Overview of Teaching and Advising
As a member of a small Political Science department, I am responsible for all courses that fall within the subfield of American politics, with a particular expertise in race and ethnic politics, political behavior, and law and society. In addition to teaching the introductory course (Introduction to U.S. Politics: Theory and Practice), I teach three intermediate-level courses that focus on political institutions and political behavior (Congress & the Presidency; Voting, Campaigns and Elections; and Political Attitudes and Behavior: Race, Class, & Gender); and two additional intermediate courses that investigate the relationship between law, politics, and society (Constitutional Law: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties and Race, Law, & Politics). Finally, I designed an upper-level methods course titled, Advanced Research Methods: Political Behavior & Quantitative Analysis. Please read below for descriptions of the courses and prior student evaluations.
Introduction to U.S. Politics: Theory & Practice
Contemporary conceptions of democracy in the United States are often based on the classic pluralist model of governance: individual citizens articulate interests, groups naturally form and lobby on behalf of those interests, a fair debate ensues, and the democratic system generates outcomes reflecting a general will. While this may serve as a model of how democracy ought to operate, it is not clear whether it is an accurate reflection of how our democracy actually operates. In this course, we will employ a multitude of approaches—theoretical, behavioral, and institutional—to assist you in assessing the extent to which the functioning of American democracy fulfills its promise. Collectively, we will grapple with our conflicting accounts of American Democracy, identify potential barriers we face, and debate the utility of potential reforms.
- “reaffirmed my investment in American politics and gave me hope”
- “I learned many new perspectives and theories that not only help me in regards to this subject, but in the real world”
- “the logical framework that this class provides is vastly more important than its content”
- “course impacted my critical thinking skills, speaking ability, and increased my interest in US Politics”
- “I really appreciated the way we were able to evaluation issues from all sides and how debate was encouraged”
- “everyone in the class was treated as though they had something valuable to say”
- “eye opening and gives new insights”
- “ one of the best classes at K”
- “the convention was a great way to engage students and I loved learning about my proposed reform”
Voting, Campaigns, & Elections
Representative democracies rely upon elections to establish and maintain the link between the will of the people and the elites chosen to represent the public will. This course will examine three interrelated concepts of the American electoral process: voting, campaigns, and elections. First, we will examine the theories and methods employed to identify likely voters and the factors that impact their vote choice. Furthermore, we will identify some of the barriers that help explain why others do not vote. Second, we will turn our attention to Congressional (Presidential) elections. We will identify the distinct factors that determine a campaign’s effectiveness—the ground game, the candidate and their message, and campaign advertisements—as well as the structural factors that influence an electoral outcome. We will conclude by forecasting the results of the 2018 Midterm (Presidential) election and assessing what its outcomes means for the future of American politics.
- “constantly interpreted the 2018 midterms in relation to the concepts that we were learning, and it made the course extremely relevant and worthwhile”
- “Amazing class! The ability to teach theories and discuss ideas by making connections to the primary elections as the quarter went on was super impactful”
- “Berry was able to teach the theory, back it up with political science research, and help us apply it to the current election. AMAZING!!”
- “This was my favorite Kalamazoo college offered class by far”
- “this course has increased my knowledge and desire to learn about U.S. Politics 10-fold”
- “the project that we had throughout the quarter was the most fun/engaging project I’ve ever done and makes me possibly want to run for office in the future”
- “I’ve learned more in this class than I think I learned in any other class”
Constitutional Law: Civil Rights & Liberties
The cornerstone of American democracy rests upon the U.S. Constitution. In addition to laying the blueprint for the institutional design of our government, the Bill of Rights, in theory, establishes the fundamental rights and liberties of all American citizens. In this course, students will familiarize themselves with the structure of the federal court system, the contrasting modes of legal reasoning employed by justices on the court, and the often competing legal, political, and societal factors that influence the Supreme Court’s rulings. We will focus on three substantive areas of constitutional law: 1) equal protection under the 14th Amendment; 2) the right to privacy; and 3) freedom of speech. By tracing the evolution of the law in these three key areas, students will sharpen their legal-reasoning skills, and be better equipped to evaluate the extent to which the Court has fulfilled our Constitutional ideals.
- “Dr. Berry facilitated a learning environment that invited critical thinking, humor, and growth in the way he challenged us to consider the various forms of politics at play.”
- “it was undoubtedly my favorite class so far at Kalamazoo”
- “I have gained a sense of what it is like to study the law in this class. I definitely have gained a new interest in legal reasoning…and am looking into law school”
- “Dr. Berry is super invested in his students’ learning”
- “law career starts in this class”
- “Instructor makes law interactive and encourages engagement in class. This professor is one of the best at K.”
