In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, I formally organized the Lafayette College “Gov Lab” to provide remote, part-time, meaningful professional development opportunities to students suddenly unable to find summer internships. Since Summer 2020, I have continuously worked with a team of Lafayette researchers to develop original, student-driven projects. Gov Lab students apply and interview for positions as they would any other internship positions, and I delegate many coordinating responsibilities to an EXCEL Scholar chosen to serve as Gov Lab manager. We’re still figuring out how to smoothly run a social science lab among undergraduate students, but I’m incredibly proud of the work Lafayette students have done to date.
In AY2020-2021, a large team of students built the foundations for a massive sample of (40,000+) local party leaders, activists, and verified political donors. Our efforts lead to the American Political Leadership survey, which launched in September 2021. This incredibly ambitious effort is sure to glean valuable insights from municipal leaders, donors, and political activists in both major parties and every county in the United States. Results from the American Political Leadership study are expected to be available in October 2021.
In AY2021-2022, a much smaller Gov Lab is actively working to test cutting-edge methods of political mobilization. Students set out to answer a key research question in congressional politics: how can campaigns effectively recruit political volunteers? While our field experiment is not set to launch until Spring 2022, Gov Lab students are hard at work developing a custom-made mobile app, building an intercollegiate network of politically engaged students throughout Pennsylvania, and fine-tuning the design of a massive field experiment for the 2022 Senate election cycle.
Gov Lab Managers (EXCEL Scholars)
Adam Bakalchuk (2021-22), Julia Cassidy (2020-21)
Gov Lab Members (2020-present):
Alex Hunter, Avery Warmack, Azalea Danes, Caitlin Mullooly, Cameron Downey, Claire Brassil, Claire Fedor, Deja Jackson, Dylan Gooding, Eleanor Griffiths, Evan Corn, Evan Fell, Henry Morgan, Jillian Updegraff, Kait Ahern, Katie Butler, Kelly Mwaamba, Lawrence Narotsky, Leah Bartlett, Maddie Holden, Makaila Wilson, Nora Sweeney, Olivia Lattanzi, Ryan Motto, Ryan Stratton, William McAlpine
Do I have to live in Easton over the summer/winter terms if I do this?
Nope! We will have regular meetings via Zoom and communicate regularly via Slack.
What is Gov Lab currently working on?
Our research topic varies based upon student interest and progress made one existing projects. Gov Lab is currently working on the early stages of a field experiment to be conducted in the 2022 PA Senate primaries.
What kind of work would I actually do on a day-to-day basis?
We’ll work as a team to try to draft a publication-worthy scholarly article. Most students will help with data entry, data cleaning, and descriptive analyses. Nearly all students in Gov Lab work to help draft annotated bibliographies, interview relevant political actors, and analyze data in R.
Are there any requirements (skills, courses, etc.)?
EXCEL Scholars will need to have a basic understanding of quantitative methods and causal inference. Additional Gov Lab members will be selectively recruited. While I am particularly interested in students that have taken Political Analysis (GOVT275), our group does not have a GPA cutoff or require letters of recommendation. Most importantly, we are interested in assembling a diverse range of skill sets and perspectives to enhance the quality of our research.
Do students get paid to participate?
I typically have the resources to pay for one EXCEL Scholar, who also serves as Project Manager, and, depending on the year, an additional research assistant. I work hard to find additional sources of RA funding, but the number of paid positions per project may depend on my success applying to outside grants in the prior academic year. Consequently, many students on the team are volunteers.
Before you apply to Gov Lab, I recommend you look for something that pays you or will directly lead to a job out of college. Try to snag a paid internship in your preferred line of work if you can manage it. I try to keep Gov Lab running, primarily, to provide an opportunity to learn some research skills if you are unable to find another position.
I’ve read all of this. I think I want to join the team. What next?
First, I’d sleep on it. For most of you, this is unpaid labor outside what is likely to be your future profession. Make sure this is the best option available to you right now before you dive in, and really consider if you will consistently be able to contribute a few hours per week to a project.
Still interested? Send me an email, and let’s set up a time to chat.