ASU graduates inaugural class from MA in political psychology program

By

Matt Oxford

In 2020, Arizona State University’s School of Politics and Global Studies partnered with the Department of Psychology to launch an online master’s degree program in political psychology. This summer, the program celebrated its first graduating class.

The MA in political psychology helps students to understand how voters think about politics and the response to political information, and how to effectively organize local, state and federal political campaigns.

“The inaugural class was a mix of students from diverse goals and backgrounds,” said Kim Fridkin, Foundation Professor and director of the MA program. “Students participated in the program from across North America, including students from Canada, Oklahoma, Georgia, Idaho and Florida.

“These students began the program with different academic backgrounds, with some students having majored in psychology and political science, but others completing undergraduate degrees in linguistics, English and history.”

The eight students who made up the first cohort of graduates completed the degree in one year while taking classes in the fall, spring and summer.

Guila Cohen, one of the recent political psychology graduates, took courses while living in Montreal.

Having earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, Cohen said that this master’s degree program felt like a natural fit given that she often discussed political issues within her family.

“If you are interested in understanding the psychology that underlies political attitudes and behaviors, this program provides the insights needed to understand them at both the mass and elite levels,” Cohen said.

Cohen plans on applying to PhD programs this fall. In the meantime, she hopes to use some of what she has learned to gain hands-on experience at the local level.

“The program is accessible regardless of your past academic level, opening the field to those who want to make a career change or explore new horizons,” Cohen said.

One of the programs other recent graduates, Hannah Verrips, also completed her degree from Canada. This fall, she is starting her first semester within the political science PhD program at the University of Western Ontario.

“The quality of the students in the inaugural class was quite high; these students worked hard to complete the entire master’s program in less than a year,” Fridkin said.

The MA in political psychology, which currently has 87 students enrolled, prepares graduates for jobs in political campaigns, grassroots organizations, political parties, political marketing and more. Graduates from this program are also prepared for jobs in local, state or federal government.

“These students had different interests and goals, with some students intending to pursue a PhD in political psychology, other students acquiring new goals to be more effective in changing politics and policy, while others were interested in increasing their understanding of how people make decisions about politics for personal edification,” Fridkin said.

Even though the program is online, students have the option to work closely with faculty and utilize resources like the School of Politics and Global Studies Experimental Lab.

Justin Zyla, a current political psychology student, will be conducting a research experiment in the lab this fall. This experiment, and the MA program as a whole, has inspired Zyla to pursue a career in research.

“Spending time digging into the work inspired — in me, at least — a deeper appreciation for science,” Zyla said.

The emergence of COVID-19 offered time to reflect on career goals and personal ambitions, Zyla said. As someone who had considered returning to school for his master's for some time, the pandemic offered the chance to reimagine his life and envision himself as a professor.

“ASU helped me get reacquainted with school,” he said. “I've received amazing support and encouragement from faculty along the way.”

“If my dreams come true — corny, I know — it's because of this program, and it's because of the people who've been so generous and kind with their time. To me, the program's a launch pad to a future I didn't otherwise think was possible.”

Applications to the online MA in political psychology are currently open for the spring and fall.