Mark Q Sawyer Ph.D. - Political Science

Alumni Reference: 

"I was a fourth-year faculty member when I applied to the Program. It was my second time applying. I had known several previous fellows and all had had a positive experience in the Program. I cannot overemphasize how much the Program helped me. In my fourth year at my home institution I was buried with responsibilities. I was in two units, I had several graduate students and, as a minority faculty member, mentoring and committee duties had become overwhelming. I needed the time to focus on my work. In fact, I was so stressed that my health had begun to suffer.

The fellowship came just in time. I had a lot of projects in progress but not enough had been completed. The fellowship and the Berkeley site were a perfect place to complete them, and to work, think, and really focus on working with ideas. It was my most productive period. In my first year, I found learning about the health care system not only interesting but stimulating. The interdisciplinary nature of the seminars challenged me to think in new ways about my own work. Further, I had the most precious commodity, time.

In the early part of my first year, I completed a revision of my book manuscript and several articles. The program and mentors nurtured my existing research but also encouraged new possibilities. I began to home in on an RWJ project but also continued my own research and completed some new articles that I got feedback on from my colleagues in the Program. It was an incredibly supportive environment that did not get in the way of me completing my work.

The time was intellectually stimulating, and while it may seem silly, I worked on my health and fitness as a means of relaxation. In my first year, after hearing about the relationship between health behaviors and outcomes, I was able to lose over 50 pounds that I have largely maintained since my time in the Program. Having been overwhelmed by the initial push and demand of being a faculty member, the Program gave me a chance to reconnect with my work and develop a healthier balance between taking care of business and taking care of me.

By the end of my first year, my book had been accepted, several R&Rs had been turned around and I was able to submit a number of new articles. After the wonderful experience presenting my first-year research at the Program’s Aspen meeting, I consulted with my chair and decided to go up for tenure early in my fifth year.

While tenure is always stressful, the Program and my cohort were always supportive. I kept my work going and also had time to apply to several jobs. I continued my RWJ work, which helped immensely as it represented progress toward a second project and a signal of my standing in the discipline. I received several tenure offers that year and ultimately was granted tenure and remained at my home institution. The Program made that all possible.

I returned to UCLA refreshed and having completed a solid body of work. I also had a new network that has been very valuable. RWJ fellows and people involved with the Program are always helpful and really care to help you if you need advice or want to understand how to formulate research, conduct a job search or any other important aspect of participating in the Program. My view of research has also expanded. Health presents infinite opportunities to connect with political science and expand resources. I cannot overstate how much the Program has benefited my career and me personally."

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science,
Bunche Center for African American Studies, and
Director, Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Politics
University of California, Los Angeles