Politics and Elections : Faculty Experts

Politics and Elections Experts

University of Dayton faculty are available for media interviews on topics important under President Donald Trump's administration — the economy, national security, terrorism, foreign policy and more.

For interviews, contact Assistant Director of News and Communications Meagan Pant at mpant1@udayton.edu, 937-229-3256 (office) or 937-212-2979 (cell), or email mediarelations@udayton.edu.

The University of Dayton offers a broadband studio for television interviews via Skype, Lifesize or FaceTime that provides high-quality broadcast capabilities at no cost to news outlets. The 24/7 studio, which can be set up in as little as 30 minutes during normal business hours and 90 minutes on nights and weekends, features a 4K UHD camera, with auto-white balance, focus, brightness and contrast controls; upload/download speeds up to 75 mbps; LED lighting; lavalier mic; IFB connection; and professional University of Dayton background. Read more about our studio here.

For satellite TV interviews, the University of Dayton news and communications office usually works through ThinkTV, which is 10 minutes from campus, and will try to accommodate other arrangements in Cincinnati or Columbus, which are 60-75 minutes away.


DanDan Birdsong, lecturer, political science 
Full profile | Media hits | Video | PR contact 

Birdsong teaches courses on American politics, the presidency, campaigns and elections, media and politics, and public opinion and political behavior. He has a background in polling and policy research. He has researched how people consume news in an era of multiple sources and new media. Do people consume a variety of news sources or do they find news that fits their thinking? Is it possible to have a national discussion on any given issue when the sources of information often disagree? Birdsong worked from 2005-09 at the Institute for Policy Research on the Ohio Poll, the Ohio Health Issues Poll and the Greater Cincinnati Survey. Media hits include Debates not a done deal: Some candidates duck the underdogs by The Associated Press. 

Comment on Trump's first year in office: After one year in office, it has become clear President Trump wants to govern through the constant campaign. During the election, he cultivated a brand as an unconventional candidate and his first year in office has bolstered this image. His use of Twitter has continued to reinforce this brand as he strives to win the news cycle and push his agenda, with limited results. Trump gets a lot of media attention, but his tendency to go off message seems to derail the administration's agenda more often than support it. But don't count on Trump changing anytime soon. After all, his unconventional style helped him win the Electoral College. This is a double-edged sword: he continues to receive strong approval from fellow Republicans and his conservative base, but overall his approval rating is historically low for a first-term president.

Presidency and Vice Presidency

devineChristopher Devine, assistant professor, political science
Full profile | Media hits | Video | PR contact 

Devine is co-author of The VP Advantage: How Running Mates Influence Home State Voting in Presidential Elections. He teaches courses on the American political system and political parties, campaigns and elections. His research interests also include the U.S. presidency and political ideology. He also is co-author of “The Politics of the Presidential Medal of Freedom: A Fifty Year Analysis, 1963-2013,” which was featured in The New York Times. Media hits include How Clinton And Trump Are Using Their Running Mates On The Campaign Trail in FiveThirtyEight.

Comment on Trump's first year in office: “The 2016 election and President Trump's first year in office provide further evidence that U.S. politics is becoming even more polarized. This polarization has been evident among elected officials for years, but now it is becoming increasingly apparent among the public. The nature of this divide is not just, or even primarily, about policy; even more so, we are divided by identity. Americans increasingly see politics in ‘us versus them’ terms, defining themselves and deciding whom to trust based upon partisanship and ideology. This has a profound effect on how people vote, where they get their news, and whether they trust government officials to solve the most important problems facing this nation.”

Public Opinion, Gov't Public Relations

imageGrant Neeley, associate professor and chair, political science
Full profile | Media hits | Video | PR contact 

Neeley's research interests include public opinion, public administration and political behavior. He also teaches classes in morality policy, public sector human resource management and has published research on concealed carry laws and traffic safety. Neeley is a public affairs officer in the Navy Reserve and has worked for the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati and the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Tennessee. Media hits include an interview on polls by Westwood One Radio Network.


