PhD Student Experiences


Victoria Shineman, American Politics, Comparative Politics, Experimental Methods

My experience here, both at New York University and in New York City, has been fantastic. I completed my B.A. at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. My background was in electoral systems, and I previously worked in electoral policy reform. My formal area of study is Comparative Politics, though I would consider my research to be interdisciplinary across subfields. My current research focuses on how participation costs affect the political sophistication of different populations. I am also interested in the connections between information, extremism, and polarization. I came to NYU because of the exceptional methodological training and because there were excellent faculty members in my areas of interest, as well as in surrounding areas. I work with faculty from multiple subfields, which enables me to support and strengthen my research from diverse perspectives. I have working projects which involve statistical analysis, formal models, comparative case studies, and experiments executed in both the lab and the field. I have worked with multiple faculty members, and I have co-authored several papers with both faculty and students.

My master's paper involved an empirical case study of compulsory voting laws across the Austrian provinces. The next year, I received a travel grant from the Politics Department to travel to Austria to conduct follow-up research. I lived in Vienna for four months, studying German, and navigating through archives and political records. I hired a translator who was also an expert hiker - during a trip to the archives in the western provinces, we spent a weekend hiking in the Alps. The large number of NYU faculty and students with contacts across Europe enabled me to connect with scholars in Austria and Germany, some of whom helped me secure critical interviews with political elites - including the former Vice Chancellor of Austria.

In addition to the top notch statistics and game theory training, NYU is a great place to learn about experimental research in political science. There is a rigorous introductory class on experimental methods, and NYU hosts an experimental political science conference every year – a great opportunity to learn about current research, as well as to meet other people in the field. Additionally, I participate in an experimental working group, which is a collection of Ph.D. students from NY and NJ who gather a few times a year to workshop experimental projects "in progress." This working group allows us to present our ideas in a stress-free environment, and to elicit constructive comments from other NYU students as well as students from other universities. It also allows us to become familiar with other students' research interests, and is a great method of initiating collaborative projects.

My (3rd year) qualifying paper included a formal model isolating the theoretical mechanisms behind my hypotheses relating to compulsory voting, as well as a laboratory experiment testing the predictions of this model. The experiment was funded through a grant from the NYU Center for Experimental Social Science (CESS), an experimental computer lab located one floor above my office. CESS funds are readily available to our Ph.D. students, and provide great opportunities for preliminary testing of original models. The results of my experiment were promising, and helped me to secure additional external funding from the Rita Mae Kelly Endowment Fellowship, as well as a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation. I used these funds to finance an independent field experiment, integrating two experimental treatments with a panel survey conducted before and after the 2011 San Francisco Municipal Election. I lived in SF for three months while executing this study, and thanks to our department’s connections, I was able to use a visiting desk space at Stanford during this time.

My ability to develop and improve these research projects has been greatly assisted through travel grants from the Politics Department, which have allowed me to present different parts of my research at conferences each year, including the annual meetings of the NPSA, MPSA, and APSA. Many of our graduate students present regularly at top conferences. We share hotel rooms or rent apartments together for the weekend, and meet up at the NYU reception.

Lastly, living in New York City has been an incredible experience. The campus is in the heart of Greenwich Village, surrounded by unique stores and restaurants. Open street fairs, performers, and musicians are all common in the area. New York offers so many diverse neighborhoods - there really is something for everyone. I am personally an avid live music fan, and I enjoy the multitude of live music options in the city. I'm also interested in performance poetry, and I compete in poetry slam competitions. There are four different venues which host weekly "open mic" and spoken word events within a 15-minute walk from my office! There are also countless other opportunities within the university. For example, I learned how to swing dance through a free weekly lesson from the NYU Swing Club, and I completed a Teaching and Learning certificate program sponsored by the graduate school. In this regard, NYU allows me to pursue my Ph.D. in a rigorous cutting-edge research environment, while also providing me with opportunities to explore my other hobbies and interests.


