Prof. Thomas Hayes joins the POLS faculty this fall. We recently spoke with him to hear more about his research and interests.
What is the nature of your research?
My research mainly examines the nature of inequality in three aspects of the American governmental system: institutions (e.g. Congress), individuals (i.e. voters), and the interaction between the two (e.g. responsiveness). I’m currently working on projects that examine the degree to which institutional decisions influence attitudes toward disadvantaged groups, the factors that lead states to adopt an income tax, the electoral components that lead to unequal representation, and the reasons that states adopt voter identification laws.
What will you be teaching?
I will be teaching four courses this upcoming year at UConn. In the Fall, I will teach the Politics of Inequality and the Presidency and Congress while in the Spring I will teach Congress in Theory and Practice and Introduction to American Politics. The Politics of Inequality is a new course that I designed to focus on the political factors underlying the growth in economic inequality in the United States as well as the factors that sustain it. The Presidency and Congress examines the interaction between two of the most important American political institutions of our time. Intro to American Politics is a lower division course for those interested in learning the basics of the American system of government as well as current topics in American politics. The course Congress in Theory and Practice focuses on the national legislature. This course includes an in-class simulation in which students take on the role of a representative by passing legislation, working for reelection, forming parties, etc.
Did you always want to be a professor?
For a long time I wanted to go to law school, but world events and the classes I took in college led me to go to graduate school instead. During my freshman year in college, I became engrossed in politics during the 2000 Presidential election. To me, the election highlighted many problems with our political system. It was the first time I was of voting age and I wanted answers to questions such as: Why were third parties shut out of the debates? Why didn’t more people participate or pay attention to the election or politics in general? Why were so many excluded from voting? Why weren’t the major party candidates talking about issues I felt to be important? I had a number of excellent professors that helped me search for answers to these questions and keep asking more.
After I graduated college I volunteered with the Americorps and helped run a summer camp for children who lived in residential motels. This experience led me to keep asking questions about our political, economic, and social system and I put off law school to pursue a Master’s degree in political science. I enjoyed being around others that had similar questions and soon I found a whole network of scholars interested in many of the same issues that motivated me to start on this path. I then entered a Ph.D. program in which I was able to pursue research questions and teach others about important political issues, just as those professors who inspired me had done before. I’m very happy with my choice and am excited to come to UConn.