MCLA Logo 125

Political Science Prof Focuses Research on Female Candidates


Samantha PetteyWhen Dr. Samantha Pettey was young, she used to pretend she was a candidate for President of the United States, and along with her sisters and cousins, she would engage in debates in games of “talk radio.” But it wasn’t until she went to college at UMASS-Dartmouth and enrolled in some political science classes that she became fascinated by the study of politics.  

“I became increasingly interested in campaigns and elections,” she explained. “Specifically, I was intrigued by the puzzle that women and men are equal in the population but men hold a disproportionate number of seats in office. Since graduate school at the University of Rhode Island and University of North Texas, I have studied this question – with a special focus on states – as to why American institutions do not have an equal number of men and women in office.”

Now, her research focuses broadly on female candidates.

“I am particularly interested in the impact institutional features and demographic characteristics have on state-level candidate emergence and success. Further, I’m working on pieces examining stereotypes voters use to evaluate candidates in Congress,” Pettey said.

An assistant professor of history political science and public policy, Pettey teaches courses that include “U.S. Government and Public Policy,” “Campaigns and Elections” and “U.S. Political Institutions.” 

Why did she decide to teach at MCLA?

“The learning environment created by liberal arts schools is invaluable. Liberal arts schools emphasize critical thinking, reading, and writing – all of which are the skills most companies are seeking when hiring individuals,” Pettey explained.

A product of the Massachusetts State University System, “I really wanted to give back to a program that helped me achieve my professional goals. MCLA was particularly attractive because it is in a great location. I love to hike and ski, and the campus is filled with an excellent, proactive student body, dedicated faculty, and great staff.

“I am also lucky enough to have great colleagues in the department of History, Political Science, and Public Policy, all of whom make coming to work enjoyable,” Pettey added.

Pettey said students should care about U.S. politics because they affect everyone, every day—especially the students who attend MCLA, a state college, and who may have federal student loans.

“Having a basic understanding in how government works is important, so students can become aware of how their voice matters in government. Not only how it matters, but also how their voice can be heard to make a difference.”

Students who take Pettey’s courses, she said, will gain a basic understanding in how our institutions work, what it means to be a political scientist, and what currently is happening in American government.

“I generally try to incorporate current political events into the discussion, and relate them back to theories we are discussing in class,” Pettey said. “It’s important to be able to link current events to how government works. Linking current events to political science theories builds critical thinking skills that are important to be successful in everyday life, not just politics.”