Michael Aklin, international relations

Why NYU? Well, if you are interested in political science from a technical perspective and like having freedom to work across subfields, then NYU is one of the best places to be at. Having previously worked (and studied as an undergrad) in the fields of international politics and environmental issues from a quantitative perspective, I was naturally attracted to NYU. The quality of its faculty, as well as the strength and rigorousness of its curriculum are guarantees for a good graduate education. 

And I haven't been disappointed: the classwork alternates strong methods courses and quality seminars on substantive issues. While my interest is in international relations, I have taken the opportunity to discover new fields such as social choice. The program is flexible; moreover, one can take classes in other departments at NYU or go to neighboring universities such as Columbia or Princeton to take specific classes. 

Beyond that however, the nicest thing is that this department has a great working environment. Faculty have their doors literally open for you to come and get feedback on your research. Working with nice people makes a clear difference. Especially when, like me, you come from another continent and have to build a new life here. 

Finally, there is not much to be said against the life in New York - it's definitely a great city, whatever you are passionate about. The stipend relatively easily covers the living costs - and you won't have to live like a monk. So no worry on this side either.


Marko Klasnja, comparative politics

I am currently a second-year PhD student.  Prior to coming to NYU, education-wise, I received a BA in economics and business from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia, and an MA from the School of International Service, American University, Washington D.C.  After the MA program, I worked for two years as a research assistant at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, also in D.C.  I realized during my master's program that I wanted to do academic research in political science.  My experience at inside-the-beltway think thank only solidified such an interest. 

Several things attracted me to NYU.  My interests include political economy and voting in new democracies, and the program has world-class scholars in both those areas (and any other for that matter).  I also knew about the program's strong reputation for student-professor collaboration, which is something I came to value through my work with senior researchers at the Peterson Institute as a particular joy of scholarship.  Moreover, the New York area offers a number of opportunities for taking classes outside of one's department or home-university.  This is an important part of academic development. 

Of my experiences with the program so far, I would particularly highlight flexibility, in several ways.  First, in my two semesters, I have already taken two "Reading and Research" courses which were solely up to me to design in consultation with a chosen faculty.  The department was very flexible in allowing me to focus on quite specific subjects and elicit very specific guidance (many thanks to Josh Tucker and Patrick Egan!).  This is not something easily found in the first year of any PhD program.  Second, two courses I am taking in my current semester -- a game theory seminar and an agent-based modelling course -- were set up expressly by the professors in response to demand from the students -- expressed during an end-of-the-semester party (many thanks to Becky Morton and Michael Laver!).  Another aspect I would stress is the focus on writing research papers from the get-go.  There are writing requirements instead of comprehensive exams, and this makes for a very immediate and very valuable immersion into actual research (and research design!). 

michelitch_small.jpgJeffery Carniegie, political economy

I came to NYU as a Master’s student after more than ten years of working in software. I wanted to work on something that interested me. I was afraid I would be outclassed by more recent graduates with more up-to-date knowledge. It turned out that I was able to offer valuable insights from my work experience, and my good time management skills proved essential to grad school success. I took several PhD level classes as a Master’s student so that when I applied to the PhD program I already had several recommendations from NYU Professors. The department was really wonderful in helping with that transition and with my career change.

The Politics program at NYU is a rising star and is actively trying to improve. Faculty members are always looking for suggestions and ideas from PhD students on what to teach. The  professors cooperate across all subfields and interest, which is not true in many top programs. Even the best known Professors here will work with you one-on-one and take an active interest in your progress. The administrative staff is always helpful and positive. The consortium program allows you to take classes at nearby universities if you can’t fit your needs  here. The end result is an amazingly high quality education and a terrific environment for learning. I would recommend this program to anyone.

While here, I have lived in the East Village, Upper West Side, and New Jersey. New York City is amazingly diverse; each neighborhood has its own style. Cars are impossible here, so you must get used to taking the metro and walking. It can seem expensive at first, but with some help from your fellow students, you find out where to get reasonably priced food and groceries and cut down on expenses.
Within two months you learn to live cheap, and the city then becomes a very unique and enriching experience.

