Pitzer Professor Rachel VanSickle-Ward ’99 Wins American Political Science Association Book Award

Professor of Political Studies Rachel VanSickle-Ward
Professor of Political Studies Rachel VanSickle-Ward ’99

Claremont, Calif. (July 5, 2018)—The American Political Science Association has awarded Pitzer College Professor of Political Studies Rachel VanSickle-Ward ’99 a 2018 Herbert A. Simon Book Award for her book, The Devil Is in the Details: Understanding the Causes of Policy Specificity and Ambiguity. The APSA Public Administration Section’s annual award recognizes work that makes a significant contribution to public administration scholarship and has been in print for at least three years.

Published in 2014, The Devil Is in the Details explores how policy language can dramatically impact the way a law is interpreted and executed. VanSickle-Ward explains how and why some policies use precise language, while others end up being ambiguous and open ended. After analyzing more than 250 health and welfare bills and interviewing policy-making elites, she finds that statutory ambiguity is frequently the product of disagreement—if key actors can’t agree on the details, but nonetheless want a law passed, they leave legislative language vague, thereby delegating policy-making power to courts and agencies.

The Law Library Journal called her findings and analysis compelling with “significant implications.”

VanSickle-Ward is one of two authors who will receive the 2018 Herbert A. Simon Book Award at the APSA Annual Conference in Boston later this year.  Founded in 1903, the American Political Science Association is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 12,000 members in over 80 countries.

A 1999 graduate of Pitzer College, Rachel VanSickle-Ward co-founded the Southern California Law and Social Science Forum. She has written extensively about public policy, women in politics and legislation and is a frequent contributor on NPR-affiliate KPCC’s Take Two.  The Devil Is in the Details is VanSickle-Ward’s first book. Her forthcoming book, The Politics of the Pill: Gender, Framing and Policymaking in the Battle over Birth Control (co-authored with Kevin Wallsten), will be published by Oxford University Press.

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