Political Science

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Rachel Paine Caufield

Co-Chair, Department of Political Science

2014 Arts & Sciences Teacher of the Year
Office Location: Meredith 214A

Professor Rachel Paine Caufield is Co-Chair of the Department of Political Science and Co-Executive Director of the Ron and Jane Olson Institute for Public Democracy at Drake, working to encourage democratic practices that create and sustain vibrant communities, civil discourse, and meaningful public participation.  She earned her Ph.D. at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., specializing in American politics and political science methodology, and her B.A. at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, majoring in Political Science and Mathematics. 

She joined the Department of Political Science at Drake in 2001, and teaches courses on American politics, with special attention to political institutions (Congress and the Legislative Process, Judicial Politics, and the American Presidency) and institutional design (What’s Wrong with American Politics? Contemporary Issues in Institutional Design).  She also teaches the Senior Seminar in Politics and First Year Seminars (FYS) on elections, voting, public engagement, and pop culture representations of politics.

Prior to joining the Drake faculty, she was a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. studying the relationship between the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court. During her tenure at Drake, she spent 10 years as a Research Fellow with The American Judicature Society (2003-2013), where she conducted research on state judicial selection methods, trends in judicial elections, and the rules and procedures governing state merit selection systems, becoming a national expert on these topics.

Professor Caufield loves the big marble buildings in Washington, D.C., but she has also become an avid devotee of the Iowa caucuses.  In 2016, she published The Iowa Caucus with Arcadia Press.  For the past six presidential campaign cycles, she has organized efforts to get students involved in the caucuses, coordinating candidate visits to campus and leading the campus effort to host live-broadcast national presidential debates and forums with ABC, CBS, CNN, and Fusion TV. 

Frequently spotted at campaign events across Iowa, Professor Caufield (or “RPC”) leads a January-term travel seminar to Washington, D.C. to attend the presidential inauguration or the opening of a new session of Congress (she also led a travel seminar to the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver). To find out more about her, read the Times-Delphic profile of Professor Caufield, or watch a video of Professor Caufield’s students during the 2013 January-term travel seminar.

Professor Caufield has been recognized as the Honors Teacher of the Year (2005), and the Madelyn M. Levitt Teacher of the Year (2010). In 2012, she received the College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Engagement Award. In 2014, she was named the Dean and Sue Wright Outstanding Teacher of the Year in the College of Arts and Sciences.  In 2019, she received the Madelyn M. Levitt Mentor Award. 

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