The University of Massachusetts Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Brenda K. Bushouse

Professional Title: 

Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy

Service Role: 

  • Field Clerk - Public Policy


Thompson 624


Office Hours: 

Contact via email


Ph.D., Indiana University 1999, M.P.A. Syracuse University 1992


My research program has two intersecting foci.  The first is a lasting interest in the realm of activity that is neither market nor state.  I research the politics of nonprofit organizations in the policy process (see 2017 Policy Studies Journal and (Bushouse and Mosley 2019).  What intrigues me is the work of people and organizations who work to fulfill a social mission.  I am particularly interested in utilizing institutional analysis to study nongovernmental actors (see Bushouse 2011 and Bushouse et al. 2016).  Currently, I am senior personnel in the National Science Foundation-funded Institutional Grammar Research Institute to develop a Research Collaboration Network that advances the utilization of the Institutional Grammar Tool (Crawford and Ostrom 1995) for analyzing rule environments.  My focus is on developing datasets and analytics for understanding nonprofit governance.  A second project involves developing the conceptual understanding of philanthropy as commons and the institutional arrangement that that deplete or maintain our willingness to give. 

A second lasting area of my research focuses on the most vulnerable in our society: children.  For 2020-2022 I was awarded a Learning Sciences Exchange Fellowship to work with a team of 15 early childhood scientists, policymakers, journalists, and entertainers to bring science to fruition.  My research asks the simple question: Why do governments consistently under invest in the programs that benefit children? In Universal Preschool: Policy Change, Stability, and the Pew Charitable Trusts (SUNY Press 2009; awarded the Virginia Hodgkinson Research Prize) I explain why state governments invested in pre-kindergarten education, a rare victory for children. I studied a similar policy passed in New Zealand (awarded the Ian Axford Fellowship in Public Policy) to understand why New Zealander chose to fund universal early childhood education rather than a targeted program (Bushouse 2008, 2009).  Currently I am working on a book manuscript focusing on the role of foundations and philanthropists in social movements and policy advocacy for children in the U.S. from 1900 - 2015 across four policy domains (child labor, child health and nutrition, child abuse, and early education).  This historical approach of the roles of advocates, foundations and philanthropists, and policy actors over time and cross-domain interactions seeks to answer the question of when and how the U.S. succeeded and failed to advance policies to support children.  

I serve on the board of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, the primary scholarly association for nonprofit scholars.  I was conference co-chair for the 2018 and 2019 conferences and currently serve as co-chair of the Membership Committee and member of the Publications Committee.  




Area of Study: 

  • Public policy and organizations


  • Nonprofit organizations and policy process


  • Political Science