Virginia Sapiro


Office: PLS 313
Phone: 617.358.2329
Education: M.A., Ph.D., University of Michigan; B.A., Clark University
Areas of Specialization: Political Psychology; Political Behavior and Public Opinion; Gender Politics; Feminist and Democratic Theory; Higher Education

Dean of Arts & Sciences Emerita and Professor Virginia Sapiro earned her A.B. with High Honors in Government from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts (1972), where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She completed her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Michigan in 1976 and, that same year, joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin – Madison as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and the newly established Women’s Studies Program. When she finished her service there in 2007, she was the Sophonisba P. Breckinridge Professor of Political Science and Women’s Studies. She was also a Faculty Affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Post-Secondary Education WISCAPE. She was Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning at the University of Wisconsin – Madison from 2002 through December, 2006 and served as Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs from November 2005 through March 2006. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of Clark University from 2001-07.

Sapiro has held many leadership positions at the UW – Madison and elsewhere. She has chaired both the Department of Political Science (1993-96) and the Women’s Studies Program (1986-89) and directed the Social Science Data and Computation Center (1991-94). From 1991-97 she served on the National Board of Overseers of the American National Election Studies (NES), then based at the University of Michigan, the benchmark scholarly survey study of the American electorate that has been running since 1948, and funded by the National Science Foundation. She served as Director and Principal Investigator of NES from 1997-1999. During these years, she held an appointment as Research Scientist at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. NES continued to operate under the NSF grant she secured until 2002. This position led to her participation and leadership in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, a federation of the national election studies of approximately 50 electoral democracies around the world.

She has served in many leadership capacities in professional organizations, including as both Secretary and Vice President of the American Political Science Association (APSA), founding President of the APSA Organized Section on Women and Politics Research, and President of the APSA Organized Section on Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior. She has been on the Executive Councils of both the Midwest Political Science Association and the International Society for Political Psychology, as well as on the editorial board of 10 different scholarly journals. She is a site visitor for the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs, Inc., (AAHRPP).

Sapiro has also contributed her professional services to the wider community. She served on the Equal Justice Task Force of the State Bar of Wisconsin in 1989-90, and as a participant in the 1991 United Nations Expert Group Meeting on the Role of Women in Public Life. She is often invited to address various organizations in Wisconsin and is a frequent press commentator.

She has received many honors and awards. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds a distinguished chair at UW-Madison and has received the University of Wisconsin Hilldale Award in the Social Sciences for excellence in teaching, research, and service (2000). In 2006, she received both the first annual University of Wisconsin award for an Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate and the Doris Slesinger Award for Excellence in Mentoring, presented by the Women’s Faculty Mentoring Program and recognized by the university’s Women’s Philanthropy Council. She was also awarded the Outstanding Professional Achievement award from the Women’s Caucus of the Midwest Political Science Association (2003); Mentor of Distinction award from the American Political Science Association’s Women’s Caucus in Political Science (1993); and the Erik Erikson Award for Early Career Contribution to Political Psychology, presented by the International Society for Political Psychology (1986). In 2003-2004 she served as a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar.

Sapiro’s research and teaching interests include political psychology and political behavior, gender politics, American political development, democratic theory, and the design and philosophy of social science research. Her first book, The Political Integration of Women: Roles, Socialization, and Politics (1983) is a classic in survey-based research on gender and adult political socialization. A Vindication of Political Virtue: The Political Theory of Mary Wollstonecraft (1992), which won the American Political Science Association’s Victoria Schuck Award for best book on women and politics, is a study of an 18th century democratic theorist who was one of the most influential thinkers in history on the rights and roles of women. Women in American Society: An Introduction to Women’s Studies (5th edition 2002) is a textbook drawing from current social science research in nearly a dozen different disciplines. She has also written many research articles on topics such as political socialization; social capital; the role of gender in perceptions of political candidates, leaders, and political events; the recruitment of political leaders; electoral politics; the history of the relationship of gender to democratization and public policy; and gender and race politics in relation to the Clinton presidency. Her most recent major research projects have been on the history of political action in the United States and gender in television advertisements for congressional candidates.

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