Student profile: Ursula Hackett
My research interests are in education policy, religion and politics, constitutional law and federalism; in my DPhil thesis I examine cross-state variation in aid for children at private religious schools in the US. Such aid includes publicly-funded textbooks, transportation, education vouchers and tax credits. I have published on the subject of religious school-aid constitutional provisions known as ‘Blaine Amendments’, and my archival and interview fieldwork with politicians, administrators and activists takes me to state capitals across the North American continent.
Like some of my colleagues, I continued on to postgraduate study after an undergraduate degree here at Oxford. After my PPE degree I took the MPhil in Comparative Government and my DPhil research expands upon a project begun at Master’s level.
Oxford is a supportive and intellectually-stimulating place, and I am very glad to have had the privilege of working here both as an undergraduate and as a graduate. At the Rothermere American Institute - an institution within the University that focuses on American politics, history and literature - I have found a warm welcome, an excellent place to study, the best collection of American research outside of the US and countless thought-provoking conversations with fellow scholars. At the Department I have enjoyed a range of first-rate research methods courses and have taken part in the Politics Colloquium, which brings together graduate students and faculty for regular lunchtime seminars.
The Department nominated me for a major qualitative and multi-method research institute in New York last year, and supported me financially to take up the place. The experience inspired me to write a methodology paper, which I will present this year at the American Political Science Association conference. Just as it supported me for the methods institute, the Department has also provided financial support for this conference through the Andrew Mellon fund. During my DPhil I have found it easy to access teaching training courses, register as a tutor, and find tutorial teaching around the university – a rewarding experience, both financially and intellectually.
One of the great things about the Department of Politics and International Relations, and Oxford more generally, is that there is so much going on. Unlike American PhDs, the DPhil at Oxford is very short. The pace of intellectual life is fast and there are many academic opportunities. Provided that a student is ready to throw themselves into it wholeheartedly, working here can be very fulfilling. It is certainly possible to publish, teach, collaborate and present at conferences - all whilst finishing a doctorate in two or three years. After my doctorate, which is in the final stages of completion, I plan to apply for postdoctoral positions and academic jobs in political science.