I am currently an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University (non-Tenure Track), a position I began in Fall 2016.
My research agenda centers around national-level political leaders in low-income and non-democratic settings: why do leaders emerge and run for office? My forthcoming book (Cambridge University Press) traces how lifelong vocational career trajectories and past political experiences shape pathways to office in electoral authoritarian regimes, showing that the roots of nascent political ambition are planted long before aspirants decide to run. These formative experiences influence when and why candidates emerge and also how they navigate intraparty competition, the tactics they use on the campaign trail, and, ultimately, what they do in the legislature. This topic is of paramount importance to understand the types of political leaders that emerge and the quality of public services and policies they deliver.
The book anchors my broader research profile which studies three related themes: (1) how personal social and political histories drive legislative ambition and performance, (2) why voters choose candidates, especially ones from under-represented groups and (3) the role of political parties in candidate recruitment and nomination and its consequences for elections and legislatures. My work on these topics is published in American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Democratization, and Public Opinion Quarterly. For more on these projects, head over to my Research page.
I am an expert on the politics of electoral authoritarian regimes and have deep regional expertise in East Africa, including four total years on the ground in Tanzania and professional fluency in Swahili. In my field work, I primarily implement political elite surveys with aspirants for national legislative office. I also research solutions to measurement challenges related to these substantive topics, including methods for collecting and analyzing historical life-event data, improving longitudinal data collection studies, and measuring sensitive attitudes on surveys.