Ph.D. Student Serving as 2015 Eagleton Alumni Fellow

For almost six years, Chris Wheeler gained considerable consulting experience in the public sector, advising state and local governments across the country on budget, financial, and operational issues.

Wheeler  Christopher-featureWhile there is much that he can teach others, the Ph.D. student in public affairs at Rutgers University–Camden is still very eager to learn.

“I want to learn about the ‘practical art of politics’ and how to advance a public policy agenda through the legislative process,” says Wheeler, a resident of Willow Grove, Pa., who grew up in nearby Glenside.

Wheeler is currently gaining an invaluable, experiential education as a 2015 Eagleton Alumni Fellow.

According to Wheeler, the fellowship, awarded by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, focuses primarily on politics in New Jersey and the practical knowledge and skills needed for a successful career in politics. He attends exclusive classes and lectures at the Eagleton Institute every Friday during the fall semester and will attend monthly sessions at the New Jersey State House in Trenton in the spring. He will also intern next semester for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, focusing on municipal budget and financial issues facing state municipalities, including the use of municipal economic development tax incentives.

“I love politics, both state and federal, so this fellowship has been intellectually satisfying on many levels,” says Wheeler. “I think that it adds a new dimension to my Rutgers–Camden education by relaying the perspectives and insights of political practitioners as a supplement to traditional academic studies in politics and public policy. This experience really provides the practical, professional, and political skills you need to be successful in positions of responsibility dealing with public policy.”

IMAG0014-copyWheeler notes that he has especially enjoyed hearing firsthand accounts of politics at work from a veritable who’s who of guest speakers, including former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), and MSNBC host Steve Kornacki. “I love the frank descriptions of how politics works in Trenton and Washington from people with long, storied careers,” says Wheeler. “It makes all the things you read in textbooks all the more real, plus you learn things that you’d never find out about in a conventional academic setting.”

He also looks forward to beginning his internship with the state, which he believes will give him a greater hands-on understanding of how ideas are executed and enforced by state agencies, as well as the ways in which research can be used to advance policy through the legislative process. He believes that, ultimately, the experience will provide the necessary foundation for his future career as a policy researcher.

Wheeler focuses his research on community development, economic development, tax policy, poverty, and political economy. He presented a poster on tax increment financing last year at the annual Urban Affairs Association conference. The study examines whether using tax increment financing generally makes a difference in enhancing city economic growth. Next up, he plans to examine regional affordable housing issues.

Prior to arriving at Rutgers–Camden, Wheeler earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Temple University and a master’s degree in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania. At Temple, he was a member of the Ambler Political Science Group, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. He was also designated a Temple University President’s Scholar, a distinction earned by the top five percent of the graduating class, and received the Norman and Ruth Sun Economics Department Writing Award.

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