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Haeralis

Does a conservative political affiliation hinder admittance chances?

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I am currently in the preparation process to send in applications to Political Science PhD programs to specialize in Political Theory. I finished undergraduate with a 3.73 GPA (good, though not stellar), with my best performance being in those classes related to political philosophy and history. During undergrad, I sought to build my experience and credentials by working on internships with political organizations. I worked as an intern and events coordinator at a Super PAC devoted to Ben Carson's election, an intern at the National Right to Work Committee, and most recently at the Leadership Institute. I recently worked on a campaign job for a Republican gubernatorial candidate who is pretty moderate and, in my experience, not very offensive to liberal Democrats. 

The most important non-campaign job that I had was working as a Writing Tutor at my university.

All of this is background to the question that I'd like to ask: would my obviously-conservative political orientation damage my prospects if the admissions committee consists of political liberals? In my statements of purpose, I will target scholars at universities whom are much closer to my orientation and explain why I would like to study with them. I always thought that anti-conservative bias in admissions committees was just a myth, but I met a respected scholar from George Fox University recently who recommended that I leave jobs off of my CV that may indicate to the admissions committee that I would be a more traditionalist conservative than they would prefer. 

Would it improve my chances to remove jobs such as the ones that I mentioned above from my CV? Or, would I be fine if I make sure that I explain why their department would benefit my goals and have scholars that I would love to study under? 

Edited by Haeralis
Grammar

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You're over thinking this.

1) I don't think it matters whether you are conservative or not. 

2) The campaign work isn't going to get you admitted. In fact, it may not have any bearing whatsoever. Ph.D. admissions are about academic experience. 

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1) I wouldn't put that much weight on what this one professor said.

2) As above, the experience admissions committees are looking for is not work experience, it's typically research or policy experience (where you can demonstrate a research component to the policy development, to make it most relevant). PhDs are not going to care about event coordinator experience.

3) Regardless of the political affiliation or controversy, I would leave irrelevant and nonacademic jobs (see #2 above) off your application. I did the same, because if it doesn't add anything, it's taking up space that could go to other, more relevant experiences.

4) Take a look at example CVs. If there is no section for what you are referring to on examples from your field, then you shouldn't include it. In some areas, there might not be a section for work experience at all, because you would only have sections for research experience and thesis projects.

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4 hours ago, Haeralis said:

All of this is background to the question that I'd like to ask: would my obviously-conservative political orientation damage my prospects if the admissions committee consists of political liberals?

I'm going to stray from my lane a bit to recommend that, if possible, you identify members of admissions committees and do some quick background research. If you find that Professors Andropov and Record grind political axes in their scholarship, write op ed pieces, Tweet often, and are politically active in other arenas, you might want to make some of the adjustments in addition to the ones recommended above.

Keep in mind that this recommendation cuts both ways. In the long run, you may be worse off working with professors who hold POVs similar to yours. IME, I've grown the most by working with academics who hold different viewpoints on politics, history, and historiography (again, I'm drifting from my lane).

To pivot slightly, are you sure that conservative and moderate Republicans in the Ivory Tower are going to embrace you for working for Carson? What ever the man's political bonafides,  his boss is a colossus of anti-intellectualism. And Carson himself holds a number of views that are embarrassing.

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1 hour ago, Sigaba said:

I'm going to stray from my lane a bit to recommend that, if possible, you identify members of admissions committees and do some quick background research. If you find that Professors Andropov and Record grind political axes in their scholarship, write op ed pieces, Tweet often, and are politically active in other arenas, you might want to make some of the adjustments in addition to the ones recommended above.

Keep in mind that this recommendation cuts both ways. In the long run, you may be worse off working with professors who hold POVs similar to yours. IME, I've grown the most by working with academics who hold different viewpoints on politics, history, and historiography (again, I'm drifting from my lane).

To pivot slightly, are you sure that conservative and moderate Republicans in the Ivory Tower are going to embrace you for working for Carson? What ever the man's political bonafides,  his boss is a colossus of anti-intellectualism. And Carson himself holds a number of views that are embarrassing.

Thanks for the commentary and advice. As for your last question, it is possible that they may not, but I didn't technically work for Ben Carson himself; it was a non-partisan Super PAC which, though it didn't coordinate with Carson himself, worked to boost his chances in the primary. This was at the time that he was competing against Trump, not working for him. 