When my wife and I decided to have a child, NYU was very helpful in finding local day care. NYU also offers free classes for parents, often taught by researchers in child development. The department  has many young kids and they are supportive of families. Six graduate students have had kids this year! We were able to get a lot of hand-me-downs as well as advice. NYU and the Politics department are a wonderful community whether you are single, married, or have children.

herzog_small.jpgALEXANDER HERZOG, comparative politics

I joined the Department of Politics in Fall 2006. Before I came to NYU I graduated from the University of Mannheim, Germany, with a degree in Social Sciences. My thesis was about strategic voting in Germany and showed evidence that voters are more likely to vote strategically if two parties signal their willingness to form a coalition government.

Before studying at Mannheim, I studied Politics and Management at the University of Konstanz, Germany, and was a one-year visiting student at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

My interests are probably best described as "comparative politics'' although the boundaries between the different fields are small in this department, as people define their work more by substantive interest than by the traditional field within political science. I am generally interested in mass and elite political behavior and especially in voting behavior, party competition and government formation. I am currently working on a paper about the relative influence of cabinet ministers in parliamentary democracies. This paper originated out of Prof. Michael Laver's comparative politics course, which I took in my first year. The focus of this paper is on the relationship between the inter-party portfolio allocation and the policy output of governments. More precisely, I am examining to what extent social expenditure is affected by the policy positions of the government parties, their joint policy position as a cabinet, and the allocation of certain ministries to certain parties.

Another paper on which I am working deals with the relationship between economic inequality and political behavior in the United States. Using the results of a large public opinion survey together with census data, I am able to analyze the effect of economic inequality on voting behavior and partisanship at the constituency level. This paper is supervised by Prof. Howard Rosenthal and based on previous work by Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal (Polarized America, MIT Press, 2007). In a joint project we plan to extend this work into a comparative framework by analyzing panel studies from the United States, Great Britain, and Germany.

My research approach could be called analytical, by which I mean that I believe that formal models and quantitative methods are appropriate means to study political behavior. Additionally, I am interested in agent-based computer simulations in which social phenomena are modeled "bottom-up'' by letting individual agents with simple decision rules interact with each other. As a research assistant for Prof. Michael Laver I am working on such a simulation which aims to throw light on dynamic party competition within a spatial model.

NYU's strength in analytical methods and the rigorous training provided by the PhD program were among the main reasons why I came to this university. Foundations in math, game theory and quantitative methods are covered within the first two terms and subsequent courses allow for a more in-depth specialization in each of these fields.

These "tools courses" are mixed with substantive courses which can be chosen individually and allow students to concentrate on a particular field or interest. Given my substantive focus on political mass and elite behavior I took courses in comparative and American politics.

The distinction between "comparative politics'' and "American politics'' is somewhat awkward in that the same methods and theories are applied in both fields. Many in my department agree that every political science question ought to be answered comparatively, where people might differ in their country selection or might concentrate on a particular area or political system. This perspective is one of many advantages I see at NYU as it leads to a joint understanding and collaborative work between the traditional fields.

The courses I have taken so far are Comparative Politics I with Prof. Leonard Wantchekon and Comparative Politics II with Prof. Michael Laver, the former covering political behavior in developing countries and the later mass and elite behavior in established democracies. I also took Prof. Sanford Gordon and Prof. Howard Rosenthal's core course in American Politics which provided an excellent introduction into the most influential analytical models developed within the American Politics tradition. I chose to do an advanced seminar last semester with Prof. Joshua Tucker on Comparative Political Behavior in which we focused on voting behavior and partisanship in established democracies and newly emerging political systems of the former Soviet Union.

