Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, December 13, 2010

American Political Science Association, campus honor Mooney for journal, research contributions

cut-out photograph of Abraham Lincoln on the left and professor Chris Mooney on the right
Chris Mooney is a professor at the Springfield campus of the University of Illinois in the heart of the Land of Lincoln.

For Christopher Z. Mooney, 2010 has been a very good year.

As a professor of political science with a joint appointment in the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Mooney studies U.S. state politics and policy, with special focus on legislative decision-making, morality policy and legislative term limits.

Mooney, a 1985 La Follette alum, is the founding editor of State Politics and Policy Quarterly. He has published dozens of articles and books, including Lobbying Illinois — How You Can Make a Difference in Public Policy, written with Barbara Van Dyke-Brown. Mooney, Todd Donovan and Daniel S. Smith are co-authors of a leading textbook, State and Local Politics: Institutions and Reform, the third edition of which is forthcoming,

One reason 2010 has been a good year is recognition of Mooney's efforts in establishing, editing and managing State Politics and Policy Quarterly, the official journal of the State Politics and Policy section of the American Political Science Association. The section began awarding the Christopher Z. Mooney Award for the Best Dissertation in State Politics and Policy, thanks to a $25,000 endowment established this year.

SPPQ features studies that develop general hypotheses of political behavior and policymaking and test these hypotheses using the methodological advantages of the states. It also includes field review essays and a section entitled "The Practical Researcher," a service-oriented feature that provides a data, methodological and assessment resource for state politics researchers. The University of Illinois Press published SPPQ since its first issue in 2001; in 2011, SAGE Publications becomes the publisher.

Mooney founded the journal because the study of state politics and policy had been regaining credibility as an academic area. "Historically, state politics scholarship had been at the center of the discipline of political science, but in the 1970s and 1980s, the field was in decline," he says. "The 1990s saw a re-birth of excellent scholarship in the field, and I wanted to promote and encourage that. "There seemed to be a national hole in the library of political science as far as state politics was concerned. People had been talking about starting such a journal for while, so we made it happen."

Mooney has been honored with a second award, the Christopher Z. Mooney Award Endowment for Comparative State Politics and Policy Research, made possible through a $40,000 endowment fund at the University of Illinois at Springfield for UIS faculty and student research in the field.

The University of Illinois recognized Mooney this year for his own outstanding research in the course of his career with the University Scholar Award, a three-year award of $10,000 a year. No more than one University Scholar is named on each UI campus each year. In addition, this fall, he was named the first W. Russell Arrington Distinguished Professor of State Politics, a position with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.

Mooney's management responsibilities with State Politics and Policy Quarterly end this year, and he will be turning his attention to two research projects. One is on legislative leadership. The second explores legislative decision-making. "I want to try to understand the psychology of American legislators as they think about cause and effect in public policy," Mooney says, "why they think a given policy is going to work the way they think it will."

Prior to arriving at the University of Illinois at Springfield in 1999, Mooney taught at West Virginia University and the University of Essex in the United Kingdom. He earned a master's degree in public policy and administration from the La Follette Institute in 1985. He spent a year through a La Follette internship as a policy analyst with the Wisconsin Department of Development then returned to graduate school to earn a doctorate in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1990.

His graduate education served him well. "I learned at Wisconsin the practical importance of the states," he says. "There are a couple of great methodological advantages to studying states. First, you can make useful scientific comparisons among political systems. Second, you can have direct access to the wide range of political and policy actors involved in the process. Combined, these make the states are the single best unit of analysis for studying politics and policy in the world. You can't study everything there, but you can study an awful lot. And those aspects of politics and policy that you can study there you can study with great validity."

Mooney appreciates being in Springfield, which, like Madison, is the state capital. Although the campus and town are smaller, the focus on state government gives him and his students good access to policymakers, just like he experienced in Madison. "People in and around government are happy to talk to and work with students at the state level; this isn't always the case in D.C. and other national capitals," Mooney says.

Although he is in Illinois, Mooney keeps public service and the Wisconsin Idea as the focus of his teaching and research. "The idea that the boundaries of the university extend to the boundaries of the state is of fundamental importance ethically and practically," he says. "Holding that notion at the center of one's career improves teaching and scholarship in ways that are beneficial both to the state and to the academic enterprise."

Chris Mooney honored by peers at SPPC and named University Scholar, June 4, 2010, University of Illinois Springfield news

National dissertation award named after UIS political science professor Chris Mooney, March 17, 2010

— updated June 1, 2011