Dr. Camille Burge, Villanova University Professor, Shares Her Experience and the Benefits of the RBSI Program

Dr. Camille D. Burge is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Villanova University. Camille was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and raised in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Prior to joining Villanova in the Fall of 2014, Dr. Burge received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Bethune-Cookman University and a Master’s and PhD in Political Science from Vanderbilt University. Camille’s research interests lie at the intersection of political psychology and racial and ethnic politics. Motivated by her personal experiences as an African-American growing up in the sprawling suburbs of Atlanta, she studies how individuals experience emotions as members of groups and how these experiences shape their political opinions and behavior.

It was because of [the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute Program] that I even went to graduate school. I think that’s true of a lot of students that end up in that program. Had it not been for the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, I wouldn’t be a political scientist.

Dr. Burge is in the process of finishing her first book manuscript, Fired Up, Ready to Go: Pride, Shame, and Anger in Black Politics, where she uses focus group studies, observational data analyses, and survey experiments to explore the political implications of African-Americans’ emotional experiences. In 2014, she received the Lucius Barker Award for the Best Paper on Race and Politics presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association for her paper titled, “The Meaning and Implications of Racial Resentment Across the Racial Divide,” which was co-authored with Cindy Kam. Her research has been published in The Journal of Politics, Research & Politics, and Politics, Groups, and Identities. In the Spring of 2018, Camille received Villanova’s Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is currently serving on the Executive Council of the American Political Science Association’s organized section of Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior and the current Treasurer for the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics organized section. Dr. Burge was also an APSA member of the month.

Dr. Burge has brought her signature brand of enthusiasm to the classroom, and was recognized with the 2017-2018 Villanova University Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. See post recognition here.

Why did you become a political scientist?

Dr. Burge: I didn’t know that I wanted to get a PhD in political science, I thought that I was going to law school. I was looking for summer programs, I had just done one at Florida State Summer Law for Undergraduates. I was online searching for summer programs, I came across the APSA Ralph Bunche Summer Institute.

I applied to the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute and I got in. I was at this program that I was made aware of PhDs in political science. I knew all of my faculty in undergrad had their Doctorates in political science, but no one ever explained the process to me. It’s — “if you get an undergrad degree in political science you’re going to law school”, “you’re going to get an MPA”, “you’re going to get a Masters in public policy.” Those were the kind of traditional pathways for an undergrad in public opinion. So when I went to Bunche, which is spearheaded by Dr. Paula McClain, we were exposed to this entire different life of what it’s like to get your PhD in political science.

It wasn’t until that program that I was really made aware that I could be a political scientist, and it was some pathway that I could put all of my interests together into a cogent career that was not necessarily law school or becoming a lawyer, where I could still be passionate and quite possibly turn that passion into profit.

What has been your experience with APSA programs?

Dr. Burge: It was because of [the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute Program] that I even went to graduate school. I think that’s true of a lot of students that end up in that program. Had it not been for the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, I wouldn’t be a political scientist. I’d probably be doing something else. I’m very grateful, eternally grateful for that program because of what it’s done for my life and I think the lives of many others.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Dr. Burge: I think that I want my legacy, my research, my teaching, my service, to the students that come in my classes when they leave to try and understand all of these really intricate details and facts about what’s happened in this country and try to do things to make it better, or to consider alternative perspectives that they’d never consider to date. I’m hoping that through the things that I write and courses that I teach that I can get people to understand at least, even if that’s not your lived experience, why someone might feel or why someone might think a certain way , especially as it pertains to race relations and develop a certain level of empathy that I think might be lacking right now. Something dealing with race and reconciliation so we can start dealing with the ideas behind the maintenance of racial hierarchies and start to break them down as opposed to just throwing legislation at it and thinking that the issues will go away.

What is the most challenging issue that political science research can help us address?

So I think some of the things that we can do as political scientists is to try to understand how peoples’ attitudes differ from our own and to also understand how those attitudes and behaviors, their values, how you grew up influences your political behavior. So I think it’s just providing a greater understanding or getting to the “why” so that will help us understand the “what”.

Dr. Burge: I think some of the most challenging things that we’re facing right now is that people just seem to be polarized in a number of issues, a number of groups, whether that’s partisanship, whether that’s race, whether that’s religion. So I think some of the things that we can do as political scientists is to try to understand how peoples’ attitudes differ from our own and to also understand how those attitudes and behaviors, their values, how you grew up influences your political behavior. So I think it’s just providing a greater understanding or getting to the “why” so that will help us understand the “what”. And I think that that’s what we need to do just across the board and I think that’s a challenging issue we’re facing right now because there seems to be a greater level of people polarized in a number of different identities.

What do you value about being an APSA member?

Dr. Burge: There’s so much. So, of course, the opportunity to network with other people and coming together every year at APSA is just like a big reunion. Meeting up with people from grad school, meeting up with people from different programs, then meeting their friends or colleagues that are in their departments now and getting the opportunity to hang out and talk about research and completely geek out, nerd out with people that are like minded a few days is, I think, the greatest. I love coming to APSA just for that reason and it’s great again to network, meet other people, and to hangout with other people who understand what you’re doing. It’s like “what do you do again?” That’s not part of those conversations, so it’s really refreshing to talk to people about your scholarship, to meet new people and to just have a space for four days where you can go and learn what’s happening in cutting edge research so you can take those things back to your classroom. So all of those things I think are really useful. I love APSA.

Dr. Burge in Recent News: 

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