ValenzanoJoe Valenzano III, associate professor, communication
Full profile | Media hits | VideoPR contact 

Valenzano's research interests include rhetoric and public communication, political communication, religious communication and culture, and communication education. His doctoral dissertation focused on President George W. Bush’s use of the words "freedom" and "terror." His other research articles include: President Obama's understanding of American exceptionalism; religion in the TV show Supernatural; Pope John Paul II's death as a final homily; and Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Turkey. Media hits include Trump administration reviewing EPA website, curbs agency communication by CNN.

Comment on Trump's first year in office: Trump clearly approaches the presidency and communication very differently than his predecessors. His tone is markedly different and more combative; he is far more likely to criticize former presidents; his lack of civility at times is more often displayed than any prior office-holder; and his use of social media is more aggressive and consistent than prior presidents in the social media age. Some of this has hampered his ability to be effective, while some has helped him generate more passionate support from his base. It is clear, people are still grappling with how to approach and interact with a president who communicates in this radical fashion.


sparksRandy Sparks, professor, marketing
Full profile | Media hits | Video | PR contact 

Sparks is less interested in what politicians say than in how they say it. With a background in radio broadcasting and research in the art of persuasion, Sparks is highly attuned to how convincing candidates are in speeches. His persuasion research has appeared in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. Media hits include Hillary Clinton gets some old advice for her historic speech: Be yourself in USA Today.

Former Ohio Governor, National and State Politics

taftBob Taft, distinguished research associate
Former Ohio Governor (1999-2007)
Media hits | VideoPR contact

Taft teaches in the political science department at the University of Dayton and assists with the University's state capitol and Washington, D.C., internship programs. Before serving two terms as Ohio's governor, he was Ohio secretary of state for eight years, responsible for overseeing elections in Ohio. He serves on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission and on the board of Battelle for Kids. As governor, Taft earned a strong reputation for school initiatives and continues to monitor state and national education reform initiatives. He also leads a seminar at the Dayton Early College Academy, a charter school on the University of Dayton campus. His father and grandfather were U.S. senators and his great-grandfather was President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft.

Comment on Trump's first year in office: President Trump has yet to demonstrate he can transcend Washington's partisan gridlock and get things done for the working class voters who elected him. Compared to prior first-year presidents, his legislative accomplishments are meager, and tax reform was passed with only Republican votes. In 2018, we will learn whether Trump can fashion a coherent governing strategy that expands his base of support beyond the minority of voters who continue to support him. The Dreamers/border security and infrastructure issues create an opportunity for the President, but can he deliver? 

Environmental Policy

michelleMichelle Pautz, associate professor, political science; director of the Master of Public Administration program
Full profile | Media hits | Video | PR contact 

Pautz's research focuses on environmental policy and regulation; government accountability; film and politics; and the administration of policy. She has worked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop and implement EPA compliance programs. She co-wrote US Environmental Policy in Action: Practice and Implementation and The Lilliputians of Environmental Regulation: The Perspective of State Regulators. Her research on the portrayal of civil servants in popular movies was reported by The New York Times, NPR's Los Angeles affiliate (KPCC 89.3), Roll CallThe Washington Times and Federal News Radio. Media hits include How movies can change our minds by The New York Times.

Comment on Trump's first year in office: The first year of the Trump administration has seen a radical departure from how the nation has approached environmental issues and policy matters during the last few decades, under Republican and Democratic administrations. Initially, there was uncertainty surrounding how the Trump administration would govern in terms of environmental policy given that little was said substantively during the campaign. There have been some high profile moves, including the President's announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and tweets about how cold weather belies climate change. But, perhaps more significantly, are major regulatory rollbacks and fundamental changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has presided over massive declines in personnel and decreases in resources — which he advocates — as well as a diminished role for scientists and scientific advisors. The many examples of major changes to environmental policy include opening up areas, including the Atlantic and Arctic, for oil and gas drilling, significant reductions in U.S. EPA enforcement activities, removal of bans on hunting bears and wolves in Alaska, whale and sea turtle protections, and approval of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, among many other actions.  

