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March Member of the Month

Leonardo R. Arriola

DR. LEONARDO R. ARRIOLA
MARCH MEMBER OF THE MONTH

University of California, Berkeley
Department of Political Science
Member since 2001



WHY DID YOU BECOME A POLITICAL SCIENTIST?

I became a political scientist because I've always been intrigued by the extent to which our daily lives can be influenced by politics. For me, the U.S.-Mexico border was probably one of my first lessons in understanding how our wellbeing can be affected by the type of government we live under. Criss-crossing that border when I was growing up, especially during Mexico's prolonged economic crisis in the 1980s, helped me to appreciate how our options -- whether you get an education, find a job, or feel represented -- are conditioned by the choices that governments make.   

WHY DID YOU JOIN APSA AND WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO STAY INVOLVED?

I joined APSA when I was a graduate student because I wanted to become part of an academic community that shared my research interests. Many of the people I've met at the annual meetings, either on panels or through section meetings, have since become collaborators, mentors, and friends. As someone who mainly works in African countries, I've been especially lucky to be part of the African Politics Conference Group (APCG), an APSA organized section that provides a welcoming and supportive professional network. 

The opportunity to learn new ideas and pick up new methods is one of the great benefits of staying involved in APSA. Not only can you get useful feedback when you present your work at an annual meeting, but you can be exposed to work that helps you to update how you're approaching your research. And when you serve as a section officer or on an award committee, you're able to engage with some of the brightest minds and the most innovative scholarship in our discipline. 

 

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF BEING A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? 

My work in comparative politics tends to focus on countries where the promise of democracy has yet to be fulfilled. That often forces me to wrestle with ethical concerns: Does my research address questions that really matter for the citizens of those countries? Have I taken the necessary steps to ensure that those who interact with me -- whether as research assistants or respondents to interviews and surveys -- are not put in danger? The answers are not always obvious, and I've certainly made mistakes. I think this is an area where our intellectual communities can help us to do better by engaging in these discussions more frequently and more publicly. 

IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE IN THEIR GRADUATE/UNDERGRADUATE YEARS, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?

I would encourage students to become good collaborators. Some of the best research in our discipline is being produced by teams of scholars working together to tackle big questions. The future of our discipline is increasingly moving in that direction, so students should learn how to work effectively with others. Finding colleagues whose interests you share and whose skills you complement can take time and a bit of luck. In fact, that's one of the reasons students should go to the APSA annual meeting: to meet potential collaborators. 

OUTSIDE OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOURSELF. 

I once participated in the Great Ethiopian Run, an annual 10K race held in Addis Ababa. Although I'm a regular runner, the city's high altitude (over 7,700 ft above sea level) made it one of my slowest runs ever. Or at least I attribute my slow speed to the altitude!  

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