2019 Undergraduate Research Highlights

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Four Bryant University undergraduate students presented their research on a panel titled “Showcase: Student Research in Political Science” at the university’s annual REDay (Research and Engagement Day) conference on April 17, 2019. Organized and moderated by Senior Lecturer in Political Science, Dr. Emily Copeland, this panel featured student work completed in the Politics & Law Senior Seminar, an International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution course, and an Independent Directed Study course. Senior Vanessa MacMillan (pictured at right) presented “Moving Past the ‘War on Drugs’: A Comparative Analysis of U.S and Portuguese Drug Policy.” Vanessa compared the policy in Portugal against more traditional policy systems, such as that in the United States, and argued that decriminalization is not an effective drug policy on its own, but must be paired with investments in public health and the implementation of harm reduction programs.

Senior Eliza Hodge focused on the Kyoto Protocol in her paper “The Complexities of Reaching Agreement in Negotiations,” which explored how issues left unresolved in the multilateral negotiations led to a difficult ratification processes in home countries. Senior David Schmidt presented “The South China Sea Dispute,” which focused on the UN convention on the law of the sea and its application to the dispute, specifically concerning areas of sovereignty, the freedom of navigation, and the unique interests of China, the United States, and the ASEAN member states. First-year student, Kaitlyn Fales, presented her ongoing research on American voter behavior and the role of identity politics in her paper “A Study of Voter Behavior Models and Demographics in Recent Elections.” She explored the traditional models of rational choice and behaviorism, arguing that the role of identity in the 2016 and 2018 elections raises new questions about these models and their explanations of voter turnout. 

