Gov Lab

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 led primarily by undergraduate students, but I’m incredibly proud of the work Lafayette students have done to date.

The American Political Leadership Project (2023-2024)

In AY2023-2024, our student-led team set out to better understand policy preferences and political experiences from an even larger set of American political leaders. A student-run team collected contact information on school board members, state legislators, state legislative staffers, party leaders, political candidates (NC), and college partisan leaders. This project has the potential to greatly improve Lafayette students’ understanding of education policy and American politics more broadly.

The Peer2Power Project (2021-2023)

From Summer 2021 – Spring 2023, a new Gov Lab team set out to test cutting-edge methods of relational organizing in new civic contexts. Recent studies on friend-to-friend mobilization suggest that leveraging pre-existing social networks can be a potent tool in voter turnout. Lafayette students developed a new mobile app and website to facilitate a campus-wide civic engagement competition that embeds a relational organizing experiment.

The American Political Leadership Project (2020-2021)

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 led to the American Political Leadership survey, 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 have led to two academic research articles accepted for publication (not yet in print).


Do I have to live in Easton over the summer/winter terms if I do this?

Nope! We will have regular meetings via Discord.

Note: The College now prohibits Bergh and EXCEL scholars (and at least some other paid students) from working remotely through the summer.

What is Gov Lab currently working on?

Our research topic varies based on student interest and progress made on existing projects. We are currently wrapping up a an article on the politics of evidence-based policymaking and preparing for a new project in AY2024-2025.

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.)?

Students in Gov Lab Leadership positions will usually 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 who 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 at least one EXCEL/Bergh Scholar who is also a project manager. I have been fortunate enough to receive generous funding from the Landis Center for a few additional paid research assistants in the past, but these positions are not guaranteed in the future. I work hard to find additional sources of funding, but the number of paid positions per project may depend on my success in applying for 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 consider if you can consistently contribute a few hours per week to a project.

Still interested? Send me an email, and let’s set up a time to chat.