Dave Nixon, PUBA

David Nixon

Associate Professor

Saunders 717

(808) 956-7718


My training is in political science, so every aspect of my research and teaching is animated by understanding democracy – how it works, and when it doesn’t. But while elections are the foundation for most understandings of democracy, I study non-elected officials (judges, political appointees, senior civil servants). For those officials, entirely separate mechanisms of administrative law and jurisprudence are in place to ensure good legal and policy decisions. Most of my career is oriented around investigating how political attitudes are infused into those decisions.


  • PhD, Washington University in St. Louis, December 1996
  • MA, Washington University in St. Louis, 1993
  • BS (with honors), Michigan State University, 1990


  • PUBA 603: Organizations: Theory and Change
  • PUBA 607: Public Administration Research Methods
  • PUBA 625: Law, Economics, and Public Administration


Research methods, organizations, and public policy.


I research the selection of and decisions by political appointees to the executive and judicial branches in the U.S. I study the political attitudes of these officials and show how those attitudes shape their legal interpretations and policy implementation decisions. I also examine the appointment process itself and the ways that elected officials seek to shape the kinds of people who get appointed.

Community Engagement

I engage many stakeholders in the nonprofit and city government sector with regard to outdoor trails and recreation spaces. As a part of that work, I interact with a lot of volunteer-based nonprofits and I am a president of a volunteer nonprofit, myself – the Kokonut Koalition. I’ve also been engaged with the policy community on long term care for the elderly, a significant issue in Hawaii and one where Hawaiʻi is an instructive case for the rest of the U.S.