New Faculty: Brigitte Zimmerman
Brigitte Zimmerman, our new assistant professor in Public Policy and Global Studies, has traveled widely but always seems to return to Malawi. As a high school volunteer with a program that served orphans in Malawi, which was experiencing a famine, Zimmerman was approached about coming to the country—her first time outside the United States. Children ranging in age from two months to 15 years old assembled to receive one meal per day, even missing school in order to do so. Although she had no teaching experience, Zimmerman read books aloud, performed rudimentary science experiments, and above all showed them that someone cared.
Fast forward many years and Professor Zimmerman is doing research in Malawi. Currently, she is studying accountability structures in Sub-Saharan Africa and the ways in which citizens express their support or disapproval of various programs. A central concern is the decision-making process of the government in allocating international aid and as the tracking techniques it uses to determine where aid is being sent. She also studies local government and the local leaders’ involvement in development. In order to understand corruption, it is also important to recognize the reality of not just overt corruption, but softer forms of corruption including financial donations being given to political supporters.
A second focus of her research is a continuation of her postdoctoral work for Varieties of Democracy, a large data project that studies methods of data collection. Currently, she is working on issues assessing the validity of expert-coded data and conducting experiments on expert coder behavior. Addressing concerns about data aggregation, she is challenging the limitations of data collection and declaring, “Let’s do better.”
Speaking of doing better, Zimmerman says that she has been extremely impressed with the work ethic and dedication of her students at Carolina. Specifically, she observes her students working hard to not only thrive in school, but to achieve long-term success. Especially with her undergraduate students, she has been caught up in the unmatched enthusiasm that pervades the entire campus. She sees a lot of collaboration across departments as well as between faculty and students. Within that dynamic, there is what she considers a rare level of linkage between the success of faculty and the success of students.