December 8, 2006: Political Scientist Gets National Dissertation Award December 8, 2006: Political Scientist Gets National Dissertation Award

For Immediate Release
Bahram Rajaee, (202) 483-2512

Political Scientist Receives National Social Science Dissertation Award

Washington, DC--Paul M. Collins, Jr., Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston, was presented with the nation’s most prestigious honor for dissertations in the social sciences, the Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award, in Washington, D.C on December 8, 2006.  The award identifies Collins’ dissertation, completed at Binghamton University, as making an unusually significant contribution to the social sciences, both methodologically and substantively, as judged by a multidisciplinary faculty panel. Dissertations defended between July 2004 and June 2006 in the fields of agricultural economics, anthropology, archaeology, demography, economics, education, geography, political science, psychology, and sociology were considered for the award. 

Collins’ dissertation on interest group activity in the U.S. Supreme Court, “Friends of the Supreme Court: Examining the Influence of Interest Groups in the U.S. Supreme Court, 1946-2001,” analyzes how organized interests influence the decision making patterns of Supreme Court justices. Incorporating theories from political science, empirical legal studies, and social psychology, Collins finds that pressure groups are effective in their attempts to influence the justices’ decision making. According to Collins, “this research reveals that Supreme Court decision making is more than a function of the justices’ attitudes and values. Indeed, it appears that the justices take persuasion attempts advanced by organized interests very seriously.”

“As a student, Paul was truly a pleasure to work with. He came to Binghamton University with a clear idea of what he wanted to study and was unusually focused and disciplined throughout his graduate school career,” said Paul’s mentor, Wendy L. Martinek, of the Department of Political Science at Binghamton University. “The depth and breadth of Paul’s substantive knowledge, coupled with his keen analytic ability, made him more of a colleague than a student in pretty short order. He is clearly poised to make substantial contributions in the literature on courts and judges and, in fact, has already done so.”

For Harold J. Spaeth, Research Professor of Law and Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Michigan State University, Paul’s dissertation is “nothing short of a tour de force” and he expects it “to become the definitive work on amicus curiae participation and influence” on the United States Supreme Court. Professor Spaeth was especially impressed with the blend of theoretical innovation and methodological rigor of Paul’s dissertation.

J. David Hacker, Assistant Professor of History at Binghamton University and a member of Paul’s dissertation committee, said, “Paul’s dissertation is an excellent example of what we want from our students’ dissertations: an original and significant contribution to knowledge on an important subject, carefully researched, and beautifully written.”

In addition to this award, Collins has received a number of other honors, including two Congressional Quarterly Press Awards from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association for the best papers written by a graduate student on law and courts. Collins’ research has been published, or is forthcoming, in a variety of journals, including The Justice System Journal, Law and Social Inquiry, Law and Society Review, and Political Research Quarterly. 

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