Government professor Brendan Nyhan will leave Dartmouth

by Rachel Pakianathan | 5/3/18 2:50am

After seven years at the College, government professor Brendan Nyhan will be leaving Dartmouth to take up a public policy professorship at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Nyhan will stay in Hanover through the summer and will start his new position in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the fall.

At Dartmouth, Nyhan is best known for teaching popular government courses such as Government 30, “Political Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories” and the seminar Government 83.21, “Experiment in Politics.” His research focuses on misperceptions about politics and health care, and he is a regular contributor to The Upshot at The New York Times.

Nyhan was previously a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan from 2009 to 2011 and was recently named a Carnegie Fellow.

Nyhan and his wife Mary Nyhan, assistant director for health improvement at the Student Wellness Center, decided to move to Ann Arbor based on both academic and personal reasons, according to Nyhan.

“This was an unexpected opportunity, and my wife and I ultimately decided that this was the best decision for us personally and professionally and for our family,” he said. “We love Dartmouth and Hanover, and we’ll be very sad to leave all of our friends, colleagues and students.”

However, Nyhan said that he has several ongoing research projects with Dartmouth postdoctoral researchers, undergraduates and former students to which he will continue to contribute after this term.

“I have a lot of things going on with people here [that] I’m going to continue to work on,” Nyhan said. “In some cases, I’m going to be working with people over the summer remotely to finish those projects. So I don’t see my ties to Dartmouth ending anytime soon.”

Jack Davidson ’19, Nyhan’s current presidential scholar, said that working with Nyhan has exposed him to new ideas in the College’s government department.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with him on the material that he’s worked on,” Davidson said. “We’ve been in the domestic politics, psychology and social examination parts of the department. Working with him has broadened my understanding and given me a really interesting perspective on these ideas in government.”

Andrew Wolff ’18, who knows Nyhan both as a professor and research mentor, said he appreciated Nyhan’s dedication to engaging students in academic research, particularly in “Experiments in Politics.”

“He taught me how to take an interest in the academic side of politics,” Wolff said. “He put in a ton of work in getting the experiments set up and walking us through the process of academic research while making it fun and digestible. Overall, he’s probably my favorite professor at Dartmouth.”

Postdoctoral fellow D.J. Flynn said he came to the College in order to work with Nyhan on a project related to misinformation and fact-checking.

“The one thing that stands out the most about [Nyhan] is how much he really improves the research he comes into contact with,” Flynn said. “He always gives really high-quality feedback on other people’s work, so as a result I think he’s had an outsized impact on the quality of political science research in his area.”

Flynn added that he believes Nyhan will be a good addition to the University of Michigan.

“The University of Michigan, and [the] Ford [School] in particular, is really the cream of the crop of social science researchers, so [Nyhan] will fit in great,” Flynn said.

Nyhan said that as a public policy professor at the University of Michigan, he will have the opportunity to work in an environment with people in different academic disciplines. He added that he will also be working with both undergraduates and students pursuing master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s in political science.

“I’m excited to try different things,” Nyhan said. “[The University of] Michigan is famous as the place where modern survey research was born, and there is a tremendous number of people who do work like mine across the campus. Dartmouth is a great place. Michigan is a better fit for us right now, but we’ve loved it here and will leave with nothing but positive feelings.”

Nyhan said that he will miss the students with whom he has worked at the College and is grateful for the opportunities Dartmouth has given him to both teach and pursue research.

“I really value all these relationships,” Nyhan said. “You can get to know people really well when you run into them all over campus all the time. I see my students in town, at the gym and in class. I’ll miss everybody. I really believe in this department, and I think we’ll continue to thrive.”