Meet 2020 Carnegie Fellow Paul Gronke, Reed College

The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program recognizes an exceptional group of both established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors with the goal of strengthening U.S. democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity, exploring global connections and global ruptures, and improving both natural and human environments. 

How will the Andrew Carnegie Fe

llows Program impact your research and overall career?

I am honored and humbled and a little bit overwhelmed! The Carnegie feels like a validation of a choice I made 15 years ago to focus on democracy and elections at the local level, starting with voting at home in Oregon, and since expanding to the many and myriad ways that local election officials impact the operation of American democracy.

To be perfectly honest, the Carnegie gives me some breathing room to continue to think in a big picture kind of way about the next 5 years of my academic trajectory, without the need to constantly seek out funding for short term projects that provide salary support. Building a Center at Reed College — an institution that has never had “centers” as they exist at many institution — has been a vision I have been pursuing for a number of years, and the Carnegie makes this vision much more realistic.

What research topics do you primarily focus on? How can people access your work?

My project, “Stewards of Democracy: How Street Level Administrators Can Restore Public Faith in American Democracy”, will provide a look at the people who take on the enormously important task of managing democracy in more than 10,000 local jurisdictions in the United States. Who are our “stewards of democracy”? What are their personal and professional orientations toward elections, and how does this translate into public trust and faith in our democratic institutions? That is the main focus of my project. There are many related elements that I hope to pursue in collaboration with other colleagues. To take just one example — nearly 3,000 females are regularly elected to serve as local election officials. Does this population of elected officials help us think about how we can grow the number of female county officials or state legislators? I don’t know the answer to this, but this is one of the many additional questions I hope to pursue over the next two years.

Most of our research can be found at

Do you have any advice for students in political science, including tips on how to find funding and support for research projects?

Much of my success over the past fifteen years has relied on non-profit funding. Working in this world is very different from seeking out funding from sources like the NSF. It requires you to be more nimble and responsive to the needs and expectations of donors. It may require you be creative in figuring out ways to balance the demands of disciplinary advancement, most importantly, publishing in political science outlets, with the needs to be responsive to your funder. This isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone. My advice, if you want to go this route,  is to seek out mentors and do not be shy about asking for advice from those who have had more success, and for students and for junior faculty in particular,  make sure to always be mindful of your career path, and how this work can support it.

Paul Gronke is a professor of political science at Reed College specializing in elections, and co-editor of PS: Political Science and Politics. In 2005, Dr. Gronke founded the Early Voting Information Center at Reed to find research-based solutions to problems in how U.S. elections are run and to work with state and local governments. The center’s research and advocacy are key to Dr. Gronke’s goal of ensuring integrity in the American election system while guaranteeing every eligible U.S. citizen can vote. For his Carnegie project, Dr. Gronke will focus on the beliefs and actions of 10,000 local election officials and explore the role these “stewards of democracy” might play in restoring public confidence in our elections and, by extension, in our public institutions and our democracy.