New Professor Spotlight: Sofia Vera

As this academic year winds to a close and the SOLAR system opens, many departments have begun announcing the new professors who will be teaching at Reed next fall. This week we’re highlighting a visiting assistant professor who will be coming to the political science department.

At the beginning of March, several candidates who specialized in comparative political science were interviewed for a visiting professorship that will span the next two academic years. After a few weeks of public guest lectures and student lunches with the candidates, Reed has decide to hire Dr. Sofia Vera.

Vera comes from the University of Pittsburgh, where, last month, she defended her dissertation, “Electoral Accountability for Corruption in Latin America,” in which she seeks to answer why voters support and elect corrupt politicians. In general, her areas of focus include comparative politics, political institutions, representation, public opinion, and political behavior. Vera has presented at a number of conferences, discussing topics such as legislative political ambition in Latin America and comparative studies of political representation in a number of Latin American countries.

Last month, Vera gave a talk titled, “Accountability for Corruption and Robust Party Competition: Evidence from Colombia and Peru,” in which she examined studies of voter responses to corruption to see how information credibility and group identities can reduce the electoral impact of corruption. In particular, she discussed how patterns of party competition shaped voter attitudes toward corrupt politicians, based on survey experiments and electoral data from Colombia and Peru. Ashley San Miguel, a political science junior who attended Vera’s lecture, explained, “Her guest lecture was on electoral corruption in Peru and Colombia, and she wanted to understand why people chose to support electorally corrupt presidents. She used this new method that’s coming up in political science; you present vignettes to people and it’s something like: Pedro, a boy like you, what would he do?”

Vera will be a welcome addition to the comparative politics side of the political science department, bringing additional expertise in Latin American politics. Vera will be teaching the introductory level comparative politics class next school year. Other courses Vera will be instructing include a class on political corruption that delves into its causes and consequences, and a class on elections, parties, and voters, which will look at how party systems compare across different democratic countries.

Lots of students are excited to take these classes with Vera. Her classes have some of the highest registrations of all of the political science department. How will her classes and her teaching style fit in with the rest of the college? “[Vera]’s super young, she seems really excited to come here and she wants to teach kids about methods because that’s really lacking in the poli sci department — we don’t have a strict methods course — so she’s doing that,” San Miguel said. “And I know that all of her work is super transnational, and I know she has a focus in Latin America but she can speak to other sections of the world as well, which is super cool.”

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