The Excellence in Mentoring Award

The Society for Political Methodology Excellence in Mentoring Award honors members of the Society who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to mentoring and advising graduate and/or undergraduate students and, in particular, those from underrepresented groups.

2021 Winner
Recipient Kosuke Imai (Harvard)

Professor Imai’s extensive work on statistical methods for causal inference and development of computational algorithms for data-intensive research in the social sciences has been justly celebrated through multiple awards, and he has left an indelible imprint in the development of our field through a number of efforts, including as past president of the Society for Political Methodology. It is, however, his excellence as a teacher and as a mentor of unsurpassed ability to bring out the best traits in his students that the Excellence in Mentorship prize celebrates. Over a professional career spanning almost two decades at Princeton University and Harvard University, Professor Imai has reached out to an uncountable number of students in Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science that have benefited from his clarity of exposition and his ability to communicate with people from many different backgrounds and with many different experiences. His textbook on Quantitative Social Science has become in four short years the go-to reference for introducing undergraduate students to statistical and computational methods. In their nomination letters, several of his mentees mentioned Professor Imai’s knack for understanding the exact level of proficiency at which they were when they first met him, and how he managed to instill and nurture in them organizational habits and a clear understanding of how to take the next most profitable steps in furthering their own research. Throughout the large number of endorsements that his candidacy elicited, we also recognized as an obvious thread that many individuals in and out of academia launched and sustained successful careers backed by Imai’s advice and guidance in professional and personal matters alike. The endorsements we received all speak fondly about Professor Imai’s role as a mentor, but especially as a trusted friend.

The committee was also struck by the diversity of voices writing on his behalf, all of whom invariably talk about feeling included and validated in his research group. As one of his supporters writes: “He has made his research group one of the most diverse and inclusive venues; a place where new ideas are always welcomed with constructive feedback – as he always says ‘here, we learn from each other.’ Kosuke has a way to see the potential in each of his students, something that transcends any type of boundaries.” This work of inclusion has especially benefited individuals who speak English as a second language, many of whom express how Imai helped them overcome lack of confidence in their ability to thrive in an English-speaking environment.  Truly great mentors create opportunities that go beyond those offered by the standard curricular obligations of graduate programs, creating environments in which students (and junior colleagues) can feel supported and thrive. Letter after letter (and there were quite a few of them!) offered testimony that showed how Imai has built an inclusive infrastructure of mentorship --- a space where junior methodologists and applied scholars can learn from his experience and, most importantly, from each other. In celebrating Imai’s individual merits as a mentor, we recognize a scholar that understands the importance of building a community of learning that is both tightly-knit but also permeable to new voices and ideas. Please join us in congratulating Kosuke Imai for this award.

Selection committee Dave Darmofal (South Carolina), Amber Boydstun (UC, Davis), and Guillermo Rosas (Wash U)
2021 Winner
Recipient Rebecca Morton (NYU)

Rebecca (Becky) Morton was a leader scholar of political methodology and mentor of graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty alike until her untimely passing in September 2020. It is our honor to recognize her mentoring, posthumously, with the Society for Political Methodology’s Excellence in Mentoring Award.

Professor Morton received her Ph.D. in Economics from Tulane University in December 1984. During her career as a faculty member at Tulane, Nicholls State University, Texas A&M University, the University of Iowa, the University of Houston, New York University, and New York University, Abu Dhabi, as well as in visiting scholar positions at numerous institutions across the globe, she mentored generations of scholars, including more than two dozen Ph.D. students whose dissertations she either chaired or served on as a committee member. Many of these students have gone on to successful faculty careers in academia, where they continue to help shape the field of political methodology.

Professor Morton’s mentoring took both personal and institutional forms. She was known for the personalized, detailed feedback she provided students and the initiative she regularly took to alert students of research, grant, and teaching opportunities in the discipline. Professor Morton was an active mentor of women in academia; a letter writer noted that many women graduate students sought out her advice and received “valuable personal advice about operating in academia as a woman.” The same engagement she provided graduate students she also provided to undergraduate students, including circulating these students’ questions to other audiences so that they could receive feedback. In short, Professor Morton’s decades of close, personalized, individual mentoring, both professional and personal, influenced generations of scholars in the political methodology subfield.

Professor Morton was also an institutions builder and mentored the subfield through the institutions she created and nurtured. As Director of the Winter Experimental Social Sciences Institute, she created a venue for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior assistant professors to receive feedback on experimental designs from experts in experimental social science. She also connected graduate students with alumni to get advice on the academic job market, resulting in an annual conference featuring alumni and graduate students. Professor Morton was also the founding Director of the Social Science Experimental Laboratory at New York University, Abu Dhabi. In this position she mentored early career scholars through the social science division’s postdoctoral program, which she directed.

Professor Morton had a lasting impact on the subfield of political methodology. Her mentorship was consistently marked by taking the initiative to mentor students both near and far. Few scholars have had such an impact both up close and on the field across the globe. The field of political methodology is stronger for her mentoring. It’s impossible to imagine the field without her personal engagement in mentoring during these past decades. Her legacy lives on in the careers of the countless scholars whose lives and careers she shaped through her mentoring.

Selection committee Dave Darmofal (South Carolina), Amber Boydstun (UC, Davis), and Guillermo Rosas (Wash U)

Past Recipients

Year Recipient
2020 Fred Boehmke (Iowa)
2020 Matthew Lebo (University of Western Ontario)
2019 Gary King (Harvard)
2018 Thomas Carsey (Posthumous, UNC)
2017 R. Michael Alvarez (Caltech)
2016 Janet Box-Steffensmeier (Ohio State)
2015 Lonna Rae Atkeson (University of New Mexico)
2015 Jonathan Kropko (University of Virginia)

Past Selection Committees

Year Committee
2020 Dave Darmofal (South Carolina), Amber Boydstun (UC, Davis), and Guillermo Rosas  (Washington University in St. Louis)
2019 Jacob Montgomery (Washington University in St. Louis, Chair), Nahomi Ichinio (University of Michigan), Chad Hazlett (UCLA)
2018 Maya Sen (Harvard, chair), Philip Schrodt (Parus Analytics) and Henry Brady (Berkeley)
2017 Maya Sen (Harvard, chair), Philip Schrodt (Parus Analytics) and Henry Brady (Berkeley)
2016 R.Michael Alvarez (Caltech), Sunshine Hillygus (Duke), Daniel Hidalgo (MIT)