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The 2013–14 American Sociological Association (ASA) Congressional Fellowship was awarded to Elizabeth (Beth) Wikler. Since September, she has been working in the office of Senator Al Franken (D-MN), where she focuses on health-related policy.
Before starting her fellowship, Wikler received her PhD in health policy from Harvard University. Her dissertation addressed topics ranging from Alzheimer’s disease and administrative costs to Medicaid enrollment among low-income parents. While at Harvard, Beth was the recipient of the Jeremy R. Knowles Graduate Student Fellowship and the Malcolm Weiner Inequality and Social Policy Fellowship. She received the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality Training Grant. In addition to her academic training, Beth incorporates her experiences working at the Center for American Progress, Families USA, and the Congressional Hunger Center into her Fellowship.
“The chance to conduct … in-depth, quantitative analysis of a pressing policy issue, using tools and concepts from sociology, is exactly the reason I entered my PhD program,” Winkler said in her application.
As an ASA Congressional Fellow, Wikler brings her social science knowledge and experiences to Capitol Hill, helping Senator Franken make informed decisions about science issues that benefit Minnesotans and the nation as a whole. Her interests are in health policy reforms and anti-poverty policy. According to Beth, “Sociologists and other social scientists have a great deal to offer policymaking, from methodological rigor to knowledge of the history of social ideas.”
Wikler is is one of 35 science- and technology-oriented Congressional Fellows serving on Capitol Hill this year. Thanks to a partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the ASA Congressional Fellow has a cohort of scientists to collaborate with on Capitol Hill.
The ASA Congressional Fellowship Program has collaborated with the AAAS fellowship program since 2011. This partnership has allowed the ASA fellow to benefit from AAAS’ 40 years of experience managing science fellows on Capitol Hill. This places Wikler in a network of more than 2,600 fellows who are more articulate and knowledgeable about conducting and communicating their scientific research to support policy at national and international levels. They have become more effective leaders in the public and policy arenas as well as in academia, industry and the non-governmental sectors.
From climate change to education to entitlement reform, there is scientific evidence that could usefully inform virtually all policy decisions made on Capitol Hill if the policymakers making them were knowledgeable about the findings of social, behavioral, physical, or biological sciences. Yet less than 5 percent of the members of Congress have advanced degrees in the sciences. In addition, Congress has left the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) unfunded since the 1990s. The ASA Congressional Fellowship Program is designed to address these voids and to provide legislators the necessary resources to help them make informed policy choices. As Wikler wrote, “scholars are equipped to evaluate policy proposals, inject new perspectives into policy debates, and help design new policy proposals that avoid the pitfalls of earlier iterations.”
For more information on the ASA Congressional Fellowship, see the Funding page on the ASA Website. The deadline to apply is February 1 of each year.