DR. CAMILLE BURGE
JANUARY MEMBER OF THE MONTH
Department of Political Science
Member since 2013
WHY DID YOU BECOME A POLITICAL SCIENTIST?
My dad was in corporate sales throughout my childhood, which meant that he traveled quite a bit. When he was home I wanted to be around him and do whatever he was doing. Since he thoroughly enjoyed watching 60 Minutes every Sunday, I would sit and watch with him. As I got older we began to have in-depth conversations about political issues. These conversations morphed into an interest in governing, at least on the elementary and high school levels, where I was elected to serve as student council president and class president. Given the predominately white suburb of Atlanta where I grew up, being the “first black” (and yes, “first black,” was the phrase used) to hold those leadership positions was a big deal. At a young age I was interested in understanding how to craft messages and appeal to the emotions of students from various cliques to help me win elections. I assumed that this interest in politics meant attending law school upon receiving my degree in political science. However, being accepted to the summer 2007 class of the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute taught me that I could channel my interests in emotions, framing, group identities, public opinion and political decision-making into a career as a political scientist. Had it not been for Dr. Paula McClain, Dr. Kerry Haynie, Dr. Scott de Marchi and the other Bunche teaching assistants, I would have never known that this world existed and for them, I am eternally grateful.
WHY DID YOU JOIN APSA AND WHY DO YOU CONTINUE TO STAY INVOLVED?
I initially joined APSA to see the job listings when I was on the market. I continue to stay involved because of the high value the organization provides in cutting edge research. I enjoy attending the annual meetings and reconnecting with friends from graduate school and other programs that I participated in over the last 8 years such as the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, ICPSR, and the Summer Institute in Political Psychology at Stanford. APSA also provides a great platform for networking with scholars whose work you admire.
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF BEING A POLITICAL SCIENTIST? HOW?
The most challenging aspect of being a political scientist is grappling with the volume of misinformation the public receives about politics. The proliferation of #AlternativeFacts in American politics is astounding. This is especially challenging when one attempts to teach students fact-based details and how to sort out factual information for themselves. Even in the presence of statistics, detailed theories, and analytically rigorous research, there are still individuals that fervently cling to misinformation as truth. While I enjoy watching many students’ attitudes towards policies or groups evolve, I can only hope that my students carry these lectures with them outside of the classroom and speak truth to power at home or in conversations both casual and in the workplace when they know something is not completely accurate or at least is misrepresented.
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO SOMEONE IN THEIR GRADUATE/UNDERGRADUATE YEARS, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Believe in yourself. Throughout life you will encounter plenty of people that will, at some point, make you question your intelligence, self-worth, work ethic, and a whole host of personal characteristics. Be open to accepting constructive criticism but do not be too hard on yourself. Sometimes it is good to revisit those words by our favorite childhood characters. One of my favorites is from Christopher Robin (or A. A. Milne) in Winnie the Pooh, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
OUTSIDE OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOURSELF.
I am a classically trained vocalist. I began singing classical music around the age of 9 after auditioning and being accepted into the Cleveland Orchestra Children’s Chorus. I also sang with The Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde’s Youth Chorale and continued my classical training in Opera Workshop as an undergraduate. Instead of singing in and or alongside symphony orchestras and world-renowned choirs, I now sing karaoke at a few neighborhood bars and get discounted food and adult beverages for my performances. Although I have quite a repertoire, my go to songs are Killing Me Softly by The Fugees, I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston, and I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing by Aerosmith.