Chris Gahagan

Chris Gahagan

"To better explain our world"

College: Social Sciences and Public Policy
Degree Program: Political Science
Degree: Doctoral

Why FSU?

In addition to being one of the best public schools in the country, for my particular program, FSU is the highest ranked graduate program in Florida and is very competitive nationally. The faculty in the Department of Political Science are top notch and embrace a collegial and collaborative atmosphere. I've spoken to other doctoral students from many universities, and I can confidently say that the insight and support we receive from FSU goes above and beyond what many other programs offer. Additionally, my program is viewed as a training ground to prepare us to succeed in academia, rather than just seeking a degree. Whether it is professionalization courses, academic workshops, research, coding, or helping us to hone our theories about why events occur, the support from the political science faculty gives us an edge when we go onto the job market.

Motivation to pursue a graduate degree

I've always had a natural curiosity about the world, in addition to a love for debating. To be able to develop (or build upon) a theory of why the world behaves a certain way, to create a research design to answer that question, causally identify my results, and debate or defend my argument is an absolute euphoric feeling. In addition to the collegial atmosphere offered in academia, being able to pursue my own research and possibly convince NGOs, IOs, and policy makers to implement changes that result in positive outcomes is of enormous personal value to me.

Importance and/or impact of research and work

My main area of research focuses on informal (shadow) economies, an area recently garnering more attention across disciplines. Current estimates put the size of the worldwide informal economy at around two billion people, roughly 61 percent of the world’s global workforce aged fifteen and above. Informal workers tend to be in the most dangerous and precarious positions, often falling victim to poverty traps as well as furthering inequality and stunting development. Understanding the political and economic causes for this inequality is of the utmost importance so that governments, international organizations, and NGOs can create better policies to help the more than two billion informal workers gain much needed social, economic, and political equality and development.

Career aspirations

Once I finish with my program, I intend to get a tenure track position in academia. I love research and plan to continue doing it for the rest of my career. In addition to working in academia, I'd also like to partner with IOs such as the UN, The World Bank, the OECD, and the IMF, as these are the organizations devoting time and resources to combating informality, encouraging equitable growth, and improving human rights.

Advice for anyone considering graduate school

For starters, don't do it unless you are passionate about it. If you're not passionate, you will end up wasting your time and (possibly) money. I joke that I want a PhD so that I can check the box that says "Doctor" when I'm buying airline tickets, but in reality it is because I genuinely love what I do and love to learn. Speaking of learning, if you don't already, learn to love reading because you're going to be doing a lot of it. Specifically, move beyond textbooks and into academic articles as the writing style is much different and sometimes takes an adjustment. If your program is focused on quantitative analysis, which many programs are moving toward, understand the need to comprehend the math behind your analysis so that you can fully understand what it is your are consuming. This last point I can't stress enough. Even if you decide not to move into research, understanding how econometric (or statistical) analyses works will enable you to better understand the world around you and to carefully interpret what is actually going on when people "throw numbers" at you.

Accomplishments during graduate career

My first peer-reviewed academic article has been accepted and will be published in January 2023. In addition, I had a fully funded assistantship, and I am a recipient of Adelaide Wilson Fellowship and a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society.