I was born and raised in Cape Girardeau, MO. After graduating from high school, I attended Westminster College in Fulton, MO. While at Westminster, I majored in political science, Spanish, and international studies, with a minor in European studies. I graduated from Westminster in the spring of 2003. I used to say this was the best four years of my life. Then I married Melanie and gained a stepson, Dylan.
After taking a year off from college, I returned to academia where I attended graduate school at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. I received my Masters in political science in December 2006. My thesis, "Unclear Ideology Heuristics and Voting," explores how people use ideology to vote and what happens when the information that they obtain about candidates make ideological distinctions difficult. I continued to pursue a PhD in political science and graduated with my doctorate in May 2012. I have two primary fields, American politics and comparative politics, and a supporting field of international relations. My primary area of research is political behavior, a subfield within American politics. I am currently an assistant professor at Murray State University, teaching classes in American politics and research methods.
For my dissertation I explored how context (changes in the information environment) affects how voters search for information. I examine three contexts: the number of elections on the ballot, the availability of partisan information, and the amount of campaign dialogue. To test this relationship I use a dynamic information board, which simulates a campaign. The dynamic information board also allows me to track what pieces of information subjects in my study chose to view. Since I was studying how voters search for information, I applied for and received a Dissertation Improvement Grant with the National Science Foundation, which allowed me to recruit and pay subjects through Amazon Mechanical Turk who more closely resemble the typical voter. Results indicate context matter--that the environment in which voters gather information affects how voters acquire their knowledge base. In other words, the way in which we design elections matters and there may be ways that we can design elections to help voters make better decisions.
For fun, some of the things that I enjoy doing are playing tennis, backpacking, camping, racquetball, ping pong, playing the piano, nerf wars, and hanging out with friends and family. By far my favorite thing to do is travel and backpack. Recent trips include New York at Christmas-time and Regensburg Germany. I've been fortunate to travel throughout most of the United States and have hit up some amazing places including backpacking in Arizona, Glacier National Park, and Utah and of course visiting our nation's capital.
I can't imagine what else life will bring, but whatever it is, I look forward to doing it with my family!