2016 Undergraduate Research Highlights

Tufts University

Deborah Schildkraut, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Tufts, shared information on a “truly exceptional” thesis of Tufts senior, Sophie Laing. Laing’s thesis is: "Flip-Flopping Politicians: How Voters Punish and Reward a Changing of Opinion." The motivation for the thesis is to examine whether a candidate’s gender matters and whether the reason given for the flip-flop matters in shaping how voters respond to candidate repositioning. Sophie designed and conducted her own experiment in which participants are shown a news article in which a fictional candidate is described as having changed his or her position on immigration reform and are then asked to evaluate the candidate on a range of characteristics. The analysis so far is preliminary, but at this point it seems that women are not punished for flip-flopping as much as one might think.

University of Montana

A team in the Department of Political Science at the University of Montana— Dr. Sara Rinfret, with a team of student researchers: Christina Barsky, Samuel Scott, and Hailey Duffin—created a survey instrument in collaboration with the Missoula County Elections Office staff and the Elections Advisory Committee. The intent of the survey was to examine a representative sample of registered voters in Missoula County, Montana to examine voter behaviors, voting preferences, and overall perceptions about the Missoula County Elections Office. In order to provide high quality results, the Missoula County Elections Office hired the WestGroup Research in Phoenix, AZ to collect the data via a telephone survey. The University of Montana research team was responsible for the data analysis of the telephone survey data collected through a written report for the Missoula County Elections Office.

Furman University

Seven Furman University political science undergraduates presented their Senior Research Papers at the annual meeting of the South Carolina Political Science Association. The presenters, pictured to the left, are Jonathan Kubakundimana, Joe Fretwell, Sarah Dunn, Elizabeth Bundy, Catherine Hinshaw, Mallary Taylor, and Oryza Astari. Their thesis advisor, Dr. Elizabeth S. Smith, is pictured on the lower left (in red). In addition, three undergraduate students, Melissa Temple, Caroline Lancaster, and Julia Roberts, pictured at right, presented their research at the Southern Political Science Association meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The work they presented was made possible by Furman Advantage research grants, which allows students to work with a professor on research over the summer.

Louisiana State University

Undergraduate Valencia Richardson, under the supervision of Dr. Kathleen Searles, wrote a senior thesis on youth-voter turnout on down-ballot and off-season elections. The research addresses the question: How does social media interaction between the 2015 gubernatorial candidates and college students affect student turnout? To this end, Ms. Richardson examined the social media presence of each gubernatorial candidate and did a post-election survey to determine both the level of awareness as well as the turnout rate of students at Louisiana State University. The results suggest that if candidates had more effectively reached out to students online, students would have been more aware of candidates and gotten more involved with the election.

Bryant University

Undergraduate Quinn Massaroni, pictured at left with her professor, Richard Holtzman, was awarded the Bert & Phyllis Lamb Prize for Political Science, which recognizes one undergraduate student for excellence in writing and policy research. Ms. Massaroni won the award for her research paper, A United States Sustainable Energy Transition Based on Successful International Models. She originally produced this paper in a senior-level capstone seminar for Politics and Law majors taught by Professor Holtzman at Bryant University in Smithfield, RI. Ms. Massaroni will be recognized at the Western Social Science Association Conference in Reno, NV, April 13-16. 

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Undergraduate Logan Judy, under the supervision of Professor Timothy McKeown, wrote an Honors Thesis about whether the economic and political characteristics of a congressional district affect the Environmental Protection Agency’s stringency of enforcement in that district. Using EPA case records from their ECHO database and sGIS software to map individual cases into congressional districts, he then analyzed over 25,000 cases covering 2010 to 2015 for evidence that district income, unemployment, national unemployment, the voting pattern of the district, and the ideology of the member of Congress from that district affect how demanding EPA is in each enforcement case. His ordered probit regressions generally produced results that corroborated his hypotheses about these variables and their role in shaping enforcement.

