University of Rochester

G. Bingham Powell Tapped to Lead American Political Science Association

April 29, 2010

G. Bingham Powell, the Marie C. Wilson and Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Political Science at the University of Rochester, has been nominated to head the American Political Science Association, the world's largest and most distinguished scholarly organization in political science.

An award-winning teacher and scholar, Powell is an authority on modern democracies, widely recognized for his research on political participation, the role of elections, conflict, and party systems in the developed world. His book, Contemporary Democracies: Participation, Stability, and Violence (Harvard 1982) earned the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award in 1983, the association's highest honor for a book and was recognized by the association again in 2000 for its "lasting contribution to the literature on representation and electoral systems.

"The selection of the APSA president recognizes professional achievement as well as the judgment and skills needed to lead the organization," says Kay Lehman Schlozman, chair of the association's nominating committee and the J. Joseph Moakley Professor of Political Science at Boston College. "There was universal agreement that Bingham Powell fulfilled both. His scholarly work has helped all of us who study democracies; he wins teaching awards, which is not always the case with top researchers; and he handled the editorship of the American Political Science Review with standards and tact."

The official election will take place during the association's annual meeting, Sept. 2 to 5, in Washington, D.C. If elected, Powell would begin his term immediately thereafter. He would serve one year as president elect, followed by a second year as president.

Powell joined the University of Rochester's political science department in 1970, after earning a master's and doctorate in political science from Stanford University and teaching at the University of California at Berkeley for two years. The author or coauthor of seven books and 38 scholarly articles and chapters, Powell has explored and compared up to 30 democratic countries in the industrialized world. He served as the editor of American Political Science Review from 1991 to 1995 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991. His latest research explores how well democratic systems represent the people they govern by measuring how closely citizens' political views are aligned with their chosen governments.

Along with scholarship, Powell brings to his new position a deep commitment to teaching. "Like many, although not all, political scientists, I'm a teacher as well as a scholar," says Powell, who served as the political science department's director of graduate studies for a decade and a half and won the University's highest teaching awards for both graduate and undergraduate teaching, in 1999 and 2009, respectively. He is also the author or co-author of two popular undergraduate textbooks, Comparative Politics Today (Longman 2007) and European Politics Today (Longman 2009).

"It's important to have someone as president for whom a very substantial part of their scholarly life has been spent on the teaching side," he notes, especially when research in political science can sometimes steal the limelight.

For Powell, however, research and teaching complement each other. "Having to explain my work in the classroom really does make it clearer in my own mind," he says. And he credits student curiosity with providing the seed for several of his books. Basic freshman-level questions, like "what does it mean to have a lot of participation in elections" or "how much violence is a lot of violence," have challenged him to explore areas more deeply to find satisfying answers.

If elected, Powell will become the third University faculty member to serve as president of the American Political Science Association, preceded by Richard Fenno, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, in 1984-1985, and the late William Riker in 1982-1983. Having a faculty member once again at the association's helm, says Powell, will be a plus for the University. "Everybody in the profession of political science knows that we are cutting edge in certain areas, but sometimes they think that we occupy a rather narrow niche," he explains. This leadership role, he says, "helps to emphasize the degree to which political science at the University of Rochester is doing widely visible and respected work."

Founded in 1903, the American Political Science Association serves more than 15,000 members in more than 80 countries. Through programs and services, the association brings together political scientists across all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe to expand the awareness and understanding of politics.