Matthew Nelson Receives the 2022 E.E. Schattschneider Award

The E. E. Schattschneider Award is presented annually by the American Political Science Association (APSA) to honor the best doctoral dissertation in the field of American government.   

Matt Nelsen is a postdoctoral Scholar affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the GenForward Survey at the University of Chicago.  In August 2022, he will join the Department of Political Science at the University of Miami as an assistant professor.  Matt’s research is featured in a number of publications, including Perspectives on Politics, Political Behavior, the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, The Washington Post, and GenForward’s Race and Place: Young Adults and the Future of Chicago.  Broadly speaking, Matt studies how local-level institutions, especially schools and neighborhoods, act as microcosms of democracy.  He finds that these institutions can simultaneously serve as sites that exacerbate existing racial inequalities while also holding the potential to foster agency and equal political voice.  He investigates these roles and their effects on political participation by leveraging multiple methodological approaches, including lab-in-the-field experiments, survey data, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and archival research.  Matt received his PhD in Political Science from Northwestern University in June of 2020 and previously obtained a MA in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and BAs in Political Science and Asian Studies from St. Olaf College.  Outside of academia, Matt enjoys travelling, baking, and spending time with his partner (Anthony) and Great Dane (Ellington).

Citation from the Award Committee: 

Dr. Matthew Nelsen’s “Educating for Empowerment: Race, Socialization, and Reimagining Civic Education” is a path-breaking contribution to scholarship that links civic education and democratic citizenship.  In “Educating for Empowerment,” Dr. Nelsen studies democratic participation and political socialization in the United States.  The dissertation evaluates how civic education affects students’ political attitudes and behaviors.  It focuses particularly on how pedagogical practices and classroom texts widen high school students’ understanding of what counts as political activity and their interest in  participating in politics.  Dr. Nelsen’s empirical site is public schools in Chicago.  He conducted an innovative experiment in multiple classrooms, which asked students to read and respond to a commonly-used textbook or an alternative text describing similar events but with a focus on a wider variety of actors and social movements.  Dr. Nelsen finds that many students of color exposed to the treatment report greater likelihood of political participation.  Beyond the experiment, Dr. Nelsen also analyzed survey data and conducted focus groups and interviews with the students and teachers in the experiment.  Through these multiple methods, Dr. Nelsen provides a rich set of findings for understanding the connections between civic education and political participation among young people.

We commend Dr. Nelsen for the exceedingly high quality of his dissertation research.  We believe this dissertation exemplifies the capacity of political science research to contribute to knowledge and to inform debates in the public sphere.

APSA thanks the committee members for their service: Dr. Susan M. Sterett (chair) of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Dr. Lori Cox Han of Chapman University, and Dr. Jon C. Rogowski of the University of Chicago.


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