Michael Berkman named director of McCourtney Institute for Democracy

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Michael Berkman, professor of political science and director of the Center for American Political Responsiveness (CAPR), has been named director of Penn State’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy.

Berkman assumed the helm of the McCourtney Institute on July 1. He succeeds former director John Gastil, professor of communication arts and political science, who is currently on sabbatical. Gastil will remain with the McCourtney Institute as a senior scholar upon his return.

Based in the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts, the McCourtney Institute is an interdisciplinary center dedicated to understanding and improving democracy and the democratic process through research, teaching and outreach. The center pursues this mission independently and by supporting the work of CAPR and the Center for Democratic Deliberation.

“I am excited to build on John Gastil’s excellent work, which has positioned the McCourtney Institute to be an important voice during this contentious campaign and beyond,” Berkman said.

“I am thrilled that Michael has agreed to serve as the next leader of the McCourtney Institute,” added Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “His scholarly work, the respect he has among his peers, his reputation as a teacher and a mentor, and his administrative acumen truly make him the best person to fill this role. Given his credentials and character, I can think of no better person to take the McCourtney Institute to the next level.”

Berkman has been a member of Penn State’s political science faculty since receiving his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1989. A recognized scholar who specializes in American politics and state policy, his work has been published in journals such as the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Political Research Quarterly and Public Opinion Quarterly.

Berkman has published three books, including two with Penn State Professor Eric Plutzer: Ten Thousand Democracies: Politics and Public Opinion in America’s School Districts (2005); and, Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms (2010), which received the Don K. Price Award for the best book in science, technology, and politics from the American Political Science Association.  He, Plutzer, Christopher Ojeda — a Penn State graduate and current postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University — and current Penn State graduate student Anne Whitesell are currently working on a project focusing on American state welfare policy.

Berkman previously served as director of undergraduate studies and has been coordinator/director of the honors program in the Department of Political Science since 2000; he is also a member of the college’s Paterno Fellows Faculty Advisory Board. He received the college’s Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award in 2010; the college’s Distinction in the Social Sciences Award in 2011; and its Welch Alumni Relations Award in 2016.

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Last Updated August 15, 2016