Driscoll, Kai Ou and Rob Carroll.

William Schultz (Ph.D. Fall 2020)
Curriculum Vitae

I am a PhD Candidate in Political Science Department at Florida State University, planning to defend my dissertation by Fall 2020. My major field is in Comparative Politics--focusing on comparative public policy and the politics of development efforts, especially those focused on conservation. My dissertation seeks to help explain the inconsistent benefits of local participation in sustainable development efforts. Previous research illustrates that while there appears to be a roughly positive relationship between participation and various project outcomes, the magnitude of this effect varies significantly. Moreover, there are also many examples in the case record where local participation appears to have caused more implementation problems than it solved. Paper one considers that this inconsistency may partly result from a failure to accurately measure the relative degree of participation in different interventions, and explores whether the most participatory efforts in a sample of conservation efforts in Brazil are more effective than other less participatory efforts. Paper two uses an expanded sample of conservation efforts to explore whether participation is less effective in conservation efforts that are following previously failed efforts in the past two decades. If this is the case, it suggests that participation is less effective in cases where building local perceptions of legitimacy is more difficult. Paper three uses a game theoretic model to explore the strategic dynamics of a project developer’s choice to employ a costly grassroots engagement strategy versus relying on local elites to handle grassroots engagement (given the risks of adverse selection and moral hazard). This is a strategic dilemma that developers in the field face regularly, yet our scholarly understanding of it remains limited.

Dissertation Committee: Eric Coleman (Chair), Christopher Reenock, Inken von Borzyskowski and William Butler.