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Terry Sullivan, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Terry Sullivan, Ph.D. Terry Sullivan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences | UNC-Chapel Hill


Professor Sullivan is an expert on leadership, organizational operations, presidential routine and institutional design.



Terry Sullivan, Ph.D. Publication Terry Sullivan, Ph.D. Publication Terry Sullivan, Ph.D. Publication



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Terry Sullivan on White House Transitions and Presidential Leadership




An expert on leadership, organizational operations, presidential routine and institutional design, Professor Sullivan teaches courses on leadership, political tradecraft (e.g., bargaining, agenda formation, and political persuasion), organizational routine (e.g., delegation, scheduling, span and depth of control, rules and procedures), Congress and the Presidency. In 1997, he co-founded and now acts as Executive Director of the White House Transition Project, a multi-institutional consortium to assist in peaceful political transitions in the United States and other democracies.

From 2010 to 2013, he served on the National Commission on Reform of the Federal Appointments Process as Commissioner and as Senior Research Scholar.

Areas of Expertise (6)

The American Presidency Presidential Transitions Presidential Leadership Political Tradecraft Ambition in Leadership Models Congress

Accomplishments (6)

UNC System Board of Governors 2015 Award for Teaching Excellence (professional)

Commenting on the award, UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt said, “Terry Sullivan’s commitment to excellence in the classroom exemplifies Carolina’s leadership in research, scholarship and creativity. Students and faculty consider him a great story teller, provocateur and a breath of fresh air."

UNC Student Congress Undergraduate Teacher for 2014 (professional)

One student nomination cited Professor Sullivan for "creating an environment that challenges students to think critically about situations." Additionally, Professor Sullivan engages with his students outside of the classroom by providing insight and guidance to help further students' career paths."

Adviser to the Office of Management and Budget (professional)

Provided expert advice and data to the President's Working Group on Inquiry.

Responding to the requirements of S.679, signed into law on August 10, 2012, the President established a working group to provide information to the Senate on how to reduce unnecessary duplication in the forms nominees must file during the vetting and confirmation processes.

W. Glenn Campbell Fellowship (2009 - 2010) (professional)

Awarded by the Hoover institution, Stanford University

Senator Sam Ervin Constitutional Fellow (2004) (professional)

Awarded by the Sam J. Ervin Library

T. C. Edwards Chair in American Democracy (1991 - 2001) (professional)

Awarded by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University

Education (2)

University of Texas: Ph.D., Political Science 1980

University of Texas: B.A., Political Science 1973

Affiliations (5)

  • American Political Science Association : Member
  • Mid-West Political Science Association : Member
  • Presidency Residency Group : Member
  • Legislative Studies Group : Member
  • Public Choice Society : Member

Media Appearances (4)

Under Obama, More Appointments Go Unfilled

ProPublica  online

Feb. 27, 2013

The lack of appointed leaders can create problems. Too many vacancies can put agencies “in stand-down, waiting for policymakers to show up,” said Terry Sullivan, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina who has studied appointments.

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Sullivan advises presidential transitions

University Gazette  online

Nov. 13, 2012
Many political scientists find their passion in the run-up to Election Day or the aftermath of inauguration day. But it’s the time in between those two dates that most interests Terry Sullivan.

An associate professor of political science in the College of Arts and Sciences, Sullivan studies presidential transitions. In his estimation, the 2009 changing of the White House guard was the smoothest yet.

“President-elect Obama and outgoing President George W. Bush set the bar,” Sullivan said.

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Could Fort Hood visit redefine Obama's relationship with the military?

The Christian Science Monitor  online

Nov. 7, 2009

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Book Discussion on "The Nerve Center: White House Chiefs of Staff"

C-SPAN  tv

Nov. 15, 2004

Professor Sullivan talked about the book he edited, The Nerve Center: Lessons in Governing from the White House Chiefs of Staff, published by Texas A and M University Press.

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Articles (5)

Congressional Bargaining in Presidential Time: Give and Take, Anticipation, and the Constitutional Rationalization of Dead Ducks The Journal of Politics


ABSTRACT: This article introduces a simple theory of bargaining between presidents and members of Congress. Although it employs the analytics common to the typical “sequenced” theories, its approach places more emphasis on give and take, on less reliable ...

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Reducing the adversarial burden on presidential appointees: feasible strategies for fixing the presidential appointments process Public Administration Review


ABSTRACT: Can the current presidential appointments process be improved? This essay highlights three kinds of problems: inexperienced appointees, a lengthening process, and tedious and adversarial inquiry. While the essay side-steps trying to affect the prerogatives of institutions involved in the tussle over appointments, it concentrates on improving the support of presidential personnel operations and the process of inquiry that nominees face, and it identifies patterns of repetitiveness among the roughly 2,800 details that a nominee must provide in responding to some 295 individual questions in nine categories...

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Presidential Persuasive Advantage: Strategy, Compliance Gaining, and Sequencing Congress & the Presidency: A Journal of Capital Vessels


This paper evaluates three general approaches to understanding presidential persuasion: strategic advantages, compliance gaining, and sequencing. It generates empirical expectations from these three approaches and then tests those against a database of ...

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The White House Interview Program Political Science & Politics


White House transitions and operations are the focus of our transition preparation program because of the central position of staff in governing. A year prior to coming onto the presidential ticket with Governor Bush, Richard Cheney spoke of the critical importance of ...

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Confronting the Kennedy Tapes: The May‐Zelikow Transcripts and the Stern Assessments Presidential Studies Quarterly


Recently, scholars and publishers have begun to take advantage of the recording technology that presidents have relied on since the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). While transforming these recordings into data requires a massive commitment of ...

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