Opinion-Policy Nexus

Dr. Sylvia Bashevkin is Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto.  From 2005-2011 she was Principal of University College at the University of Toronto. "Best known for her research contributions in the field of women and politics, Bashevkin served in 1993-4 as President of the Canadian Political Science Association and in 2003-4 as President of the Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association. She is a senior fellow of Massey College in the University of Toronto, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Bashevkin has twice held Connaught Research Fellowships in the Social Sciences at the University of Toronto, in 1996 to write Women on the Defensive and in 2004 to prepare Tales of Two Cities."

Dr. Bashevkin has written many excellent books. Among my favourite are Women, Power, Politics: The Hidden Story of Canada’s Unfinished Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2009), Women on the Defensive: Living Through Conservative Times (University of Chicago Press and University of Toronto Press, 1998); and True Patriot Love: The Politics of Canadian Nationalism (Oxford University Press, 1991).

Dr. Bashevkin co-taught the core Canadian politics PhD seminar when I attended UofT in 2003 (a class, by the way, that included myself, Chris Cochrane, Glen Coulthard, and very briefly, Jeff Webber, all of whom today are in tenure-stream jobs. It was a very interesting class to say the least!). She was an early mentor for me at UofT in that she was THE career to emulate in terms of what it meant to be a top-notch researcher in Canada.  Her research taught me that you should always try to ask policy relevant questions.  You should answer those questions as rigorously as possible. Finally, disseminate your results to the public so that it has an impact on the real world.

Enjoy.

I wish someone had told me at the beginning of my career

How fulfilling it could be to stake out one’s own research path. The road less travelled most definitely has its challenges, but holds clear advantages as well.

The individual I admire the most academically

Role models are too numerous to mention. It’s always helpful to bear in mind positive as well as negative models, meaning those individuals whose contributions and personal behaviour we’d most like to emulate, as well as those who set the bar high on what to avoid.

My best research project during my career

Probably the opportunity to undertake the study that produced Women on the Defensive. I’d wondered what the impact of Thatcher/Reagan/Mulroney and their successors would be on feminist activism, and was fortunate to receive funding to conduct the project in three countries.

My worst research project during my career

May rest in my future. Thus far, the projects have been richly satisfying on many levels.

The most amazing or memorable experience when I was doing research

Occurred while attending (as an observer) a federal Liberal women’s conference in Ottawa, when the Right Honourable Paul Martin delivered a rousing speech on his efforts to recruit more female candidates. He quoted line and verse from various publications by the shocked professor seated in the audience.

The one story I always wanted to tell but never had a chance

See above.

A research project I wish I had done

Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep rolling out new ones until I run out of ideas, energy or both.

If I wasn’t doing this, I would be

Spending more time on gardening, music and fiction.

The biggest challenge in Canadian politics in the next 10 years will be

Ensuring parliamentary government retains meaning for new generations of older as well as newer Canadians.

The biggest challenge in Canadian political science in the next 10 years will be

Regenerating faculty ranks so that students at all levels, and the public at large, understand what we do and value our contributions.

My advice for young researchers at the start of their career is

Follow your heart. Study what you find intriguing and important, and use your head to communicate the results in ways that make a difference beyond the academy.