woodruff.jpgMICHAEL WOODRUFF, American/Judicial Politics

I came to the NYU Politics Ph.D. program having taken a few years to work in Washington, D.C., after graduating from Emory University. My central research interest is American government, particularly judicial institutions at the various levels of federalism. While the critical factor that influenced my decision to come to NYU was the rigorous methodological and rational choice training I would receive, I was also excited that I could supplement this technical side of my studies with resources at the NYU Law School. In particular, I recently took a colloquium there taught by John Ferejohn and Louis Kornhauser on law, politics, and economics, which was immensely useful for my research interests. Indeed, the class led to a paper idea for my core American Government course taught by Sandford Gordon and Howard Rosenthal, and I am currently expanding that paper into my qualifying paper. The study tests a theory of deliberation in American institutions by making use of variation across states in methods used to select their supreme court judges. Further, I have also been able to do research for Anna Harvey on the relationship between Supreme Court and Congress that has been helpful in refining my understanding of the two institutions and led to my master's paper on the subject. I truly feel I made the right choice with NYU.

kates.jpgMICHAEL KATES, political theory

There is no typical student studying political theory at New York University: we come from a diversity of backgrounds. Here is how I came to NYU.

Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, I graduated with a B.A. (First-Class Honours) from McGill University in 2003. Immediately thereafter, I continued my studies at McGill by pursuing a Master's Degree in Political Science (with a concentration in Political Theory). My Master's Thesis was entitled, ``Institutional Egalitarianism and its Critics: A Defense of Rawls' Focus on the Basic Structure.'' I received my M.A. from McGill University in the summer of 2005.

I have research interests in both contemporary political and moral philosophy and the history of political thought. In particular, my current research centers on the question of the place, if any, of emergency powers within constitutional democracy, and, more generally, the puzzle of what is the just way in which to meet injustice when non-ideal conditions obtain.

Given my interests, I feel that NYU is the ideal place to study political theory. For not only does the Politics Department offer a wide range of challenging courses in political theory (taught by, among others, Profs. Bernard Manin, Russell Hardin, and Dimitri Landa), but graduate study at NYU also enables one to take advantage of the wider philosophical community in the New York area. To take one particularly exciting example for those interested in the study of political philosophy, I had the privilege of enrolling in the annual Colloquium in Legal, Social, and Political Philosophy at NYU taught by Profs. Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, and Jeremy Waldron. There I had the rare opportunity to engage with some of world's most brilliant philosophical minds, including Jurgen Habermas, Thomas Scanlon, and Samuel Scheffler. Studying political theory at NYU is, in short, a truly rewarding intellectual experience.

pozas_small.jpgANDREA POZAS-LOYO, political theory

The Department of Politics at NYU is a superb place to do graduate studies in Political Theory. It combines characteristics that are hardly met elsewhere: the possibility to work with and learn from some of the most influential political thinkers alive, and a program that combines academic rigor with the freedom to pursue one's research interests, taking advantage of the impressive combination of resources offered by the department of Politics, NYU as a whole and the academic consortium of the New York area. In the four years I have been here I have greatly benefited from these conditions.  

My main research interests are constitutionalism, the relation between politics and law, and the enforcement and maintenance of norms. I've been privileged to work closely with and learn from some of best scholars in this area: Russell Hardin (who is my advisor), Pasquale Pasquino (with whom I have co-authored), Bernard Manin, Adam Przeworski, Stephen Holmes and John Ferejohn. The program's flexibility has allowed me to take courses in other NYU departments to complement my academic training; so for instance, I took a theory seminar on power with Steven Lukes at the sociology department. My intellectual development has also been complemented by NYU's intense academic life; in addition to the Politics Department Seminar, I have attended the Colloquium in Legal, Political and Social Philosophy (which last year was run by Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, and Jeremy Waldron), and several lectures with world renown scholars, judges and politicians. We are also encouraged to present our work in conferences; I have had the chance to present in APSA, MPSA, and in the LASA meetings and in three specialized conferences on my research interests in Buenos Aires, London and Beijing. I've also taken some courses that have provided a solid basis for Political Science in general (e.g. Math for Political Science with Catherine Hafer) and for Political Theory in particular (e.g. Political Theory Core with Dimitri Landa). Last, but not least, the Department of Politics is a nice place to be: the faculty is friendly and accessible, and the fellow students are very good colleagues and fun. In sum, being a Ph.D. student in NYU Politics Department is not to be missed.



