The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


Name, Credentials: 
Alan Tomkins, Ph.D.

Job Title:  Director

Company / Organization:  University of Nebraska

Department:  Public Policy Center

City, State:  Lincoln, NE


Phone:  402-499-3048



BA, Boston University

JD, Washington University

Ph.D., Washington University

How long have you worked for your current company or organization?  29 years

What are your primary duties in this position?  In 1998, I became founding director of the Public Policy Center. I have been a faculty member in the Law/Psych program at UNL since 1986. Currently I serve as deputy division director, NSF Social and Economic Division, Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.

What do you enjoy about your work? What are the perks and drawbacks?  I have enjoyed working in academia at the intersection of research and policy. At NSF I find the administrative role to be enjoyable as well. A drawback of being an administrator at NSF is not being an active researcher. Even as a director of the Policy Center, I could remain active in research. An upside of my NSF, admin position is being part of the team that funds a large portion of social sciences in the US.

Career path: how did you land this position? What do you see in your future career plans?  I imagine I will stay at NSF, but I am not certain. I became director in part because of my interdisciplinary experiences (social sciences and law) as a faculty member. I was offered the NSF position in part because of my even more extensive interdisciplinary experience and knowledge that I obtained from my work with the Policy Center.

What career advice would you like to share with graduate students seeking careers in your field?  Pick a path and do excellently in that work. Work hard. To the extent you can, focus on a work-life balance, but you should recognize that excelling in work requires most of us to work long and hard. A few of us can just glide, but most of us must commit a lot of time and effort to be good.

Ways I am involved with SPSSI: Read newsletters / mailings / website; Contribute writing for newsletter / mailings / website; Apply for scholarships, fellowships; Recommend scholarships, fellowships to others; Network with other members; Attend conferences / workshops

What is the importance of SPSSI for psychologists working outside of academia?  It connects psychologists with high quality research and information, and it connects non-academics with cutting-edge information.

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin