By Cassandra Sottile
Elm Staff Writer
From Congress to Washington College, Dr. Paulina Cosette brings real world political experience to her students.
The newest political science professor taught in Florida at Jacksonville University for four years and at Flagler College for one year.
“Both of these experiences gave me the opportunity to teach a lot of courses on American politics and to practice the style of teaching and advising that makes liberal arts colleges so special,” Dr. Cossette said.
She began looking to move to a liberal arts college in a small town, after falling in love with the area, and applied when the job was advertised.
“I love that the College is near Washington, D.C. which is very helpful for my research and getting students engaged in experiential learning,” she said.
Dr. Cossette’s research focuses on American institutions and political behavior, specifically Congress, political parties, and party polarization. In the 2014-15 academic year, Dr. Cossette was awarded the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship in D.C. She worked as a legislative aide to Rhode Island Democrat Sen. Jack Reed, focusing on domestic policy with an emphasis on energy and environmental policy.
“Being able to see how Congress worked from the inside gave me a deeper understanding of the legislative process and allowed me to see the behind-the-scenes actions that take place in Congress everyday but don’t get reported in the news,” she said.
While working with Sen. Reed, Dr. Cossette’s work included writing memos to help the senator prepare for meetings with constituents, preparing remarks for events, and highlighting the work on Block Island Wind Farm.
Dr. Cosette collaborated with fellow staff members to write legislation, and helped create amendments to increase funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
She is involved in an ongoing project with Professor Steve Craig from the University of Florida that examines the effectiveness of attack advertising and the ways political candidates respond to the attacks during their campaigns.
Dr. Cosette began the research as a graduate student at University of Florida. She and Professor Craig have conducted two survey experiments of registered voters to test the effectiveness of different responses, such as counterattacks and reframing in a positive light.
“We also look at the factors that moderate the effectiveness of attacks and responses, such as a voter’s trust in government and their beliefs about which party ‘owns’ a particular issue,” she said.
Dr. Cossette looks forward to teaching students what politics is really like, as opposed to what the “textbook versions” tell them.
“Political science courses teach students to think critically about the information they come across, questioning assumptions and examining whether evidence provided supports the arguments that are being made. These skills are becoming increasingly important due to the widespread use of social media, and will be absolutely necessary to future political leaders who want to return to making good public policy and solving our nation’s problems,” she said.