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Below are abstracts collected from Dr. Patrick McGovern's senior capstone course in political science:
AMAL BANDOW; “Sexual Exploitation by Peacekeepers and Gender Equality” 
Resent research into the United Nations and other international organizations has revealed a myriad of sexual abuse allegations against their peacekeepers. These international organizations have been accused of fostering predatory environments during peacekeeping missions. These incidents undermine the legitimacy of all peacekeeping operations and I.Os. The literature has considered factors for this phenomenon such as perceived impunity and toxic masculinity. This paper considers the conditions of countries hosting peacekeeping missions, specifically gender equality levels. The author contends that gender equality levels of a hosting country will significantly impact sexual exploitation by peacekeepers; a more equal society provides better legal, political, and social support for women, thereby deterring abuse. This study uses cross-sectional time series analysis and logistic regression models. The first hypothesis tested is as the percentage of women in parliament increases, sexual exploitation by peacekeepers decreases. The second hypothesis tested is as the percentage of women in the paid labor force increases, sexual exploitation by peacekeepers decreases. Lastly, as school enrollment of girls in primary girls increases, sexual violence by peacekeepers decreases. The results indicated that there was no significant relationship between gender equality and peacekeeping sexual violence. However, research suggests a significant relationship between economic development of hosting nations and sexual violence by peacekeepers; thus, suggesting the need for further research. 
JENNIFER BRIONES; “The Curse of Wealth: Unearthing the Relationship Between Natural Resources & Sexual Violence” 
It is a common misconception that sexual violence occurs whenever civil conflict occurs. Yet, there are several causal mechanisms that tend to be associated with the atrocities committed throughout war. Natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, coal, and timber, may be underlying mechanisms as to why civilians get brutalized for living in areas deemed resource “wealthy.” This research examines the relationship between natural resources and sexual violence during conflict, as this is a vastly understudied field, lacking literature that explores the possible connections between natural resources and sexual violence. This paper argues that there is less sexual violence in countries experiencing civil conflict that have a bounty of natural resources, as there is more incentive on the part of combatants to rely on civilians for access to these resources. This 'disincentivizes' brutality toward civilians. To unearth a potential relationship between these variables, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Burundi are discussed, as they hold vast natural resources and have faced civil conflict involving sexual violence. Quantitative analysis is employed in a multi-method approach using the Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (SVAC) dataset and World Bank data, covering the decades between 1989-2009. Though statistically significant, the results do not support the papers stated hypothesis, suggesting the need for further research; research that, for example, might utilize geographic referencing to pinpoint natural resources within a conflict country and their proximity to areas of the greatest political violence. 
EUGENE BROWN; “Market Liberalization in the Airline Industry: Positive Effects of Foreign Competition” 
This research project utilizes publicly available statistics from the United States Department of Transportation and United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics to determine the effect of foreign competition on domestic carriers which operate international routes for the commercial passenger air carrier services market. There have been recent debates on the issue of market liberalization using “open skies” agreements and the impact of market oversaturation by foreign air carriers, such as Gulf based air carriers. The passenger air carrier service market, historically, has been one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. The data was statistically analyzed by use of a zero-inflated negative binomial regression model with multiple factors such as the frequency of flights, number of destinations, and number of carriers in a market. Each market was defined by an airport and analyzed over a five-year period. This analysis seeks to understand the positive relationship of foreign air carriers competing against domestic air carriers through these multiple factors. The analysis also utilizes financial data to couple the economic effects of increased supply within the marketplace as an interactive variable. Foreign competition is theorized to decrease prices through increased supply of flights and destinations by foreign air carriers, which thereby increase passenger traffic on domestic air carriers that fly international routes. As the number of foreign air carriers increases in a market, the number of total passenger enplanements on domestic air carriers should increase. Foreign air carriers are determined to have a positive effect on the total number of passenger enplanements on domestic air carriers. This research demonstrates the positive impact of “open skies” agreements on domestic markets and argues for their continued supports implementation.
LINDSEY CHAPPLE; “Children's Rights: Can Women Make a Difference?” 
The study of women in politics has become a growing topic of interest in political science research. Current studies on women in politics have focused on corruption, women’s rights, education, and marginalization. There is, however, a gap in the literature focusing on women and children’s rights. Using regression and logit models with 110 states from 2000 to 2015, this study explores the impact of female heads of state and women in legislatures on enhancing children’s rights. Children’s rights, in this case, will focus on three main areas: education, employment, and marriage. Female politicians are often focused on women and family policies and are more likely to enact legislation and enforce policies that protect children from abuse. This study tests the correlation of female heads of state compared to male heads of state in reducing the abuse of children rights. The study also tests the correlation of the percentage of women in legislatures in reducing the abuse of children’s rights. Finally, this study assesses the interaction between female head of state and regime types, along with percentage of women in parliament and regime type on children’s rights abuses. Results suggest that the presence of women in legislatures has the greatest impact among these variables in protecting children’s rights. 
RYAN M. KIRKPATRICK; “Chechen Female Suicide Bombers: Their Ideology, Motivations, and Indoctrination” 
This article explores the history of the modern female suicide bomber in Chechnya, as well as the ideologies and motivations that drive these women to kill. It poses the question as to what propels the women of Chechnya to engage in suicide terrorism and what has been the catalyst in the decreasing number of Chechen female suicide in recent years. The article also argues that due to the indiscriminate warfare of the First and Second Chechen Wars, as well as mitigating factors such as poverty and sexual violence, Chechen women have been driven to suicide terrorism as a matter of personal revenge and monetary gain rather than one purely based on religious extremism. Although the resistance of the Chechen people against the Russian Federation has been co-opted by fundamentalist Islamic militant groups in the early two-thousands, much of the motivation in guiding these women to commit such acts eschews jihad. Instead, the resistance of these women is typically done in favor of avenging the loss of a loved one or ensuring one’s family may benefit monetarily from a martyrdom operation. The article additionally examines the statistical damage done by these Chechen women when compared to their male suicide attacker counterparts; on average, Chechen women have killed fourteen people per suicide attack whereas attacks perpetrated by Chechen men result in an average of eight fatalities per attack. Worldwide trends concerning suicide bombings demonstrate that although men have conducted approximately ninety-two percent of global suicide bombings from 2000 to 2016, those committed by women have resulted on average more fatalities per attack.

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On Friday, April 12, Butler hosted its 31st annual Undergraduate Research Conference. Thirteen different Butler students will be presenting original research projects that originated from their research methods course, examining different questions in American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. In this class, students are expected to demonstrate familiarity and competence with the fundamentals of empirical research and professional writing.