Religion and Politics

millerVincent J. Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture
Full profile | Media hits | VideoPR contact 

Miller is an expert on religion and politics, religion and consumer culture, the U.S. Catholic Church's involvement in politics and public policy, social justice and public policy and the moral consequences of budgetary policies. He is author of Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture and is working on a book on the effect of globalization on religious belief. Formerly of Georgetown University, Miller has been widely sought for his comments on the global financial crisis, Catholic social teaching and the federal budget's impact on the poor. Media hits include an interview with Bill O'Reilly.

Political Parties, Interest Groups, Legislative Politics

NancyNancy Martorano Miller, associate professor, political science
Full profile | Media hits | VideoPR contact

Miller's primary research interest is the state legislative process. She also conducts research in the areas of Southern politics, political parties, interest groups, public opinion and state legislative politics. She formerly served as associate editor of State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Media hits include John Kasich, still an anti-Trump holdout, faces fading influence by the Associated Press.

Cybersecurity, Hacking

davidDavid Salisbury, professor, computer science
Full profile | Media hits | VideoPR contact 

Salisbury's areas of expertise include cybersecurity and criminal and terrorist use of information technology. His published articles include "On Contending with Unruly Neighbors in the Global Village: Viewing Information Systems as Both Weapon and Target" in the journal Communications of the Association for Information Systems. 



stockRichard Stock, director, University of Dayton Business Research Group
Full profile | Media hits | Video | PR contact 

Stock is director of the University of Dayton's Business Research Group. He researches and monitors the Ohio economy, keeping an eye on trends in jobs, unemployment, housing sales, business and signs of recovery. Media hits include Hey, Governors: You Didn’t Build That by Politico.


MirandaMiranda Cady Hallett, assistant professor, sociology
Full profile | Media hits | PR contact

Hallett’s primary research deals with Central American immigration to the United States; and within that, the cultural construction of law and its symbolic significance, rhetoric, and social scapegoating. Her research interests also include globalization and inequality, citizenship law and labor rights. She is fluent in Spanish. Media hits include Sessions announces revamp of immigration law system in The Christian Science Monitor.

Terrorism, Human Rights

markMark Ensalaco, director of human rights studies
Full profile | Media hits | VideoPR contact 

Ensalaco can discuss immigration and human rights, as well as how politicians could handle foreign policy as it relates to world dictators and transitions of power (Fidel Castro). Ensalaco's focus is especially human trafficking, which is a big problem in the Midwest. He was part of a group instrumental in pushing through an Ohio bill to make human trafficking a felony in Ohio. Latin American issues are another part of his expertise, so he's very familiar with border and immigration issues. He is fluent in Spanish. Media hits include Paris attacks lead Americans to wonder about US safety by the Associated Press.

Human Rights, Foreign Policy

joelJoel Pruce, assistant professor, political science
Full profile | Media hits | VideoPR contact 

Pruce's research interests include human rights, foreign policy and international organization. His published articles include "Constituencies of Compassion: The Politics of Human Rights and Consumerism" for Uses and Misuses of Human Rights. Media hits include The Future of Policing Is Here, and It's Terrifying by GQ.

U.S.-Cuban Relations

JuanJuan Santamarina, chair, history
Full profile | Media hits | PR contact 

Santamarina is co-creator of Cuba: A Lifetime of Passion, a documentary film which focuses on the human cost of the Cuban Revolution. The film aired nationwide on PBS. He is fluent in SpanishMedia hits include The History of Walls Show They Are a Bad Idea by U.S. News & World Report.

Education Policy

tomThomas J. Lasley II, professor, education
Full profile | Media hitsPR contact 

Lasley, former University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences dean, is a nationally recognized leader in education reform and an expert on teacher education, classroom instruction and the impact of society and politics on schools. He has written several books and served on many education boards and committees including the Ohio Board of Regents Planning Committee on Higher Learning Accountability and Performance. Lasley also is the executive director of Learn to Earn Dayton, which works to ensure every child in the Dayton region is ready to learn by kindergarten and ready to earn upon graduation from college or after receiving a post-high school certificate. Media hits include A Gap in College Graduates Leaves Some Cities Behind by The New York Times.