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David Primo Named First Recipient of Gabrellian Professorship

November 8, 2012
David Primo in his office

David M. Primo, associate professor of political science and business administration at the University of Rochester, is the inaugural holder of the Ani and Mark Gabrellian Professorship. Established in the fall of 2011 by alumni Ani and Mark Gabrellian, the endowed position recognizes a multidisciplinary scholar and teacher whose work bridges two or more academic fields. Through this professorship, Primo, who holds a joint appointment at the School of Arts & Sciences and Simon School of Business, will serve as an important intellectual connection between the schools. His five-year appointment became effective Oct. 1.

“David Primo exemplifies the ideals of the Gabrellian Professorship,” says Joanna B. Olmsted, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences. “His expertise in both economics and politics informs a broad approach to the study of policy making and the influence of campaign finance law, budget rules, and political institutions on a variety of political behaviors and outcomes. He also has a longstanding engagement with questions around business, free enterprise, and entrepreneurship.”

The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester aims to create 80 new endowed professorships to enhance the University’s ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty. The Campaign was launched in October 2011 and will run through June 30, 2016.

Beyond the University, Primo frequently is quoted by national media, including The New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News on a range of American politics topics, such as government spending, budget deficits, campaign finance, and the politics of airline safety and security. He has testified before Congress on constitutional budget rules, and his campaign finance research was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case regarding the public funding of elections.

On River Campus, Primo is recognized as an outstanding teacher. He has created three popular undergraduate courses, “Business and Politics,” “Politics and Markets: Innovation and the Global Business Environment,” and “The Nature of Entrepreneurship,” which demonstrate his multidisciplinary approach. In 2005, he received a Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching, as well as an Undergraduate Professor of the Year Award given by the University of Rochester Students’ Association.

Primo is the author of three books, including the award-winning Rules and Restraint: Government Spending and the Design of Institutions (University of Chicago Press, 2007). His first book, The Plane Truth: Airline Crashes, the Media, and Transportation Policy (Brookings Institution Press, 2003), co-authored with Roger Cobb, examines governmental responses to plane crashes. In 2012, Primo and fellow University political scientist Kevin Clarke published A Model Discipline: Political Science and the Logic of Representations (Oxford University Press), a study about the role of models, both theoretical and statistical, in social science research. The book led to an op-ed in The New York Times, “Overcoming ‘Physics Envy,'” on the misuse of such models in the social sciences.

Primo joined the University in 2002 after completing a doctorate in political science and a master’s degree in economics from Stanford University. He has published articles in a dozen scholarly journals, including the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, as well as in several edited volumes. His research has been supported by numerous organizations, including the National Science Foundation. Primo, who currently serves as director of graduate studies in the Political Science Department, is also a senior scholar at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a member of theAmerican Politics Research editorial board, and a member of the board of academic advisors at the Center for Competitive Politics.

Like the position they endowed, the Gabrellians have pursued multiple fields in their own lives. Mark Gabrellian majored in political science and history at the University, graduating in 1979. Five years later, also at Rochester, Ani Gabrellian, then Ani Nazerian, received her bachelor’s degree in political science and economics. They followed with careers in law, finance, and now real estate development.

Their experiences spanning government and private firms reinforced for them the importance of developing a better understanding of how the public and private sector should interact. Ani explained earlier this year, “We saw how important it is for people in government and business to come up with a more efficient way to work together.”

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