There are basically two important moments for housing as an NYU graduate student: the (first) year at NYU housing, and the years after. Fortunately for us, beginning the PhD program does not have to involve looking for an apartment: you can simply accept the offer to share a nice apartment with other NYU graduate student at the Stuyvesant Town housing complex, just at the top of the East Village. The rent you will pay for the apartment is fair; you are within walking distance from campus, you are immersed in the graduate school community, and a door-knock away from discussing homework with classmates. (Trust me, this is an undervalued asset). You can always say no to NYU housing during your first year, but it makes little sense unless you have a place sorted.

It is no secret that the housing market in New York City can be a hassle that is complicated by competing with potential tenants that may have higher income or even better credit history. But rest assured that it can be done. The first thing to do is set your priorities straight. Is it more important to live close to campus, or live in a nice neighborhood with plenty of coffee shops to serve as alternate workplaces? Is it more important to have a large apartment, or to get home quickly after a long day of work? The question is relevant because there is a proven relationship between closeness to

Manhattan, the size of the apartment, and its price: the closer to Manhattan, the higher the price to be paid for an apartment holding size constant. But also the closer to Manhattan, the smaller the apartment holding price constant. Always keep this in mind when deciding where to look for an apartment.

If you are really serious about being close to campus (and you don't care about the size of the apartment) then Manhattan is the place to be. All you need to do is choose a neighborhood. If you care about nightlife, open restaurants, and lots of people, stay close to campus on the Village. Pricy, tiny rooms, but definitely close. Nature lovers should not despair, you can live close to Central Park in a nice part of town by moving to the Upper East side. Add a bit more flavor and move some blocks p to Harlem. As school is located downtown, traveling times are not bad at all, for those living off Manhattan commutes to school vary from about twenty-five to about forty-five minutes, with the longer times obviously being for the cheapest areas with the much bigger apartments. You can afford Manhattan on the stipend, but it will probably be wise to get roommates to lower costs.

But if you are not crazy about walking everyday to school, are not concerned about spending some time on the trains, or care about larger apartments, choices abound in other boroughs. Brooklyn is perhaps the more accessible one. You can live in the hip-but-still-affordable Williamsburg, or have nice apartments in brownstone buildings near nature in Prospect Park and Washington Heights. It would usually require a twenty to forty-five minute subway ride to campus. For a more suburban taste of life you could also try Queens, the most ethnically diverse borough in the world! Not to mention its real Greek, Mexican, Colombian, Indian enclaves, and the best Thai restaurant outside of Thailand. Still close enough, with a commute of about forty-five minutes to an hour. And, if you are more adventurous, New Jersey is also an option. Connected to Manhattan by the PATH train, crossing the Hudson River is not a problem, and you can find affordable housing, larger apartments, a suburban life and still be close enough to Manhattan.

Ultimately, housing is what you make of it, especially with the huge range of available alternatives in New York!

Life in New York City on a Grad Stipend

mutlu_small.jpgHANDE MUTLU

Coming from a big city (Istanbul) myself, initially I was worried about affording living in New York, but overall I've been pleasantly surprised. Many people, especially those who come from less expensive places, have similar concerns when they move to New York, but almost everyone manages to live on the stipend and still enjoy the city.

Overall, we get about $23,000 a year. We also get full free healthcare and free access to all NYU facilities (all the sports courts, gyms etc.) When we are on TAship stipend we get paid on a bi-weekly basis between the start of the Fall semester and the end of the Spring semester. During semesters in which we are on fellowship, we get paid on a monthly basis. While these two sources of income sum up to the same gross amount, they may slightly differ depending on the taxes withheld. During summers, we also get a summer fellowship. In return for the fellowship, we are expected to engage in a research project with a faculty mentor in addition to working on our papers. Some students also engage in research assistantship opportunities during the academic year for up to 10 hours per week. These research assistantships can thus be another source of income in addition to the $25K.

