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Graduate Student Profile: Christy Cahill, Political Science

Meet UC Davis Graduate Student Christy Cahill

  • Department
    Political Science
  • Program and year of study
    Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Politics, 6th year
  • Previous degrees and colleges
    BA Political Science and International Studies, University of Iowa
  • Where did you grow up?
    Cholula, Mexico, the oldest city continuously inhabited in America
  • Where do you live now?
  • What's your favorite spot in Davis?
    I teach spinning classes at the FitHouse in downtown Davis four days a week, and I love the supportive and encouraging community there
  • How do you relax?
    I sneak up to Tahoe once a week to go skiing. I also relax by running and walking on the green belts around town, going to yoga classes at FitHouse, and going to happy hour at U of Beer.
  • What was the last book you read for pleasure?
    Like thousands of other Americans, I recently read Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, to try to figure out what in the world is happening right now with American politics.
  • What was the last film you saw at the theater?
  • Research interests
    I have been collecting data on private campaign contributions to political parties in 13 Western democracies from the early 1990s to the present. I am interested in how these private donations incentivize parties to present ambiguous policy positions to the electorate, and then the subsequent consequences of these ambiguous policy positions on parties’ vote-shares. I am also broadly interested in how political institutions—primarily ballot structure--shapes the behavior of voters and political elites in Western democracies.
  • Dissertation title or topic
    The Causes and Electoral Consequences of Policy Ambiguity for European Political Parties
  • Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research
    The structure of a ballot has massive influences on the campaigning behavior of candidates. If a ballot is structured so that voters can choose individual candidates (such as in Norway or Finland), then candidates tend to be personal in their campaigns by emphasizing personal attributes, “localness”, and experience. If the ballot is structured so that voters can only choose a list of candidates that is presented by party leaders (Spain and Chile), then candidates overwhelmingly emphasize the party in their political campaigns. I am continuously blown away at how making seemingly minor revisions to a ballot can have such huge impacts on the behavior of political elites and voters!
  • Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?
    I took an introductory quantitative political science class with Professor Michael S. Lewis-Beck at the University of Iowa that rocked my world. I remember being floored at how quantitative methods opened up this whole new creative and challenging framework for understanding social and political phenomenon. That’s when I switched from pursuing law school to graduate school.
  • Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?
    I wish I had written Capital, by Thomas Piketty. Piketty presents important arguments about the sources of inequality in modern industrialized countries. I appreciate that the book is relevant and interesting for both academic and non-academic audiences.
  • What's the best thing about being a grad student?
    The best thing about being a grad student is having a flexible schedule.
  • What's the worst?
    The worst thing about being a grad student is never being able to completely turn off the work. The pressure of exams, completing a dissertation, finding a job, publishing, and getting tenure is always present
  • If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?
    I used to work at an outdoor company, St. Elias Alpine Guides, in McCarthy, Alaska. If I wasn’t a graduate student, I would definitely be working at a ski resort in the winter, and then back to Alaska in the summers.
  • Finally, please ask yourself a question - "What do you appreciate the most about your experience at UC Davis?"
    I appreciate the opportunities available at UC Davis to work outside of one’s field. I worked at the Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) for three years, and it opened up a whole new world of academia for me. The consultants and staff at CEE are doing innovative and important work to promote effective and inclusive teaching strategies in higher education. My experience working at CEE actually changed my career goals and trajectory, and I recently accepted a position at Carnegie Mellon University in faculty development.

Graduate student profile courtesy of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.

UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.

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