After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan I went directly to graduate school and got my MA in Political Science from the University of Illinois. Afterwards I worked on several congressional and statewide campaigns in Illinois, Georgia, and Florida (including the congressional campaign of Illinois Wesleyan's own Tari Renner in 2004), and spent two years as an analyst at a Democratic political polling firm. I exited the "political arena" in 2007 to try something new and entered the world of media research.
I am currently a Methodological Research Analyst at the Nielsen Company, most famous for producing the Nielsen TV Ratings, in Oldsmar (Tampa area), Florida.
Some of the Rewards and Challenges of this Position:
The Nielsen Company currently measures households' in-home television viewing (the data that gets translated into the ratings) using three different tools depending on the area: an electronic People Meter attached to TV sets to tell us both what's on and who's watching, a television diary in which households keep a written log of what they watch every day for a week, and, most recently, a self-installed "Mailable Meter" that householders place next to TV sets on their own to keep track of all tuning. An accompanying written log lets people with Mailable Meters tell us which TV set they watched and when. It's the task of all three groups in the Methodological Research Department to test new ways to entice people to participate in our television viewing studies and increase response rates. These tests may involve things like using new incentive structures, updating the appearance of our Diaries or other mail materials, or even changing the way we go about selecting our sample of households to include in the ratings.
Your most Exciting or Worthwhile Experience in this Position:
It is exciting to get to work with so many talented people every day and do my part to contribute to Nielsen's cutting-edge research. The company is constantly growing with the times, and has expanded beyond just doing the television ratings to do things such as determine how and when people are using the internet and their cell phones. Nielsen's work has a lot of real-world relevance and influence.
How did the education you received from Illinois Wesleyan's Political Science Department help prepare you for this position?
My education and involvement in Illinois Wesleyan's Political Science Department helped me to develop and hone my survey and general quantitative and qualitative research skills. Coursework, internships, and other department opportunities were also always geared toward demonstrating practical applications of everything we read in the textbooks and learn in the classroom, both politically and non-politically. That's important when transitioning from college life to the "real world."
Advice You Would Like to Give to Wesleyan's Current Political Science Majors:
I'd tell current Political Science majors to get as involved in the department as possible early on, and to take full advantage of opportunities to apply their coursework to work on campaigns, in government and law offices, or for research organizations and other "think tanks." Illinois Wesleyan's Political Science curriculum is very versatile, and professors in the department have a wealth of experience that can serve as great resources to you. Make the most of what a Political Science education at IWU has to offer, because doing so really can make you more successful in post-IWU life - regardless of whether your chosen career is in politics or something else entirely.