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 my 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 (see Bushouse 2011 and Bushouse et al. 2016).  In a collaboration with Brent Never (UMKC) and Rob Christensen (BYU), we are developing the conceptual understanding of philanthropy as a commons and the institutional arrangements that deplete or maintain donations for a common cause (see Never et al 2020).  Currently, I have two National Science Foundation grants related to this research program.  I am co-principal investigator (with Charlie Schweik, UMass; Vladimir Filkov and Seth Frey, UC Davis) on the Collaborative Research: Jumpstarting Successful Open-Source Software Projects with Evidence-Based Rules and Structures My role in this project is to analyze the governance structures of nonprofit organizations with open source software incubators to assess which lead to success and failure. The second project is a Research Collaboration Network grant to build the Institutional Grammar Research Institute.  It is a five university (Syracuse, U CO Denver, U AZ, UC Davis, and UMass) working together to extend and advance the utilization of the Institutional Grammar syntactic coding tool (Crawford and Ostrom 1995) to allow for large-N analysis of rule environments.  My contribution to the project (with Charlie Schweik) is to code state nonprofit laws to allow for comparative analysis of the rules the govern nonprofit organizations.  

A second lasting area of my research focuses on the most vulnerable in our society: children.  My research asks the simple question: Why do governments consistently under invest in the programs that benefit children?  For 2020-2022 I was awarded a Learning Sciences Exchange Fellowship to work with a team of 15 early childhood scientists, policymakers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and entertainers to bring science to fruition. This collaboration brings people with divergent expertise together to create new work that advances early education and care.  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 Zealand 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 incorporating cross-domain interactions seeks to answer the question of when and how the U.S. succeeded and failed to advance policies to support improving the lives of 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 the 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