ASU political science grad student changes focus

By

Matt Oxford

Erik Bumgardner, a graduate student in the School of Politics and Global Studies, is currently working full-time in Washington D.C., but he was back in Tempe this November to defend his dissertation.

“My dissertation is about polarization and voter turnout,” shared Bumgardner.  “How the parties have become more extreme and how that effects people’s behavior.”

When asked about how he felt about the results of his work, Bumgardner said there is always room to make additions in hindsight. If Bumgardner had planned on pursuing a career in academia, he felt there would be plenty of room to elaborate on his findings.

Bumgardner has had several advisors throughout his time in the program. He was writing a different perspective under political science professor Dr. Kim Fridkin, but at that time he was still considering a career in academia. When he shared with Dr.Fridkin that that the topic wasn’t something he was tied to, she recommended to Bumgardner that he make a change.

Dr. Fridkin suggested to Bumgardner that he focus more on gaining data and statistic skills, while making his study more mainstream political science. Although she still wanted to be on his committee, Dr. Fridkin proposed that fellow political science professor Dr. Rodolfo Espino be his advisor.

“She suggested that Rudy become my advisor since she was more suited toward that academic style,” said Bumgardner. “In the end I think that was excellent advice.”

Bumgardner has embraced the change. Over the summer, he started working at a small consulting firm in the legal services industry called Lawyer Metrics

Lawyer Metrics works with law firms, law schools and other non-profits in the legal services industry on data analysis.

“I’m using a lot of the skills that I learn in academia and grad school just in a consulting role,” stated Bumgardner. “I always enjoyed the research side of academia, but I didn’t think teaching was for me.”

Bumgardner’s daily work consists of manipulating data, getting it ready for analysis. He uses stats modeling like he would in academia, but he doesn’t propose why things might or might not be; “just the facts."

Reflecting on his time at ASU, Bumgardner has appreciated the extra interest and support that the professors give their students. 

“I feel like I have gotten a very good education here,” said Bumgardner. “I have been very well supported.”