I think that you all are right that research and publication experience is far more pivotal, and on that note, I actually have some good things on my CV. I've published two papers in a respected online journal. Additionally, I presented at two research conferences on my Calvin Coolidge project, and that essay should be published very soon. This one is particularly important because it is my writing sample and in my statement of purpose I will emphasize my desire to write my dissertation on Coolidge, whose political theory has been heretofore ignored. I am presenting in early November at a Legacy of the Reformation Conference on the political changes encouraged by the Protestant Reformation, and that paper--likewise--should also be published. 

Additionally, I had a great job which (unlike the others) could be more likely to benefit my admissions chances. I was an academic writing tutor at my university, and I heard that jobs like that do improve your credentials and are also valuable when they choose Teacher's Assistants. 

I don't think that I'm a shoo-in, especially if I underperform on the GRE, but I am just worried that my prior jobs could be a liability and, in conjunction with my interest in Calvin Coolidge, indicate that I won't conform to the generally postmodern-leaning of the political science academic establishment. 

Edited by Haeralis

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2 hours ago, Sigaba said:

I'm going to stray from my lane a bit to recommend that, if possible, you identify members of admissions committees and do some quick background research. If you find that Professors Andropov and Record grind political axes in their scholarship, write op ed pieces, Tweet often, and are politically active in other arenas, you might want to make some of the adjustments in addition to the ones recommended above.

Keep in mind that this recommendation cuts both ways. In the long run, you may be worse off working with professors who hold POVs similar to yours. IME, I've grown the most by working with academics who hold different viewpoints on politics, history, and historiography (again, I'm drifting from my lane).

To pivot slightly, are you sure that conservative and moderate Republicans in the Ivory Tower are going to embrace you for working for Carson? What ever the man's political bonafides,  his boss is a colossus of anti-intellectualism. And Carson himself holds a number of views that are embarrassing.

If the department will tell him who is on the committee. When I was applying I never had much luck with getting those names (I wanted to know if my interests were in-line with any of them). Most of the time the departments never even answered my query. I ended up reading some of the Americanists' publications to figure it out for myself.

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49 minutes ago, Haeralis said:

I don't think that I'm a shoo-in, especially if I underperform on the GRE, but I am just worried that my prior jobs could be a liability and, in conjunction with my interest in Calvin Coolidge, indicate that I won't conform to the generally postmodern-leaning of the political science academic establishment. 

I think calling it a "postmodern-leaning establishment" is going to do far more to tank your chances than either your political affiliation or interest in Calvin Coolidge. Like, what does that even mean?

There are certainly party affiliation trends within fields, but as long as you are a good scholar and don't act unprofessionally (which goes for what I presume you call SJW snowflakes as much as it goes for the neo-Nazis), nobody will care.

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3 minutes ago, ExponentialDecay said:

I think calling it a "postmodern-leaning establishment" is going to do far more to tank your chances than either your political affiliation or interest in Calvin Coolidge. Like, what does that even mean?

There are certainly party affiliation trends within fields, but as long as you are a good scholar and don't act unprofessionally (which goes for what I presume you call SJW snowflakes as much as it goes for the neo-Nazis), nobody will care.

Obviously, I would not say to try to victimize myself and label them as oppressive postmodernists in a statement of purpose or something like that. Labeling academia as mostly postmodern, however, is fair-game in the political theory department. All of the theorists whom I have studied under so far who have completed PhD programs across the country have said that political theory is dominated by postmodernists. For the practical implications of "what that even means" it obviously has to do with the queer studies, radical feminist, and deep ecologist professors in political science who express views that are basically anathema to political conservatism.

Despite appearances from this thread, I am convinced that I could get along with and have a cordial relationship studying under scholars who are not conservatives. As long as they are respectful, I could enjoy working with them though I obviously would not endorse all of the views that they express. I don't even endorse all of the views expressed by conservative scholars. 

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11 minutes ago, ExponentialDecay said:

I think calling it a "postmodern-leaning establishment" is going to do far more to tank your chances than either your political affiliation or interest in Calvin Coolidge. Like, what does that even mean?

Yeah, I am a bit confused as well. Political science is perhaps the biggest, along with economics, discipline that has failed to embrace post-modernism in the social sciences. 