- “always gave helpful feedback and fostered a welcoming and fun environment”
- “Dr. Berry rocks! He makes all of us excited to learn”
Race, Law, & Politics
This course will explore the intersection of race, law and politics in the United States. In the first half of the quarter we will develop a theoretical framework to understand each of these three interrelated concepts. First, we will examine the American judicial system, contrasting theories of jurisprudence, and legal reasoning and writing. Second, we will explore the complex relationship between law and politics. Third, we will examine theories of race, racial formation, and critical race theory. In the second half of the quarter we will turn our attention to tracing the key legal precedents and statutes that have at various times in our history shaped, reinforced, and/or challenged conceptions of race, ethnicity, and citizenship. We will examine the ways in which each has expanded and/or contracted the rights of racial and ethnic minorities. We will end the quarter by evaluating the extent to which the Court provides an effective venue for racial and ethnic minorities to pursue equal rights and access in America.
- “after taking this class with an interest in pursuing a legal career, I feel like I have the skills and confidence to pursue it”
- “skillfully approached sensitive topics”
- “an eye-opening experience”
- “allowed me to look at our legal system with a critical lens”
- “one of my favorite professors at K…he really encourages students and helps you grow”
- “I loved this course because it helped me really analyze the law as a shaping force in society.”
- “I learned a great deal about legal reasoning, the Supreme Court, and federal v. state powers. I think I was well exposed to the skill I need to advance my legal education.”
- “I enjoyed learning how to analyze and apply legal reasoning”
- “It was a good intro to the American judicial process through the lens of critical race studies. I met a lawyer who made me lose faith in the profession but this course helped me turn things around”
- “This course taught me what working with the law is actually like”
Congress and the Presidency
In American Democracy, legislative power at the national level is divided principally between two distinct institutions: Congress and the Presidency. By design, the framers created a government comprised of separate institutions with overlapping powers and distinct constituencies. In this course, we will investigate both the origins and consequences of this institutional design. Yet, institutions are not static; the evolution of institutions is inevitable. We will examine how each institution has shifted over time, the political and contextual factors that lead to these changes, and their consequences on both policy-making and representation. Finally, institutions are not empty vessels, but rather are comprised of a body of goal-oriented elites. We will examine how elite behavior and legislative processes may be best explained by the goal of winning elections. Furthermore, we will identify the mechanisms that power elites implement to pursue legislative objectives, the barriers they face, and the representation and policy-making that results. Throughout the course we will apply these theories to explain and predict the legislative institutions, actors, and processes in Washington D.C.
- “Course was taught in a way that compelled me to study and give great effort, not by requirement, but by interest.”
- “Dr. Berry is probably the best instructor that I’ve had at Kalamazoo College and his classes are always exceptional and rewarding.”
- “Dr. Berry is a caring and well-spoken instructor who cares as much about his students as he does the subject matter”
- “Did well at balancing depth and breadth to intrigue both new poli-sci students as well as experienced poli-sci majors”
- “did an exceptional job of taking me below the surface and really dissecting our government institutions”
- “his ability to unbiasedly relay information and make me feel included is second to none”
- “maybe my favorite class here so far”
- “Learning through so many different authors and articles rather than a textbook allowed me to think critically and creatively”
- “class time and my time never felt wasted. Objectives were always clear and all work had meaning to it.”
- “Being able to apply theories to the past controversial presidential election was really cool”
Political Attitudes and Behavior: Race, Class, & Gender
The preferences of the public, and how citizens’ behavior helps transmit those preferences to elected officials, serve as the foundation of representative democracy. Thus, to evaluate the success of a democracy one must begin with a clear understanding of the origins, measurement, structure, and consequences of Americans’ political attitudes. This course will explore the multitude of factors that structure and influence the development of political attitudes and the extent to which these attitudes are represented in government. Similarly, we will examine the determinants and consequences of political behavior. In regards to political behavior, we will expand the conception of behavior to include civic engagement and participating in “contentious politics” (e.g. protests, boycotts, riots, etc.). Our broader conception of political participation will allow us to answer the following questions: Who participates? How do they participate? And to what extent does their participation result in desired outcomes? Finally, we will apply the knowledge and analytical strategies that we have surveyed to better understand some of the most salient cleavages in American politics today (e.g. race, class, and gender).
- “It was challenging in a good way. The instructor was understanding and gave good feedback”
- “Taking this course helped me grow personally and academically. I developed a better understanding of political attitudes and behaviors such as voter participation, civic engagement, and social movements. “
- “Amazing professor! Helped me develop a career that I’m interested in.”
- “Greatly appreciated the feedback – helped me develop strong writing skills for a poli-sci paper”
- “One of my favorite classes I have taken at K.”
Advanced Research Methods: Political Behavior & Quantitative Analysis
Political pundits, academics, and citizens were shocked by the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election. Following the election, conversations in the media, in classrooms, and among the public centered on two questions. 1) What factors determined who voted and how they voted in 2016? 2) How did pollsters and forecasters, journalists, and/or citizens fail to accurately predict the electoral outcome? This course will explore political behavior and polling in the 2016 election and provide some answers to both of these questions. First, we will read and evaluate research that analyzed the factors that influenced political behavior in the election. Second, we will overview polling strategies and methods used to understand voting behavior. We will learn the fundamentals of quantitative analysis – sampling, measurement, hypothesis generation/testing, and descriptive and inferential analysis – and practice these skills using survey data and statistical software.