Get to Know a Donor: Shawn Patterson


I met Shawn Patterson my freshman fall, when I thought I might like to join the Brown Democrats. Turned out I didn’t, but Shawn and I became fast friends… six years later. Upon moving to LA this winter, I scoured my Facebook friends list for nearby people, and found that Shawn, someone I had spoken with maybe three times if I’m being generous, lived here too. I then set about slowly and subtly forcing him to become my friend. It totally worked, and now Shawn is my best friend.

Shawn is in the midst of getting his PhD in political science (or as some prefer to call it, Government, or, Caucus Studies) at UCLA. What this means for his day to day existence is he sits in a waffle on stilts (though when I tried to find his office using that description I found that most buildings on the UCLA campus could be called that), using statistics to slowly answer questions like, “why do people donate to the politicians they do?” “who do I have to donate to around here to get my passport faster?” and “what’s the deal with TANF, am I right?” Shawn used UCLA’s supercomputer (I have no idea what that means either) so often the university asked him to take the math down a notch.

Shawn is from the Kingdom of Delaware. He loves Philly cheesesteaks and is a regular at LA’s own Philadelphia-inspired bar. He hates the west to east side traffic but his pure and noble best friend love for me inspires him to overcome that demon and drive here anyway.


If you could eradicate one thing from this world, what would it be? Either spiders or people. One group consists of beady-eyed monsters, the stuff of our deepest darkest nightmares, which often kill their partners and eat their young. The other are spiders.lyness4

If you could add something entirely new to this world that doesn’t exist, what would it be? Pet-sized pigmy giraffes.

What question do people ask that you hate? “Oh, you study political science? Are you, like, going to be a politician?” [Bonus: my answer to that question] “Do you ask proctologists if they’re going to be assholes?”


If you could design any form of government to live under, what would it look like? I would like to randomly assign members of congress each term from names in a phone book. That would give me so many lovely natural experiments to write political science papers about.


How would you describe the essence of Delaware? Chickens outnumber people 9:1.


Can you describe the moment you knew Joe Biden was the one for you? What is it about him that keeps the flame alive? My grandparents worked on Joe Biden’s first campaign, I grew up a disciple in the Church of Joe. As for what keeps him alive? Just embed this Youtube clip.

How was the granola, huh, Shawn? The granola was DOPE. [Ed. note: I had a fundraiser selling granola and he bought some so I was just curious what he thought. For the curious, Shawn bought a box of original and a box of chocolate, which he instructed me to mix into one übergranola since he said he would just eat them that way anyway]


This is still part of Shawn’s answer. He is the only interviewee so far to respond in GIFs

What is your signature dance move? Thank god for gifs: giphy1giphy1

[Ed. note: Shawn only included this GIF once, but I made a stylistic choice and decided I preferred more of a chorus line effect]

What book, movie, tv show, song, or other piece of art was the most influential in shaping who you are? 
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s the only book I make a point to re-read at least once a year. It was also the first real book I ever read. I remember my mom got me a copy of it at the airport when she was on a business trip and brought it back to me having heard about it on some morning show, probably the Today Show. Well, I wasn’t a reader as a young kid, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I loved it from the first page, and I wanted to know what happened next so bad, I tried so hard to read faster, to read better, to read more. I would sit and struggle and push through, frequently calling my mom or dad over to help me figure out a word (mind you half the words I coulynessldn’t get weren’t real words, but I digress…). It took me weeks to get through the first book. But it took me a little less time to get through the second, and even less to get through the third.

That is when Harry Potter changed things for me. See I finished the Prisoner of Azkaban sometime in early 2000, but the Goblet of Fire wasn’t scheduled to be published until the summer. But I didn’t want to just sit around for six months while I waited. So I picked up a copy of the Golden Compass, and I kept reading. It may be a little cliched, but reading opened doors for me that just wouldn’t have been there otherwise…

 What’s inside your own personal Overton window? My window was thrown wide, wide open a long time ago. To describe it would put your blog on a number of government watch lists.

If your life were a piece of media, what type would it be? What would the genre be? How would the ratings be? What would critics say? It would be a campy horror TV show that got cancelled after the third season, was brought back on Netflix to finish a disappointing 4th season, but the 2 hour 5th season/movie would be satisfying to fans and critics alike.


Isabel, me, and Shawn the one time we managed to get together outside of our group text thread, which is mostly me harassing them to hang out

Jonathan’s question: what should we name the (hypothetical) new planet? Salacia — Neptune’s Wife.

What question should I ask the next person? Would you rather fight a duck the size of a horse, or 50 horses the size of a duck?


Apparently Shawn wrote this poem. I for one learned a lot!


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