I was born and raised in Cape Girardeau, MO. After graduating from high school, I attended Westminster College in Fulton, MO. I must say it truly was the best four years of my life. While there I majored in political science, Spanish, and international studies, with a minor in European studies. I graduated from Westminster in the spring of 2003.
After taking a year off, 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 a visiting assistant professor at Murray State University, teaching classes in American politics.
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 the context matter--that the environment in which voters gather information affects how 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, and hanging out with friends. I'm also trying to get into kayaking. By far my favorite thing to do is travel and backpack. The last major trip I took was to Costa Rica. It was my first trip abroad and was really fun. It was a ten day trip during which I visited Arenal (an active volcano), Monte Verde (a town surrounded by rainforest), and Manuel Antonio (a beautiful beachfront town). Also not too long ago I went backpacking in Arizona with my brother and a friend (Shami). We hit up two different trails: Aravaipa Canyon and Beaver Creek. Both of the trails followed a creek. Who knew there was so much water in the desert? Two of my favorite experiences from the trip were getting to see a Gila Monster (one of two poisonous lizards in the world) and a rattle snake. I didn't get to hear the snake's rattle. He didn't really know that we were there, which is ok considering that the nearest hospital was over two hours away by car plus having to hike back to the car. Picture of both trips are available through the picture like at the top, along with some other cool pictures.