On July 1, 2021, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in Political Science Wendy Schiller became director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy. Associate Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs Susan Moffitt served as director from 2017 until 2020, and Senior Fellow in International and Public Affairs Richard A. Arenberg served as interim director from 2020 until 2021.
What excites you about this position? What are your priorities for the Taubman Center?
Building on the excellent foundation laid down by Professors Moffitt and Arenberg, I want to continue to build up Taubman as a research center. To accomplish this, we are placing more emphasis on “consumable” research and external visibility. My vision is that the work we do will be used by a growing community of people who want to learn about Congress and state legislatures, women in politics, and diversity and public policy.
Over the next three years, I want the Taubman website to be a place where people come to get data and to access research. To that end, we’ve made a few changes, foregrounding our social media presence and also research.
How will your own work be reflected in Taubman’s new focus?
Having spent my career writing about how Congress legislates, I now want to be writing and thinking about issues that affect people—particularly women—on the ground. I'm currently working on gender and federalism. I’m looking at how federalism renders women unequal to each other across state lines. Federal laws have to be implemented at the state level, and very few people have looked at the impact of this on women. Yet women are more effected by state authority, whether it is laws about domestic violence, marriage, divorce, child custody, insurance standards, health care eligibility, or minimum wage.
For example, my current research with Professor Kaitlin Sidorsky, a former Brown PhD student who is now a tenured professor, focuses on domestic violence, especially laws that regulate access to firearms and how cases are adjudicated in the courts. We have compiled a data set from 1990 to 2017 of all 50 states showing how many domestic violence firearm laws they've adopted and we use it in our book project. My hope as Taubman director is to encourage more faculty-student research partnerships at the graduate and undergraduate levels that produce publications and usable data sets.
How will Taubman’s focus map to Watson’s three main areas of research—governance, development, and security?
The Taubman Center has long explored core issues of importance in the public sphere. We are social scientists, and I also want to welcome scholars doing work in other fields, such as the humanities and public health. We are going to expand our focus on issues of diversity, inequality, and gender in policy implementation, with three areas of emphasis that align with Watson’s overarching areas: legislative politics and advocacy; obstacles to racial, ethnic, and gender empowerment; and domestic violence and human security.