Distinguished alum meets with political science students

In 2016, Arizona State University's School of Politics and Global Studies honored Lynn Vavreck with its inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.

Vavreck, who received both her Bachelor of Science in political science (1990) and her master's degree in political science (1992) from ASU, has gone on to great successes, now serving as the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics and Public Policy at UCLA and as a contributor to The Upshot at The New York Times, where she writes about campaigns, elections and public opinion.

Despite this busy schedule, Vavreck returned to ASU once again on Feb. 16 to give multiple lectures and engage with students at the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“It is always great to come back to Tempe and to the ASU campus I love so much,” said Vavreck. “The invitation to teach a couple of undergraduate courses was one I could not pass up.”

During her Tempe campus visit, Vavreck gave guest lectures in POS 336: Voters in America, taught by Patrick Kenney, dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and POS 301: Empirical Political Inquiry, taught by Kim Fridkin, Foundation Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“I was an undergraduate at ASU in POS 301 many years ago — and it was that course that helped me realize I liked quantitative research,” Vavreck said. “It was the first time I ever worked with survey data — and now I’ve run my own surveys interviewing hundreds of thousands of people over the years.

“I know these courses are changing other people’s lives too, and I was thrilled to be a part of that for even one day. I can’t wait to see what these future Sun Devils are going to do."

In her talk, Vavreck discussed some of the themes in her most recent co-authored book "The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy," which was published in 2022.

She spoke with students about the calcification of U.S. presidential elections causing less chance of big swings in either party’s favor. Vavreck highlighted this by showing data from recent presidential elections and discussed the rise in identity politics — a trend that she expressed will likely continue into the next election cycle.

Vavreck ended by discussing how the U.S. might dislodge the calcification that makes politics rigid. She suggested a new dimension of conflict is needed — something that even a global pandemic, George Floyd’s murder and the Capitol riot couldn’t accomplish.

Following her lecture, students asked follow-up questions and were encouraged to share their own thoughts on what scenarios could lead to the U.S. straying away from intensified partisan politics.

“Lynn was a senior at ASU when I first arrived, and she was a student in the very first class that I taught at ASU: Media and Politics,” said Fridkin.

“She impressed me then and she continues to impress me. Lynn is a top-notch political scientist who has achieved a great deal, including being a member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an author of six books and more than 30 articles, and a named professor at UCLA. It is wonderful to see all that Lynn has achieved.”

In addition to speaking with undergraduate students, Vavreck met with a group of political science doctoral candidates in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“Inviting Professor Vavreck back to ASU is not only an opportunity to bring an internationally recognized expert in politics to campus; it’s also an opportunity for our students to see where a degree from the School of Politics and Global Studies can lead," said Magda Hinojosa, director and professor of the School of Politics and Global Studies. “As an alum, Professor Vavreck serves as a wonderful role model to our students.”

Matt Oxford