Eric Raile is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and serves as the Director of the Human Ecology Learning & Problem Solving (HELPS) Lab at Montana State University, Bozeman. Notably, Raile has recently made an investment in the association and his career by recently becoming one of MPSA’s Lifetime members. We asked him a few questions about his involvement with MPSA and his research habits.
What do you value most about being a member of MPSA?
The conference organizers make real efforts to improve the experience for everyone and are not afraid to experiment. A conference attendee can readily find high-quality panels that feature cutting-edge research. The organization also clearly cares about improving outcomes for graduate students and early-career faculty, including the provision of information about events and opportunities. In addition, the American Journal of Political Science is an excellent academic publication.
What projects are you currently working on?
The analytical framework for political will and public will that I have developed with collaborators is the focal point of one research line. This research stems in part from my previous work on corruption and public ethics for the US government. Currently, we are investigating political will and public will for climate-smart agriculture in Uganda and Senegal. Another line of research considers coalition management in multiparty presidencies. A recently published piece looks at how presidential decisions influence subsequent costs of governing in Brazil. Additionally, a survey of residents in three states has provided the data for multiple studies examining public views of the loss of whitebark pine trees due to climate change and of corresponding management strategies in the greater Yellowstone area. We presented a piece on public perceptions of the problem of losing whitebark pine at the MPSA conference in April. A similar project beginning soon will try to use carefully constructed narratives to influence preparedness for flooding events along the Yellowstone River in Montana. Nearly all these projects are collaborative in nature. I am fortunate to work with many first-rate researchers.
Do you have a favorite writing resource or process to keep you motivated?
I am trying hard to carve out blocks of time to write on a daily basis. Nothing here is revolutionary, but I find that I am much more efficient if I can set aside chunks of time in a quiet place and can work on a single project (rather than multiple research projects at once) over days or weeks. Consistent contact with a project keeps me more engaged and allows my brain to keep working on the project during other times of the day. This is all easier said than done, however.
What would you tell undergraduate students considering a career in political science? You need not become a politician or a political campaign staffer when you earn your degree in political science. You can certainly do these things if you wish, but political science is a terrific discipline for developing transferable skills that will serve you well as you change jobs throughout your career. Political science prepares you for a variety of ways to make a difference – from working for government agencies to think tanks to nonprofit organizations. Many of our students end up being successful entrepreneurs or private-sector employees, as well.
What is your typical day like during the academic year? During the summer?
During the school year, a typical week involves a mix of teaching, research, administrative, and service activities. The distribution changes from day to day. On the teaching side, a day might include some class preparation, time in the classroom, a bit of grading, and advising of undergraduate and graduate students. I also have multiple research projects at different stages of the research process (i.e., planning and design, data collection, analysis, writing). Further, I am the director of a social science research laboratory and the faculty advisor for the Model United Nations program and devote some time every week to managing these activities. Of course, keeping up with email traffic requires a daily commitment, as well. The summer looks similar, though without the time in classrooms and with the work less tied to specific times and places. In all, the schedule suits me as repetitiveness and boredom are never problems!