Recent Alum, Russ Mills, is Assistant Professor at BGSU and an expert on wasteful spending in Congress, or "pork"

Russell W. Mills, Kent State Ph.D., 2011

I came to the Department of Political Science at Kent State for my Ph.D. in 2007 with a freshly minted Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Vermont. During my time in the department, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with great faculty mentors who were not only excellent teachers, but also world-class researchers. Faculty members Ryan Claassen, Patrick Coy, and Landon Hancock all provided excellent training in both quantitative and qualitative methods. My dissertation committee including chair Mark Cassell and Daniel Hawes pushed me to effectively integrate theories of bureaucratic politics into my work on forms of voluntary selfregulation employed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance aviation safety. IN addition to serving as my dissertation chair, Mark also helped me secure a $20,000 IBM Center for the Business of Government grant, which helped pique my interest in grant writing. In sum, I left Kent State extremely well prepared to enter the academic and government job market.

Although I had several job offers for academic positions while at Kent State, I decided to take a position at the FAA in Washington DC as a policy analyst where I served as a liaison between the legislative and executive branches. This position allowed me unique access to examine the intricacies of the policy making process in action while also helping to formulate a research agenda in bureaucratic politics and public administration. In 2012, I joined the department of political science at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) as an assistant professor. At BGSU, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in American politics and public administration. I have also continued my active research agenda by pursuing and securing several grants including a $300,000 grant from the Transportation Research Board and a Dirksen Congressional Research Grant. I have also published my work in several journals including Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Policy, Regulation and Governance, and the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis.

A particularly interesting and rewarding project has been examining the evolution of earmarking by members of Congress to a new practice called letter-marking. Lettermarking occurs when members of Congress write to the head of a federal agency asking (or demanding) the agency retain or allocate specific projects in their districts. Along with my BGSU colleague Nicole Kalaf-Hughes and former Kent State University professor Jason MacDonald, we examine the effect of Congressional letter-marking on agency decision making in the allocation of distributive benefits. Our article was recently published in the Journal of Public Policy and we co-authored a piece for the Washington Post’s Monkeycage blog. I plan to continue this work in a book manuscript under review at the University of Michigan Press.

So that is a little bit about me and my path. None of my accomplishments would have been possible without the mentorship and direction of the faculty and my colleagues in the Ph.D. program at Kent State. While we alumni will never enjoy the benefit of having a Ivy league institution next to the Ph.D. on the CV, we do have the advantage of being exceptionally well-trained by a group of faculty who instill a sense of professionalism and what I call academic entrepreneurship that give us an advantage on the job market. I am forever grateful for my time at Kent State and have nothing but fond memories of conversations in the bullpen (much enhanced since my time), late nights at Ray’s, and locking myself in the Econo Lodge for a week studying for comprehensive exams. To all current students, please feel free to contact me for any career/professional development advice you may need.