Conferences – Layaal Hage

layaal

From April 5th through the 8th, I attended the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Taking place for the 76th year, the MPSA Conference is an opportunity for political science scholars to present their research in a variety of sessions, ranging from lectures and lightning talks to roundtable discussions and panel presentations.

As a participant in the Undergraduate Poster Session on The Politics of Natural Resources and the Environment, I presented my research titled, “The Impact of Ghana’s 2011 Oil Production on the Western Region’s Oil-Bearing Communities,” which I had conducted for Dr. Kevin Fridy’s course on the Political Economy of Africa in the spring 2017 semester. During the hour-and-a-half-long poster session, I got the chance to give ninety-second presentations of my twenty-page paper, answer questions about my research, receive feedback on what to add, remove, or modify in future replications of the research, and embark on discussions that integrated both my research and those of the attendees. The attendees I interacted with and who toured the poster session were all at different stages of their political science academic or professional experience; while some were graduate school students and PhD candidates, others were session discussants and on-the-field professionals. Not only did my participation as a poster presenter put me on the spot and force me to think on my feet countless times, but, even more interestingly, it shed light on the power a subject of interest can have in tying together individuals from completely unrelated backgrounds. None of us knew each other’s names, nationalities, or experiences, yet we talked about natural resources, developing nations, African governments and citizens, and so on, endlessly!

In addition to being a conference participant, I got the opportunity to attend others’ presentations, two of which were paper sessions pertaining to Economic Development, particularly development outcomes, inequality, and ethnicity. Conducted differently than poster sessions, these paper sessions entailed three to four presenters discussing their research papers, discussants raising questions about and providing feedback on these presentations, and both presenters and discussants addressing questions from the audience. Right in front of me was a forum for productive discussions, debates, and exchanges of ideas that was more confident, mature, and advanced than any classroom lecture or group meeting I had ever attended or participated in. While presenting my research at this conference is a testament to the knowledge and experience I acquired during my four-year experience at UT, participating in discussions on various research topics and attending others’ presentations gave me a slight glimpse of all that I have yet to learn as a political science student and scholar!

Honors Activities – Leadership Challenge Course in HON 102

Dr. Jen Wortham had her HON 102 students participate in the Leadership Challenge Course. The Leadership Challenge Course provides students with opportunities to work together to try to overcome challenging obstacles. Dr. Wortham includes some snapshots of what the students learned using the GroupMe app. Some of the comments from students:

I learned that groups work better when we can communicate well. – Laura Montgomery

 

I learned to always listen to others’ ideas and try them even if you don’t think it will work. – Maddy Lucas

 

I learned that you need to look at things from multiple perspectives to solve problems. – Lauren Koelln

 

It’s easier to balance everything by working together. – Emily Brooks

 

It’s important not to give up when a plan isn’t working but to be creative in finding a better solution. – Caroline Vocatura

 

Sometimes you have to step back and make a game plan before attempting to solve a problem. – Allyson Hicks

 

It’s not always necessary to have a designated leader in a group. – Madeleine Matolak

Coffee Conversations – Bridgette Froeschke

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On April 4th, Dr. Bridgette Froeschke, Assistant Professor of Biology, led a Coffee Conversation on the questions “Who does water belong to? Should water be privatized?” The conversation covered a lot of topics relating to water, from the quality of bottled water versus tap water to who should own water rights and how water consumption and regulation (or lack thereof) affect environmental quality.

Conferences – Ashley Morales-Pacheco

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The Florida Political Science Association (FPSA) conference at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Ft. Myers was an unforgettable experience. I enjoyed being around other political scientists looking to explore different questions relevant to our world today. It was fascinating to see what undergraduate and graduate students are coming up with and what research topics are seeing more interest.

Being able to present my research regarding the effects of education on perceived government threats with my partner, Anne Kerda, was very exciting, especially because we received helpful feedback to aid us in moving forward with this line of research. The faculty in the political science department at UT were especially helpful in preparing us, allowing us to excel and stand out at the conference. The amount of preparation we had compared to other presenters truly puts into perspective how much our political science department pushes us for exceptional achievement.

Prior to the FPSA conference, I had attended other conferences, but this one was by far the best one! I felt right at home with “my people” [other political scientists] and I was thrilled to share the experience with UT colleagues. In the end, I was happy to hear that the next FPSA conference will be held at our very own campus, so I definitely look forward to participating in the conference again next year!

Coffee Conversations – Dr. Cheri Etling-Paulsen

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Dr. Cheri Etling-Paulsen led a Coffee Conversation on March 20th in the McKay Hall common room exploring the question, “What is causing major swings in the stock market – and does it really matter?” The conversation explored what the stock market is, what factors influence stock prices, and explored how a variety of factors contribute to market volatility.