University of California, Berkeley

Wendy The University of California, Berkeley Legal Studies’ annual Undergraduate Research Conference will take place on April 22, 2016. This conference, held each year, showcases original empirical and interdisciplinary research by 18 Honors Thesis students. The students’ names and thesis titles are all listed here, along with a short description of the conference. The Legal Studies program is incredibly proud of its Honors students, who have developed outstanding research projects over the course of an entire academic year. The Honors Program includes two semester-length research seminars that support students from the development of their thesis proposals to the execution of their research, under the guidance of dedicated faculty mentors.

Fordham University

Undergraduate Maria DeCasper, pictured at right, made an oral presentation on her research, "Women's Engagement in Antigovernment Protests in Ukraine," at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research held at the University of North Caroline-Asheville in April 2016. She conducted in-depth interviews with female activists to investigate their motivations for participation in the 2013-2014 protest campaign against the incumbent government. Her mentor at Fordham is Professor Olena Nikolayenko.

Coastal Carolina University

Professor Holley Tankersley wrote in to recognize eight undergraduate research projects completed in the Politics Department and Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy at Coastal Carolina University. 

  • Kelly Shelton, Department of Politics, "Public Land Use Reform and Environmental Justice"
    Supervising Faculty: Richard Aidoo 
    This policy analysis suggests that state enforcement of environmental regulations in coastal South Carolina has not sufficiently addressed issues of environmental justice, and recommends a change in state regulations to channel revenue from corporate fines directly to those communities most affected by polluters.
  • Nicholas Blair, Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy, "FEMA and Flood Plain Incentives" 
    Supervising Faculty: Pamela Martin
    This paper investigates the flaws in flood insurance rates and subsidies with the goal of identifying solutions designed to make policies more economically and ecologically sustainable.
  • Kelsey Callahan, Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy, "LGBTQ Workforce Preparation" 
    Superivising Faculty: Erin Donovan
    This paper researches whether college and universities provide adequate resources for LGBTQ students to feel prepared to enter a hetero-normative workforce. This is an important and timely issue because of the recent advancements – and setbacks – in personal rights for those who identify with the LGBTQ community.
  • Shannon Condon, Edgar Dyer Institute for Leadership and Public Policy, "Campaign Finance Reform in Federal Elections" 
    Supervising Faculty: Drew Kurlowski 
    This research focuses on historical trends as explanatory factors in modern-day debates surrounding campaign finance reform. This APD approach suggests that alternative policy reforms must address path-dependent realities in order to be successful.
  • Sarah Harvey and Diana Evans, Department of Politics, "Defending Against Cyber Espionage: The US Office of Personnel Management Hack as a Case Study in Information Assurance" 
    Supervising Faculty: Joseph Fitsanakis 
    This paper outlines the US government’s options in strengthening the protection of classified information against cyber-attacks. 
  • Amy Thomas and Rachel Drummond, Department of Politics, "Counterterrorism or Vigilantism? Assessing the Cyber War Between ISIS and Anonymous" 
    Supervising Faculty: Joseph Fitsanakis 
    This paper examines the conflict between the hacker group Anonymous and ISIS. The paper asks, given the adversarial relationship between the US and Anonymous, what are the ramifications for US national security of Anonymous declaring war on ISIS?

  • Colby College

    Professor L. Sandy Maisel reported on five undergraduate theses written in the Department of Political Science. 

  • Emily Boyce, "Police Accountability in Mexico: Impunity, NGOs and Justice for Victims in a 'Democratic' Context"
  • Cameron Coval, "The Egalitarian Shift in Chilean Social Policy: A Comparison of Health and Education Reform Trajectories Since the Return to Democracy"
  • Tim Dutton "A Failure to Cooperate: Why Canada, the United States, and Mexico have not Developed a Regional Energy Strategy"
  • Molly Feldstein, "When the Bureaucrats met the Bankers: An Analysis of the Implementation of the Volcker Rule"
  • Jane Wiesenberg, " L'dor vador: American Jewish voting behavior, from generation to generation