Patricia Witherspoon Research Award

Creating More Voters and Better Citizens


Patricia Witherspoon Research Award

University of Texas graduate students are invited to apply for The Patricia Witherspoon Research Award to offset costs associated with conducting original research in the areas of public service, government, community service, civic life, citizenship, or politics.  Previous research topics have included faith-based organizations, family policy, immigration, and educational interventions. Past award winners have used the funding to pay for focus groups, survey instruments, and other aspects of their research.

Patricia Witherspoon

Applications Deadline: Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Research Requirements:

  • Amount of the stipend: $2,000
  • Original research must be conducted in public service, government, civic life, citizenship, or politics. 
  • Preference will be given to students working on master's theses or doctoral dissertations.
  • All research must be overseen by a faculty member.
  • The research must be conducted for a course taken for credit.
  • Expectations by the Institute: The recipient will be expected to write a summary of their research for publication by the Institute by September 15, 2014. Please contact Chuck Courtney, Assistant Director for Administration at 471-7208 with questions.

To apply, please email the following to

  • Contact information including name, address, email, and telephone number.
  • Major field of study and current overall GPA.
  • Two page research prospectus including research question, brief summary of the literature, methodology, expected results and anticipated start and end dates.

Applicants may also be asked to participate in a face-to-face interview.

2013 Witherspoon Award Winners


Kyle Endres

Kyle Endres, a doctoral student in the Government Department, researched, "The Attributes and Engagement of Persuadable Voters." As he writes, persuadable voters are an important part of the electoral process. "But who are these persuadable voters? And how are they swayed to vote for one candidate over the other? The decisive role that persuadable voters often play makes knowing who they are and understanding their behavior essential to our understanding of the electoral process and key for effects to expand the pool of active political participants."

Read Kyle's research results here




Ashley Muddiman

Ashley Muddiman is completing her doctoral degree in Communication Studies. Ashley's research title is, "Interpreting Incivility: How Media elites Cover Political Incivility and Influence Citizens." As Ms. Muddiman points out, the benefits of her research are three-fold: for researchers, for journalists, and for the Annette Strauss Institute. "For researchers, the results from the three proposed studies will provide a strong understanding of the concept of incivility by looking at incivility through the eyes of citizens and media elites. For journalists, the studies will help media figures become aware of the influence they have on citizens and encourage them to make decisions when they discuss political incivility in the news." And for the Annette Strauss Institute, it addresses, "...its mission to fight the lack of civility in the U.S. political life."

Read Ashley's research results here


2012 Witherspoon Award Winners

Angela Lee's research focuses on news consumption and demographic factors of news consumption across the four major media. “The democratic implication of this trend is important – Unless we find ways to encourage news consumption, which in turn promotes civic engagement and political participation, the future of our nation may be jeopardized by a growing number of citizens who are neither politically informed nor engaged.”

Josh Scacco proposed as his research topic, “The Effects and Consequences of Presidential Expectations Setting.” Josh studied what many researchers have documented that there is a prominent enthusiasm gap among 18 to 29 year olds in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election. “Examination of this possible factor in the demobilization of young voters is integral to understanding how presidential rhetorical actions might implicitly set expectations that ultimately lead to voter disillusionment.”

2011 Witherspoon Award Winners

Tiara Naputi who studied socializing a new citizenry and whether community organizations can activate Asian American and Pacific Island immigrants (AAPI).  Her findings “point toward the importance of cultural and heritage events among the AAPI communities.  These events offer opportunities for political education and knowledge about citizenship processes. This is also evidenced by membership and participation in organizations, groups, and activities specifically targeting the AAPI population, which offer cultural and community connections.”

Curt Yowell’s research was to understand the relationship between individuals’ perceptions of the news media as relevant to democracy in the United States and their political participation. In the tradition of political theories, the study works to understand the press as an influential component of political participation.  “The goal of the research project is to better understand the relationship between perceptions of the fourth estate and political participation, appreciation of citizens’ definitions and conceptualizations of the fourth estate is an essential first step.”

2010 Witherspoon Award Winners

Clariza Ruiz De Castilla, Colene Lind, and Ashley Muddiman share an award for their research on an analysis of political talk about the Obama Presidency within family systems. The research will explore the problem of lack of voting by untraditional constituency members. All three researchers are Communication Studies doctoral students.

Maegan Stephens, a doctoral student in Communication Studies, will be researching the New York Times' Online Forum Room for Debate. She writes, "In a political sphere where voting and civic engagement is low, online comment sections might be the new site for deliberation and participation in a Web 2.0 world."

2009 Witherspoon Award Winners

Rachel Kraft, "Social Networking in the Lone Star State: Can Twitter Rescue Relationships between Politicians and Citizens?"

Kelly Kaufhold, "All Aboard for Agenda Setting: An Express Look at Commuter Rail, Need for Orientation and a Local News Source"