Nine Butler students (Libbi Adams, Kyra Cooke, Ted Field, Joe Killion, Nate Lemen, Gabrielle Lemkuil, Nyree Modisette, Reilly Simmons, and Rachel Spodek) will be presenting their original research projects. Each of these students developed original survey questions to test their hypotheses as part of a class-wide survey that was conducted among a paid convenience sample of 750 American adults using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Four additional Butler students will be participating in a roundtable discussion presenting their research proposals from PO 201 (Sarah Elam, Gracie Munroe, David Sexton, and Genavieve Smith). Overall, the projects of these thirteen students examine a diverse field of questions engaging important concepts like identity, representation, institutions, and voter behavior, for example.

Newberry College

Newberry College Political Science Senior (and Student Government Association Vice-President) James Salter presented his paper, "Party Voting and the Balance of Power: A View from South Carolina Legislative Roll Call Votes," at the South Carolina Political Science Association and will present at the Carolina Undergraduate Social Sciences Symposium on April 24-25, 2019. 
This paper seeks to determine the extent to which balances in state power affect legislative voting behavior — how lawmakers decide policy in light of institutional relationships — as measured by intraparty cohesion and interparty likeness in a sample of recorded votes. The study examines South Carolina General Assembly roll call vote data for the first sessions of the 112th, 114th, and 122nd legislatures, respectively, the former two being under different forms of divided government — the 112th saw a Democratic Senate and a Republican governor and House, and the 114th saw a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor — and the latter under a Republican trifecta, with supermajorities in both chambers. By analyzing partisan voting on a set of issues — education, annual budgets, taxation, and firearms — both during and after the transition from one-party Democratic to one-party Republican government, this study has broad implications regarding the lawmaking process and interactions between and among southern partisan institutions.

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University of North Carolina, Charlotte


HANNAH STEPHENS; “Gendered Warfare: How Sexual Violence Compares to Other Forms of Abuse”
In her honors thesis, Hannah Stephens examined whether rebel groups that engage in sexual violence also victimize civilians in other ways, or if sexual violence is somehow unique in its frequency and causes. Using a newly-coded dataset of human rights abuses by rebel groups each year from 1990 to 2012, she identified group- and country-level factors that are associated with a higher frequency of sexual violence. She then tested whether those same factors are associated with a higher frequency of killings, detention, forced recruitment, and property destruction. Her analysis showed that sexual violence is generally used in conjunction with most of these other human rights violations; however, it has a unique relationship with gender. Specifically, rebel groups in conflict-torn countries with higher percentages of women in the workforce are more likely to commit sexual violence, while this variable is not significantly related to rebels’ use of the other abuses. This suggests that sexual violence may be motivated at least in part by gender roles within these societies. Hannah and her advisor, Dr. Beth Elise Whitaker, will present findings from this research at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, DC.

University of Richmond

Alicia Jiggetts
Her thesis, "#BlackLivesMatter: from Hashtag to Public Policy," was selected for the First Annual Race, Gender, and Sexuality Undergraduate Conference at CSU, Fresno in April. She will present on the panel, "Wi-Fi Waves: Feminist Activism through Social Media." 
Benedict Roemer
His thesis with the Jepson Leadership School examines self-interested vs. social-interested messaging in school choice policy. He explores if eligible voters are more persuaded to support a policy or candidate if that policy or candidate is presented with messaging that appeals to self or social interest. 
Lina Tori Jan
University of Richmond junior Lina Tori Jan of Kabul, Afghanistan, has been announced as a 2019 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 colleges and universities. She is only the second UR student to receive this honor. The Newman Civic Fellowship is a one-year experience emphasizing personal, professional, and civic growth for students who have demonstrated a capacity for leadership and an investment in solving public problems.
Cassella’s project, which he presented at the 2019 National Student Research Conference, involves creating a timeline of mass shootings that have occurred, beginning with the Columbine, CO shootings in 1999, and then looking at pieces of gun legislation that were or were not put forward after significant mass shooting events. “I’m using that data and tying it into what I’m calling ‘gun politics,’ which relates more to consumer behavior, activity from interest groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), and public opinion, measured through polling, protests, and other activity,” Cassella said. “Looking at specific pieces of legislation allows me to measure the public opinion at the time, because legislation of this sort is generally spurred by citizens demanding action.”