Assistant Professor of Political Science Gretchen Helmke works as head of the Comparative Politics Workshop. Her research and courses examine comparative political and legal institutions, Latin American politics and voting and elections. She has written two books on politics and legal systems in Latin America and is working on a third.

You are involved in the Comparative Politics Workshop. What is comparative politics and what happens in this workshop?

The Comparative Politics Workshop is really a great forum for faculty and graduate students to meet and share their research. Over the last year, we’ve covered topics ranging from the adoption of compulsory voting laws at the turn of the century in Western Europe and Latin America (which is one of the projects that I’m currently working on with Professor Bonnie Meguid), to papers by graduate students on the Russian party system and on the effects of foreign aid on civil war.

Your research has focused mainly on Latin America. Are there any current issues in the region that merit more attention or better understanding?

Since 9/11 and the War in Iraq, there has been a tremendous amount of attention paid to the issue of Latin American immigration, but there actually hasn’t been too much of a focus on understanding the politics within Latin America. With the exception of Chavez in Venezuela, coverage of Latin American politics by the mainstream media has been pretty sporadic. It’s mostly limited to contested presidential elections, such as Mexico’s 2006 election, or to drug wars.

Any advice for students?

Study what you love, study hard and make sure to eat some protein before taking an exam!

Bridgers is a member of the class of 2008.

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