Tyler Steelman, a North Carolina native, graduated from Appalachian in 2016 with his MA in Political Science. Unsure of future aspirations during the application process, he was impressed with the flexibility within the program. Discussions with Dr. Newmark and Dr. Ardoin increased Steelman's interest and fueled his passion to pursue an academic career. Under the supervision of Dr. Hicks, Steelman researched how Americans evaluate candidates for political office. During his second year in the program, he also had the opportunity to present research at two academic conferences. After an influential conversation with Dr. Key, Steelman decided to apply to top PhD programs. He is currently a fourth-year PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in American Politics and Political Psychology. Steelman's dissertation focuses on surrogate representation, in which legislators represent constituents who do not live in their districts. Additionally, he studies redistricting and gerrymandering––proposing using ZIP codes as the building blocks for districts. Looking back on his experience in the MA program, he states, "I really believe Appalachian, and the faculty in the Political Science program, prepared me for my career in academia. I could not imagine going anywhere else."