Sarah Hayes

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My name is Sarah Hayes and I am a second year graduate student in the political science department. Broadly, my research interests are Black politics, political behavior, electoral politics, and health policy. My primary line of study is exploring how people engage with political institutions and how these interactions  shape individual and institutional political participation.

I was born to an agricultural laborer turned Vietnam veteran father and a small business owner turned hospital administrator mother in Fresno, California. Living in such a large and diverse rural community has fundamentally shaped my understanding of politics and society. Growing up, I witnessed my family and community members navigate local politics by advocating for cleaner and safer neighborhoods. This  ultimating influenced my aspirations to become a community organizer, advocating for the advancement of Black and Brown life. Like most in my hometown, I was a first-generation college student. A  career path in academia was never a foregone conclusion and finding my voice as a scholar was no easy trek, however with assistance through mentorship and becoming a Ronald E. McNair scholar, I received my B.A. degree in psychology and a minor in political science at California State University, Fresno.  

My research interests are largely reflective of my direct personal and professional involvement in navigating political institutions, advocating for my community, and time working in research labs. When I was awarded a legislative internship through the Kenneth L. Maddy Institute, I received direct experience working for my local congressional member. This experience raised many questions about how constituent groups understand the legislative process and how legislators respond to their constituents. This opportunity opened doors to continue to serve my community as a political consultant. I partnered with organizations like the California Democractic Party, Power Shift Network, and Github, on projects aiming to advance racial justice and imagine a world in which we saw equity in political, economic, and social institutions.  I develop my theoretical lens to examine my questions around mass behavior in politics through my research assistantship in the Judgement and Reasoning Psychology Lab at California State University, Fresno. I researched theories of risk and decision-making; more specifically, I explored how perception of risks affect judgements and decisions. I investigated how voters make judgments about political candidates and how they ultimately come to their political decisions.

Before returning to academia, I had a brief career as a public health researcher for a large research grant funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Federal Administration. In this role, I worked to better understand LGBT+ racial minorities who participate in high-risk behaviors by collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data. I developed an awareness of how individuals interact with health services and how much of this is dictated by federal and state policy. 

A value I have always held is for research and academia to go beyond the ivy tower by serving marginalized communities and through CSI I am able to maintain my commitment to this value. I am able to learn and grow being surrounded by a dynamic team of community leaders and fellow academic researchers. I am thrilled to serve the Center as a Graduate Student Research working on projects of racial justice and I.E. RISE.