PhD Student in Political Science
Monique Newton is a PhD student in political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on American politics and voting behavior. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in politics and law and society from Oberlin College, where she was a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship and selected for the American Political Science Association (APSA) Ralph Bunche Summer Institute. Monique serves as a graduate student ambassador for NU Votes.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
My research explores how traumatic events in poor Black neighborhoods—such as a police shooting or school closing—inform local Black political behavior afterward. I seek to incorporate emotion-driven models—such as anxiety— into the study of Black political behavior in local elections in the United States. Additionally, I strive to broaden our understanding of political participation to extend beyond voting in an election.
What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
It's been interesting to watch the language behind my ideas evolve. I am still generally interested in the same things I was when I first started conducting research as a Mellon Mays Fellow in my junior year of college. Thinking back to the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014—the event that sparked my interest in local Black politics—I've always been interested in how cities and neighborhoods respond to traumatic events, but the language behind my ideas has changed. In the past couple of years, I've moved toward exploring the psychological lens of Black political participation in local elections.
Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
The killing of Tamir Rice in Cleveland just months after I had arrived at Oberlin College sparked my interest in local Black political behavior. After attending protests in Cleveland just 40 minutes away from my school, I remember standing on the freeway and thinking, "What happens next?" Not a day goes by where I don't think about Tamir Rice.
What is a mistake you have learned from in your career?
I'm still very early in my career, but I have been fortunate to learn how important it is not to compare yourself to others. Whether it’s in your department, program, or academic field more broadly, you must move at your own pace and trust that you are on the right path. Everyone is doing different types of work that leads to different publishing timeline trajectories. Qualitative work often takes more time than quantitative work, but that doesn't mean that qualitative work is any less important.
Whom do you admire in your field and otherwise, and why?
Collectively, Dr. Cathy Cohen, Dr. Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor (’13 PhD), Dr. Angela Davis, and Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw are my academic heroes. They are four Black women in academia that I look to for inspiration in dire times. They serve as a great reminder of the transformative work that can be done in academia, and what I appreciate about each of them is they've done that work while staying true to themselves. As a queer Black woman who sometimes struggles to see herself represented in the field of political science, these four amazing scholars keep me going.
What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
One challenging aspect regarding my work revolves around measurement. I have to get creative with how to measure the anxiety levels of an entire neighborhood or group of individuals. It is challenging but not impossible. One of the more rewarding aspects of my work is interacting with Black people in the wonderful city of Chicago. In addition to experiments and surveys, I utilize ethnographic and qualitative methods to employ a mixed-method approach to my work, and I find the one-on-one interactions I have with Black residents as part of that work very rewarding.
What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
In the aftermath of George Floyd and the ongoing protests around Black Lives Matter, my research has the potential to shed light on what we can expect to happen next regarding Black political participation in U.S. cities. Examining how traumatic events affect Black political participation in their neighborhoods enhances our overall understanding of why Black people in the United States decide to get involved in local politics, which could help increase Black political participation in local elections across the country.
Ultimately, Northwestern was one of the only political science programs I found in the country with a group of faculty members working on Black politics, urban politics, and political psychology. I also liked that the program encourages taking classes outside of the department. Finally, a group of Black PhD students was already present in the department, so I knew I wouldn't be the only Black student in the program.
How do you unwind after a long day?
Music and sports are my escape after a long day. I love listening to the new albums, and I'm a huge sports fan—Lakers fans, where are you at?! I was a varsity scholar-athlete in college, and I enjoy working out as well as watching sports.
What inspires you?
Simply put, I do this work for the poor Black children across the country growing up in similar conditions I did as a kid. They keep me going in tough times. I know from personal experience you never know who is watching and what impact you are having on people's lives.
Published: November 3, 2020
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