Dr. Stephen Ansolabehere: Class of 1984
My family moved from Nevada to Minnesota in my senior year of high school. I stayed in Reno to graduate, then headed to Minneapolis. Everything here was different—the warm, wet summer and the bitterly cold winter, the generosity of the people and their funny accents, the enormity of the cities and their rich variety. At the center of my new world was the University of Minnesota. Two decades later, it remains an anchor for me because of the people from whom I learned and with whom I became friends. One special professor stands out: Frank Sorauf.
It was the spring of my sophomore year, and I was still finding my way. My interest in a legal career was on the wane while my enjoyment of economics, political science, and mathematics was growing. What I found most intriguing was figuring out how societies work—how a mass of people could come to a decision about laws, or how people buying goods in the market could together set prices. As I was dreading another summer of waiting tables, a wonderful opportunity presented itself: Frank Sorauf hired me as his research assistant. He was writing a book on campaign finance, and he needed someone to do computer work. The data he was collecting would help piece together the puzzle of the new world of political action committees. I could do for pay what I enjoyed doing during my classes.
Frank kept me on beyond the summer. I worked for him throughout my junior and senior years, learning the nuts and bolts of research. More important, I learned how to take the germ of an idea and pursue it to its fullest. This was my calling, I decided. The ideas I encountered on that job and in my political science and economics major took hold and have not let go. A pleasant summer job became an invaluable mentoring relationship and friendship, which has only grown over the past two decades.
Dr. Ansolabehere is the Elting R. Morison Professor of Political Science at MIT. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (’84) and a B.S. in Economics (’84) from the U of M.