Out of our stipend, a big chunk usually goes on rent. The remaining money is usually plenty Ðunless you spend ridiculously!- for other regular expenses such as attending cultural events and eating out. Indeed, you donÕt have to spend a lot of money in order to enjoy New York: free events run at all times in every corner of the city.

Living in NYC

vonthien_small.jpgLIAM VON-THIEN

As a graduate student at NYU living in New York, you'll have a pretty full academic and non-academic life, in a city where anything you may wish for is available.... No matter what your extra-curricular interests are, it is likely that you will be able to satisfy them in NYC. The city has a lot to offer and succeeds in amusing the inner geek that sleeps in each of us. The department already counts salsa dancers, fans of subtitled Russian theatre, soccer players, opera buffs and a number of bon vivants. Join them, do your own thing and meet the thousands of NYC that make this city so great.

To give you a taste of what is waiting for you, here are just ten reasons why we love NYC.

1) Starting with the obvious, NYC has amazing entertainment possibilities. Opera, theatre, dancing, ballet, film festivals, cinemateques, summer outdoor events, professional sports, Rock concerts. Name it, it is right here. Bars and restaurants so numerous you will wish you could stay 10 years. All the excitement of the big city at affordable rates (try the NYU ticket central for cheap student offers).

2) Be a graduate student in a graduate city. Most students here really enjoy the freedom and the capacities that they get from living in a more anonymous environment. Importantly, living in the city allows you to interact with people that DO NOT spend their days in libraries and computer labs. NYC is a very peculiar mix of artists, businesspeople and expats that can all show you a good time in their own way. Unless you are really addicted to campus life, it is very likely that it is time to move to NYC!

3) Safety first! As you will hear over and over if you live here and torture yourself with local news, NYC is the safest big city in America. Walking the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan at night has never been so safe.

4)New York is probably the world capital of good-cheap ethnic food, and thus a food haven for grad students. Because NYC counts more communities than any other city in the world, the possibilities are literally limitless. Eat old-school Italian in Brooklyn or be even more adventurous and try Arab and Ethiopian delights uptown...

5) Intellectual and political life. There are a number of major research institutions in and around NYC (Columbia, New School, Princeton...) that you will be able to benefit from in a number of ways. There are probably more talks and conferences on topics likely to interest you in the area than anywhere else in the country. Add the UN, think tanks and visiting speakers, and you will realise how stimulating the NYC intellectual life is.

6) Sports and Physical activities are easily available. New-Yorkers are very sporty, and you can also take advantage of the (free) NYU facilities, which include swimming pools, gyms, squash and basketball courts, and much, much more. The main sports centers are also conveniently located a few minutes from the Department. Alternatively, do the tour of Manhattan on your bike, ride a horse in prospect park...

7) Costs: contrary to common views and the outrageous amounts tourists pay, NYC is not that expensive a city to live in. Once your rent is paid (which clearly - will make you feel lighter), lots of things are cheaper than in most American and European big cities (think about food, laundry, services in general). And add the fact that you won't have a car.

8) The highest proportion of single young people in America (prisons excepted). NYC is a great place to meet friends and lovers. Life and all that, you know, in between papers.

9) Brooklyn and Queens. The two major - and still neglected - outer boroughs are worlds apart from Manhattan and a reason enough to live in New York. Visit them, know them and you will surely love them. Commute times to reach the department are not that long, typically in between 20 to 35 minutes.

10) Finally, you will spend your working days in what must be the best work location of any department in this country. Washington square and the West Village are literally steps away: the area is really pleasant; you can stroll around the park in search of new ideas, or just take breaks in the neighborhood great cafes.