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.

2020 Winner
Recipient Fred Boehmke (Iowa)

Over the past two decades, Professor Boehmke has built a distinguished career at the University of Iowa, where he currently serves as Director of the Iowa Social Science Research Center. He has published extensively on matters of representation and influence in state politics in the United States, and has also advanced knowledge in political methodology through dozens of publications in venues like Political Analysis, the Journal of Politics, and the American Political Science Review. Professor Boehmke’s work has been recognized a number of times with honorable mentions and prizes that include the 2006 Warren Miller Prize for the best paper published in Political Analysis.

 In selecting Professor Boehmke as this year’s co-recipient of the Excellence in Mentoring Award, the committee was struck by the depth of his commitment to students, both graduate and undergraduate. He coordinates and teaches a large number of courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels; at the graduate level, he has designed eight courses dealing with various topics in political methodology. In a relatively small department, where the average cohort includes six graduate students, Professor Boehmke has participated in 42 dissertation committees over a fifteen-year period. He plays a pivotal role in his department, especially in promoting interaction between students and faculty and thus furthering early professionalization of graduate students. The committee was also struck by Professor Boehmke’s evangelizing zeal, which is exemplified by his tireless promotion of methods conferences—PolMeth, SLAMM, EITM, ICPSR, Essex—among his students. This dedication means that Professor Boehmke’s mentoring extends all year round and around the clock.

Professor Boehmke’s students praise him for a hands-on approach to mentoring that covers all aspects of professional life, from fulfilling course requirements through defending their dissertations all the way to publishing, hitting the job market, and beyond, making sure to introduce his mentees to established colleagues in the field of methods. He pushes his students to overcome insecurities and math anxiety and to imagine themselves as valuable contributors to political methodology. We want to emphasize that Professor Boehmke’s approach to mentoring is far from being “one size fits all,” but instead closer what one of his students dubs “proactive personality management.” Another of his letter writers notes that “He does not expect any of us to fit a particular mold or follow the same path but approaches each of us as individuals and ensures that he is assisting all of his students in the best ways for them.” 

Professor Boehmke’s individualized mentorship approach has combined well with his dauntless advocacy for women and other underrepresented groups in political methodology. His nomination letter singles out how conscientious he was as Director of Graduate Students to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in his Department. Several of his female students emphasize that Professor Boehmke was instrumental in their decision to enter the field of political methodology. One of his nomination letters reads: “As a woman and first-generation graduate student, I have repeatedly felt like I do not belong in the world of political methodology. Fred, however, has made me feel like I belong in the methods field and like my ideas are worthwhile from the first time I talked to him while applying to Iowa’s program.” Another of his female students writes: “[without] his subtle insistence that I actually could figure things out, that I actually was on the right track, I would likely have stuck to my stubborn belief that I wasn't any good at this subject [methodology] at all.”

Selection committee Dave Darmofal (South Carolina), Amber Boydstun (UC, Davis), and Guillermo Rosas  (Washington University in St. Louis)
2020 Winner
Recipient Matthew Lebo (University of Western Ontario)

The many nominations the committee received for Professor Lebo are one of many elements that attest to his dedication to mentoring throughout his students’ careers and on a variety of concerns both professional and personal. One of our discipline’s leading time series scholars, Professor Lebo has been an active and engaged methods mentor, as reflected in his more than a dozen publications co-authored with students, many published in prestigious journals such as Political Analysis, the American Journal of Political Science, and theJournal of Politics

As one of his letter writers notes, Professor Lebo was “pivotal to the creation of a useful methods sequence in the department” at Stony Brook University.” Professor Lebo’s mentoring extends well beyond the institutions at which he has worked, such as Stony Brook University and, now as Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario. His widely-used PS: Political Science & Politics article, “Managing Your Research Pipeline” is in many ways a mentoring article, guiding young scholars on how to build a productive pipeline that will help them gain tenure. The breadth of Professor Lebo’s mentoring influence was also reflected in the wide array of institutions from which the committee received letters, from leading research universities to strong liberal arts colleges to the non-academic, private sector.

The committee was especially struck by Professor Lebo’s commitment to mentoring students from underrepresented groups. Of the nearly 20 nominations the committee received, a third were from women and more than 20 percent were from international students. Professor Lebo has been a stand-out advocate for women in the methods community. One of the women who nominated him states, “We have had several conversations about ways to improve gender dynamics in the discipline to ensure no one is excluded from opportunity and burdens are distributed equally.” The letter also states “He encouraged me to submit a proposal for the Polmeth Summer Meeting, a conference I hadn’t considered given the highly competitive selection process. I have participated in five Polmeths and two VIM meetings thus far, which would not have happened had Matt not given me a push.” Another letter from one of the women scholars who nominated Professor Lebo states “Women are significantly underrepresented in political science and particularly political methodology. Efforts like Matt’s go a long way toward encouraging women to be more active and successful in the field.”

The committee was also struck by Professor Lebo’s continued dedication to his students long after they have graduated and the holistic nature of his commitment to them, including navigating gender issues in their departments and on addressing work-life issues. One of his letter writers notes “Matt is one of those professors who cares about their students personally as well as professionally.” This concern is reflected in the fact that, when told his former students planned to nominate him for this award, Professor Lebo specifically asked that no current students be asked to write letters due to the added stresses they were experiencing related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As one of his letter writers notes, “Matt cares about his students as whole people, and he does so long after they’ve left his department.”

Selection committee Dave Darmofal (South Carolina), Amber Boydstun (UC, Davis), and Guillermo Rosas  (Washington University in St. Louis)

Past Recipients

Year Recipient
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 Recipient
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)