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2 minutes ago, Haeralis said:

Despite appearances from this thread, I am convinced that I could get along with and have a cordial relationship studying under scholars who are not conservatives. As long as they are respectful, I could enjoy working with them though I obviously would not endorse all of the views that they express. I don't even endorse all of the views expressed by conservative scholars. 

Just for the record - I am moderate (hold many conservative views, hold many liberal views) in political leaning. In comparison to my peer students and professors, I would be considered conservative on a relative scale.

Would you like to know how many times my personal political views, or the view of professors, have come up in 1 on 1 interactions in political science? As many times as I can count on one of my hands.

This isn't a discipline where people sit around and sip coffee and have deep intellectual and partisan debates. You are much more likely to argue about how to operationalize some obscure variable or how to read X's book in the case of theory. 

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55 minutes ago, Haeralis said:

Obviously, I would not say to try to victimize myself and label them as oppressive postmodernists in a statement of purpose or something like that. Labeling academia as mostly postmodern, however, is fair-game in the political theory department. All of the theorists whom I have studied under so far who have completed PhD programs across the country have said that political theory is dominated by postmodernists. For the practical implications of "what that even means" it obviously has to do with the queer studies, radical feminist, and deep ecologist professors in political science who express views that are basically anathema to political conservatism.

Despite appearances from this thread, I am convinced that I could get along with and have a cordial relationship studying under scholars who are not conservatives. As long as they are respectful, I could enjoy working with them though I obviously would not endorse all of the views that they express. I don't even endorse all of the views expressed by conservative scholars. 

So... don't apply to work at those departments? Like, suppose UChicago is overrun by the icky feminists: why would you want to go there anyway? Even if you get in, how do you expect to find an adviser willing to supervise your dissertation, which is the point of the endeavor? If political science departments are indeed so ideologically polarized (in which case I'm not sure why it's called a science...), the solution seems obvious: stick to the departments that shill your ideology.

Again, perhaps I'm not understanding something, as I am posting outside of my usual subject range, but your preoccupation with this political leaning stuff seems rather out of left field. It's like if you said that you'd be okay studying under scholars who were Buddhist or listened to heavy metal music or something. Like, why wouldn't you be? Those things are completely irrelevant to your actual work. In my experience, you're more likely to know a given professor's favorite pizza toping than you are their political affiliation.

That said, I feel obligated to mention as we get a few characters like you in my area as well: if you're studying at George Mason or Liberty University or another one of those tinfoil hat places, be warned that your professors may be grossly misrepresenting the field to you due to their own biases.

Edited by ExponentialDecay

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8 minutes ago, ExponentialDecay said:

So... don't apply to work at those departments? Like, suppose UChicago is overrun by the icky feminists: why would you want to go there anyway? Even if you get in, how do you expect to find an adviser willing to supervise your dissertation, which is the point of the endeavor? If political science departments are indeed so ideologically polarized (in which case I'm not sure why it's called a science...), the solution seems obvious: stick to the departments that shill your ideology.

Again, perhaps I'm not understanding something, as I am posting outside of my usual subject range, but your preoccupation with this political leaning stuff seems rather out of left field. It's like if you said that you'd be okay studying under scholars who were Buddhist or listened to heavy metal music or something. Like, why wouldn't you be? Those things are completely irrelevant to your actual work. In my experience, you're more likely to know a given professor's favorite pizza toping than you are their political affiliation.

That said, I feel obligated to mention as we get a few characters like you in my area as well: if you're studying at George Mason or Liberty University or another one of those tinfoil hat places, be warned that your professors may be grossly misrepresenting the field to you due to their own biases.

It seems bizarre to suggest that the political theory adhered to by a department would have no relevance to the study of political theory. As I said, I'm not worried about finding the right advisor. 

The impetus for the political ideology question, as a reminder, was a George Fox professor's statement that I should leave things off of my CV if it implies any affinity for conservatism. I wanted to find out whether or not I actually had to worry about an admissions panel throwing out my application simply because I interned for conservative advocacy groups. It seems to me that it is a legitimate concern, not unnecessarily dwelling on it. 

And no, I'm not particularly interested in going to an evangelical graduate school since I went to a respectable one for undergrad and I'd like to expand my horizon a bit and show that I studied at intellectually diverse places. 

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