DR. SARAH E. ANDERSON
OCTOBER MEMBER OF THE MONTH
University of California, Santa Barbara
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
Member since 1995
WHY DID YOU BECOME A POLITICAL SCIENTIST?
One of my first political memories is of watching Bob Barbee, Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, trying to explain why the Yellowstone fires of 1988 were ecologically good, but problematic when they got out of control. As my family and I lived with the smoke of the fires, he tried to explain to the public why we had a policy of letting fires burn but now needed to put them out. Living in Montana, environmental policy and management played a daily role in my life. This and working for a member of Congress fomented my interest in how the public and politics play a role in public policy. I’ve maintained a particular interest in environmental policy, but I'm more broadly interested in legislative politics and in how the public interacts with policy at the implementation stage.
WHY DID YOU JOIN APSA AND WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO STAY INVOLVED?
I remember flying across the country to my first APSA only to have dinner with other graduate students from my program because I didn’t know anyone else. But now APSA has become a wonderful blur of coffee with friends from graduate school, meetings with coauthors, bumping into scholars I know from seminars or conferences, business meetings, and panels. One highlight of APSA each year is the Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics reception and business meeting. I serve as section Chair and get to reconnect with scholars across the profession.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF BEING A POLITICAL SCIENTIST?
The most challenging part of being a political scientist is turning what students (and the person sitting next to you on the airplane) perceive as the chaos of politics into a systematic process they can understand. When you study a process the public and students engage with, it can be difficult to get beyond the truisms. But that’s also what is so wonderful about being a political scientist. We bring analytic rigor and data to one of the most important aspects of civil society!
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE IN THEIR GRADUATE/UNDERGRADUATE YEARS, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Study what intrigues you and then be prepared to do the hard work. The key is to both put in the time and make sure you’re prioritizing the real work.
OUTSIDE OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I love to hike (my best so far a trek by myself in Nepal and summiting Mount Rainier with my brother on his 100th summit) and ski (my Montana roots), but mostly I get my exercise jumping with my 6-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter on the trampoline. I love to notice the tiny things around me: shells in the sand that you can’t see without sitting down, snail trails in tide pools, water droplets on a flower.