UCF Political Science Graduate Thanks UCF for Her Success

Kerri MilitaKerri Milita, ’06, ’09, graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and then pursued her M.A. at UCF. Upon graduation from UCF in May 2009, she began working on her Ph.D. in Political Science at Florida State University.

In November 2013, Kerri accepted a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Illinois State University (ISU) for an appointment beginning in August 2014. At ISU, she will be teaching two courses per semester on interest groups, campaign finance, public policy, and direct democracy. In 2015, she will be serving as the section head for State Politics and Intergovernmental Relations at the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, where she will review research proposals from scholars around the country.

She explained that her time at UCF’s Political Science program and the Burnett Honors College played a large role in her success at FSU. While pursuing her BA and MA at UCF she was trained by UCF professors who were themselves graduates of FSU’s doctoral program. This prepared her for the demands of FSU’s Ph.D. curriculum.

Kerri described her experience at UCF and her employment in more detail:

Why did you choose to attend UCF?

I grew up in a tiny town on Lake Okeechobee called Canal Point (population: under 500). I went to a tiny high school (graduating class: 40 students). I wanted something different for college. At UCF, I knew I could find freedom in the crowd. I wanted diversity – of backgrounds, of strengths, of ideas.

How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

Completing my Honors in the Major thesis gave me a head start in learning how to do academic research. Belonging to the Burnett Honors College, where classes are small and student participation is expected, was also helpful; it took a while, but these classes helped me gain more confidence in myself and my academic abilities.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

I was active in the Juggling Club for several years. Learning to juggle was a requirement for an introductory psychology course, so I went to the university juggling club for advice. I enjoyed the company of the people I met there so I kept it up. It’s probably my most random skill (that definitely doesn’t fit in the same schema with my other skillsets – e.g. research, quantitative analysis, web scraping… and juggling).

Have you stayed connected with UCF since graduation? If so, how?

I’m still in touch with several fellow graduates of the political science program. Political Science is like a small town. If you don’t know someone, you know someone who knows someone.

What is your best UCF memory?

Late night conversations with my floor mates in the commons area of Flagler Hall.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

Autonomy. I’m very good at time management so I appreciate the freedom and flexibility that a career in academia provides. I also consider conference travel a huge perk of the profession. Part of my job is to travel to great cities, meet with smart, interesting people, and exchange ideas. (Does it get better than that?)

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

I’d have to say my most memorable experience was the morning I received word from Political Behavior, a peer-reviewed research journal, that my article on candidate position-taking had been accepted for publication. While technically not my first publication, it was the first research project in which I had taken on a leadership role (and received first authorship).

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

Regardless of whether you “like math,” get good at it. Proficiency in math and science will set you apart on the job market. And despite what I used to tell myself ten (plus) years ago, being good at math and science doesn’t hamper your creativity; it furthers it.

Here are some fun questions we asked to get to know Kerri better:

What is the happiest and/or proudest moment of your life?

I had two great milestones within a very short period of time. The first was landing my tenure track job at Illinois State University and the second came a few months later when I successfully defended my dissertation.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I would love to become proficient at computer coding (I’ve gotten better at coding over time, but it’s still very much a part time hobby). A fluent coder can help push the boundaries of text analysis and web-scraping (both are the future of data collection).

Where is your favorite place to visit?

Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula. Mountains, waterfronts, sea stacks, beautiful weather (I like the rain), good public transportation, and smart, creative people. I’m not sure anywhere else in the world can top that.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Do one thing every day that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.

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