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Graduate Student Profile: Ross Butters, Political Science

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Saturday, December 1, 2018 (All day)

Meet UC Davis Graduate Student Ross Butters

  • Department
    Political Science 
  • Program and year of study
    PhD in American Politics, 3rd year 
  • Previous degrees and colleges
    BA Political Science, The Ohio State University
  • Where did you grow up?
    I was born in Germany, but grew up in “the Cereal City,” Battle Creek, Michigan.
  • Where do you live now?
    Sacramento, CA
  • What's your favorite spot in Davis?
    My favorite spot in Davis is Central Park, especially on Saturdays. The Farmer’s Market is second to none.
  • How do you relax?
    I’m an avid Buckeye fan, so I relax by watching whatever OSU sport I can, whenever I can. I also like hanging out with my new cat, Morty. He can make it pretty difficult to stay motivated when I’m working from home.
  • What was the last book you read for pleasure?
    Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • What was the last film you saw at the theater?
    I can’t remember the movie, but my girlfriend and I went with our neighbor. All I remember is that our neighbor fell asleep.
  • Research interests
    My research focuses on the impact of social factors on individual political attitudes and behavior. Specifically, I am interested in understanding how composition of political communication networks, and the information therein, influences political attitudes and participation of individuals. I also examine what contextual factors influence the composition of these networks.
  • Dissertation title or topic
    I do not have a title quite yet, but the topic will be related to how individuals perceive, interact with, and are affected by their social and contextual environments.
  • Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research
    I’ve been looking into how political disagreement has survived several recent, hotly contested presidential elections. The most interesting finding from my investigation of the 2016 election is that 75 percent of Americans regularly talk politics only with members of their own political tribe. It’s not news that many people don’t often encounter political disagreement, but as recently as the 2000 presidential election, scholars found that 65 percent of Republicans and Democrats had homogeneous discussion networks. This means that in just 15 years, Americans’ political discussion networks have become even more closed off.
  • Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?
    At OSU, I worked with Professor Janet Box-Steffensmeier on a project investigating the development of obstructionist techniques in the US Senate. She really encouraged me to pursue graduate school.
  • Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?
    I wish I had written John Zaller’s The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. It’s a good book and it seems like it gets cited for everything, even if the thing being cited isn’t really in there.
  • What's the best thing about being a grad student?
    I am always surprised at how much I enjoy keeping my own schedule. Having so much control over my schedule can also be a little terrifying, but if I want to write on my patio all day, I love having that ability.
  • What's the worst?
    Also having almost complete control over my schedule. It can be difficult to stay on task when I know I can just start working whenever and wherever I want.
  • If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?
    I would still be doing research, but with a government agency or think tank. If I didn’t have to worry about money, I would open a barbeque restaurant or food truck. 
  • Finally, please ask yourself a question - "What is your dream vacation?"
    I would love to go back to Germany and spend as much time as possible with the friends and neighbors that still live in the area where I was born. The rolling hills, vineyards, and rivers are especially beautiful in the summer. The people are amazing all year round.

Graduate student profile courtesy of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.

UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.