Dr. Rachel Spooner

Assistant Professor of Political Science
Profile photo of Dr. Rachel Spooner

Dr. Rachel Spooner’s research focuses on decision making in federal appellate courts, with particular emphasis on the collegial and institutional features that constrain and influence the behavior of Supreme Court justices. She is especially interested in the development of legal rules through the Supreme Court's collegial opinion writing process. Dr. Spooner’s work has been published in journals including Political Research Quarterly, Party Politics and Political Science Quarterly.

She regularly teaches classes on American politics and research methods, focusing on political institutions and behavior. Her courses focus on the social scientific study of political behavior among political elites (e.g., Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and the president) and among the mass public (e.g., public opinion and voting behavior).

Dr. Spooner joined the Hope College faculty in 2018. She was previously an assistant professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York (2014–2016) and Michigan State University (2016–2018).

Areas of expertise

  • American politics and political institutions
  • Research methods
  • Judicial decision-making
  • Constitutional law


  • Ph.D., political science, Michigan State University, 2015
  • M.A., political science, Michigan State University, 2011
  • B.A., political science, English, Hope College, 2006

Honors, Grants and awards

  • Nyenhuis Student-Faculty Collaborative Summer Research Grant, 2019, 2022, 2023
  • Continuum Scholars Faculty Development Grant, 2021
  • Hunter College Undergraduate Research Initiative Fellowship, 2016
  • Hunter College Faculty Innovations in Teaching with Technology Grant, 2015
  • Excellence in Teaching Citation, Michigan State University, 2014
  • Best Paper Award, Michigan State University, 2014
  • “Shaping the Content of Majority Opinions on the U.S. Supreme Court,” National Science Foundation doctoral dissertation research grant (SES-1228458), 2012–2013

Selected publications

  • Review of “Persuading the Supreme Court: The Significance of Briefs in Judicial Decision-Making by Morgan Hazelton and Rachael Hinkle,” Political Science Quarterly, 2023
  • “Judicial Discretion and US Supreme Court Agenda Setting,” with E. Lane, J. Schoenherr, and R. Black in Open Judicial Politics, 2020
  • “Things Unspoken: Forbidden Discourse and Credible Signals in the Shadow of Power,” with B. Yoder and K. Taylor Gaubatz, Political Science Quarterly, 2019
  • “Elite-Level Issue Dynamics: Assessing Perspectives on Party Issue Change,” with D. Lee, Party Politics, 2015
  • “Trying to Get What You Want: Heresthetical Maneuvering and U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making,” with R. Black and T. Johnson, Political Research Quarterly, 2013

Outside the college

When she’s not teaching or working on her research, you can probably find Dr. Spooner on an adventure with her beloved husband, daughters and dog. She loves to hike, ski and ride dirt bikes (hers is, quite appropriately, orange and navy).

Profile photo of Dr. Rachel Spooner
Dr. Rachel Spooner

Phone Number616.395.6897

Lubbers Hall Room 208 126 East 10th Street Holland, MI 49423
A map showing the location for Dr. Rachel Spooner Lubbers Hall Room 208 126 East 10th Street Holland MI 49423