September 18, 2011

Professor Wins Award for Political Science Research

Print More

Because Prof. Adam Seth Levine ’03, government, came to Cornell as an engineering student, it may come as a surprise that eight years later he won the American Political Science Association’s award for the best doctoral dissertation in the field of American government.

After approximately two years of working on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan, Levine can now call himself the APSA’s 2011 E.E. Schattschneider Award recipient.

“Broadly, the dissertation is about the conditions under which people participate in politics. Specifically, I reexamine the link between issue importance and political participation,” Levine said.

Levine’s 140-page dissertation explains why people find it difficult to be active in political issues if those issues remind them of their own budgetary or temporal constraints. According to Levine, people have trouble donating to a cause — such as reducing healthcare costs or education reform — if the resolution of the problem directly affects their wallets.

Levine said, however, that the people who might not be willing to donate money might be willing to donate time instead.

“People don’t treat time and money interchangeably; for example, financial constraints do not remind people of temporal constraints,” Levine said.

One of the members of the committee responsible for choosing the APSA’s award, Prof. Timothy Johnson, political science, University of Minnesota, said in an email that Levine’s dissertation “melds political science with psychology really well.”

“The experimental designs are innovative,” Johnson said of the dissertation. The discovery that economic insecurity decreases contributions and increases volunteerism “is an important contribution,” he added.

It marked just one point in a long journey.

Levine initially enrolled in the College of Engineering, but after a year and a half, he transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences.

Although Levine said writing his dissertation is “definitely not a job of one,” he added that the work was mostly his own.

“The student comes up with the idea and does all the work,” Lupia said.

Levine said he is glad the process turned out successfully.

“When you start working on a multi-year project like a doctoral dissertation it’s hard to know what the end of the tunnel will look like, [but] you hope that something good comes out of it,” he said.

Original Author: Sylvia Rusnak