The Department of Government at UT Austin

The Department of Government at UT Austin is a wonderful place to attend graduate school or to work as faculty; here are some reasons why:

(1) A faculty rich in varied intellectual backgrounds & perspectives. The Government Department at UT is large (around 60 faculty), meaning that there are leading experts working in a wide range of research areas, including the role of emotion in politics, the nature of political institutions, the comparison of policy agendas worldwide, and the political philosophy of Niccolò Machiavelli (to mention just a few).

(2) Culture of innovation. Tesla, Dell Technologies, and Oracle are all headquartered in Austin; Apple, AMD, IBM, and GM have major offices there as well. According to Manny Fernandez writing for the NY Times, “[f]ew dispute that tech has turned Austin into one of the most vibrant and distinctive capital cities in America.” This culture of creativity spills over into UT Austin, through, for example, the Texas Innovation Center.

(3) Nature & weather. Austin gets on average 228 sunny days per year; the average daily high temperature in January is 62 degrees F (17 degrees C), so the numerous natural springs, rivers, and trails in and around Austin are readily accessible all year.

(4) International collaborations. UT Government faculty have extensive collaboration networks both within the US and also abroad, for example, with the University of Gothenburg in the Varieties of Democracy project. In addition, some of my collaborators are housed in the AI and Global Development Lab, based primarily at Linköping University and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. These networks can be invaluable in bringing a global perspective to research and in generating unique opportunities for graduate students.

(5) Quantitative methodology. UT Austin is a great place to learn about quantitative methodology and its many applications in the social and natural science. The Government Department has a diverse array of courses on methodology (from time series analysis to machine learning to network analysis). Other Departments at UT also offer wonderful courses in additional topics in statistics and machine learning. UT Austin is regularly a top contributing institution to leading machine learning conferences. For example, in 2021, UT Austin was one of the best-represented institutions globally across both academia and industry at ICML, one of the preeminent machine learning publication venues. Graduate students may also pursue a Master’s in Statistics from the Department of Statistics and Data Science during the progression of their Ph.D. UT Austin is home to the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Institute for Foundations of Machine Learning (IFML), as well as the recently launched Center for Generative AI. Finally, UT Austin also offers a new standalone Master’s of Artificial Intelligence at a total cost of $10,000 compared to over $90,000 for similar programs at other institutions.

(6) Food & music scene. Austin has an amazing music scene. It hosts festivals such as Austin City Limits (ACL) and South by Southwest (SXSW) and is home to notable live music venues such as the Continent Club and Stubb’s BBQ. Many of Austin’s restaurants and cafes regularly host live music as well (such as Mozart’s Coffee Roasters situated on Lake Austin). According to Food & Wine, Austin is a top-10 US city in terms of culinary excellence.

(7) Cost of living. Despite recent increases in the cost of living, Austin still remains relatively affordable. According to a cost of living calculator, someone in Austin making $53,871 achieves the same living standards as someone making $100,000 in San Francisco (2023 data).


Further Thoughts

(1) Courses & students: See [Teaching] for the syllabi of courses I am or will be teaching at UT Austin. See [Students] for information on past and current students.

(2) Opportunities: If you’re interested in being a graduate student in the Department or in working together as a postdoc on research projects in Austin or in Sweden jointly with collaborators, feel free to email me at connor.jerzak@austin.utexas.edu.

(3) Nature photography: Here’s a page containing nature photography from the Austin area and beyond.

(4) Undergraduate admissions: If you’re interested in attending UT Austin as an undergraduate, this YouTube video provides a great overview of the admissions process at the university. 

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