March 03, 2004

Faculty member wins prestigious post-doctoral award

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - An assistant professor in political science at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is among 12 young scholars nationwide chosen to participate in a prestigious health policy program.

Jason Barabas is the recipient of a post-doctoral fellowship from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars in Health Policy Research Program.

The program's purpose is to produce the next generation of creative thinkers and problem solvers in health policy in the United States, said Alan B. Cohen, a health policy and management professor at Boston University, who is the program director. 

The two-year fellowship begins in August. Barabas will work at Harvard University's Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences in Cambridge, Mass.

The fellowship allows participants the opportunity to learn as much as they can about health and health policy, said Cohen. Participants from economics, political science and sociology learn from one another's various perspectives, and also work with eminent faculty members to develop their own research agendas in health policy.

We are looking for people who are exceptionally bright, who are committed to working in the field," Cohen said. The program is "investing in human capital for the future," he added.

Barabas is the first SIUC faculty member to participate in what is a very competitive program for junior faculty.

The organization is "really pleased to have Jason enter the program at Harvard University," he said.

Barabas plans to study how the mass media present information about health care in the United States. Specifically, he will examine how citizens learn about health-care policies from the information environment and how information influences their policy opinions. Barabas will have the opportunity to develop his own research projects, some of which will be in collaboration with other scholars and faculty at Harvard, Cohen said.

This will be a fantastic opportunity to pursue my research in health care and public opinion," said Barabas. "Two years of undivided time is exactly what any young professor needs to establish a strong research record."

The foundation also wants its participants to contribute to health-care policy debates in the United States. There is "clearly a need for more research on health care and the constraints that government policy makers face in that area," said Barabas.

There is no more prestigious award that a younger scholar could receive than this," said Robert L. Clinton, a political science professor at SIUC.

The University will benefit when Barabas returns because of the exposure to "some really fine scholars who will teach him a lot," said Clinton. "Anytime we have a faculty member receiving an award like this, the award itself brings credit to the department because we hired him. We did a good job."

Shirley Clay Scott, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the post-doctoral fellowship is "one of the most coveted awards in the social sciences.

Most important, of course, is the fact that it will allow Professor Barabas to work with other political scientists and with economists and sociologists on one of the most critical issues our society and political system faces," she said.

Of the industrialized democracies, the United States is the only country without a comprehensive central health-care program. Clearly, we need our most knowledgeable scholars and most capable researchers involved in the study of health-care policy," said Scott. "I am pleased to think that one of our strong faculty members has been recognized in this way and will be using his expertise in this practical way."

Barabas said most of his research is on policy, especially domestic policies and attitudes toward them.

In terms of what I want to study and do this is perfect because it puts me in contact with the scholars who are leaders in the field," he said.

Barabas envisions publishing some articles, and hopefully, a book, in collaboration with some of his colleagues at SIUC.

Supporting and fostering faculty excellence programs is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

A native of Glen Ellyn, Barabas started at SIUC in the fall 2001 semester. He received an undergraduate degree in government from Dartmouth in 1993, and a doctorate in political science from Northwestern University in 2000. Before coming to SIUC, he served a one-year fellowship at Princeton University at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics.