Kristen Essel

Kristen Essel

Congressional Fellow

American Political Science Association


Kristen Essel earned her doctorate in American Politics at Brown University. Her research analyzes how online, gender-based social movements influence policy and legislative outcomes. She specifically focuses on how shared gender identities influence legislators’ responses to hashtag movements. She pays specific attention to the representation of women with intersecting identities by both the movement and political elites.

Kristen’s dissertation explores how members of Congress responded to the #MeToo movement, resulting in anti-sexual assault and harassment legislation. Her work provides a model for how a nebulous, online movement for a weakly-linked social group may result in various legislative provisions that benefit a movement’s members. Her work further sheds light on how congresswomen’s rhetorical and legislative strategies changed in light of the movement. She finds that (co-)sponsorship of #MeToo legislation increased from 2015-2020. She also finds that increasing the number of women (especially women of color) elected to Congress was a prerequisite for #MeToo to produce anti-assault and harassment policies. Kristen also has several papers out for review that expand upon social dynamics seen during the #MeToo movement. One work analyzes voters’ response to female candidates who express anger toward sexual assault & harassment. Another analyzes the potential for online-based empathy to influence opinions on abortion.

Before her work as a Congressional Fellow, Kristen was a Dean’s Faculty Fellow with Brown University. During this time, Kristen taught courses on Women and Politics and The Legislative Process. Before attending Brown, Kristen was a Teach for America corps member. She taught social studies for four different grade levels, including 11th grade Government and Economics. As an instructor, she works to ensure students build the skills and mindsets necessary to succeed in their chosen career path. She works to ensure that her students understand the various ways that government effects their lives and are equipped with the tools necessary to navigate today’s polarized political environment. Kristen uses her previous teaching experience to inform her course sequence, classroom culture, and assessment styles to ensure that all students are able to succeed.She has also had the pleasure to teach as an adjunct instructor at Connecticut College.

Download Kristen’s curriculum vitae.

  • Congress and State Legislatures
  • Social Movements and Contentious Politics
  • Gender, Intersectionality, and Representation
  • Research Methods
  • American Political Development
  • PhD in Political Science, 2023

    Brown University

  • MA in Political Science, 2020

    Brown University

  • BA in Political Science and History, 2015

    University of Maryland, College Park