Dr. Saul Cornell is a prolific scholar with an impressive academic pedigree. Currently, he has an endowed Chair in American History at Fordham University and previously worked as a professor in history at Ohio State University and was the director of the Second Amendment Research Center at the John Glenn Institute. It was a great honor to have Dr. Cornell speak for our final symposium of the semester: “The History of the 2nd Amendment.” As a scholar with significant expertise on the wording, historical context, and public impressions of the 2nd Amendment, he had a unique and dynamic understanding of the way that this famous element of our Bill of Rights was meant to be perceived. He was able to present a new interpretation of the current political climate regarding gun legislation: both liberal and conservative stances misunderstand the 2nd Amendment’s few, short phrases. In reality, the 2nd Amendment is a simple commentary on the regulation of militias, a concept foreign to many of the loudest voices in this debate. Dr. Cornell also discussed the jurisprudence surrounding gun laws in the United States, and how much of this ties back to race relations in the United States.
Students in Denis Rey’s Honors Introduction to Government and World Affairs class visited Stageworks Theatre several weekends ago to attend a matinée performance of Judgement at Nuremberg. The students, pictured on the set after the performance, were impressed with the dramatic portrayal of the events that transpired during the attempt to hold perpetrators accountable for the crimes committed during the Holocaust. They were conflicted between the arguments made by both the prosecutor and defense attorney and contemplated whether principles such as collective responsibility applied, a broad concept that implicated most if not all of German society, or whether a narrower standard should be employed. In the end, students benefited greatly from watching these dilemmas play out. The Honors Program provided the funding for this learning experience.
On October 16th, UT’s Provost, Dr. David Stern, led a Coffee Conversation with Honors Program students in the Honors dorm. The conversation was focused around the following question, “What do nationalism, populism, authoritarianism, sovereignty, and even illiberal democracy mean and why are they so important in understanding our contemporary world?” The conversation was wide-ranging, covering instances of populism and nationalism around the world.
Dr. Michael Coon, UT Professor of Economics, gave the opening symposium of the 2018-2019 academic year on September 10. Dr. Coon’s presentation focused on various US federal government immigration programs, with a particular emphasis on 287(g). The presentation detailed the many negative consequences of these programs, both insofar as they harm the immigrants themselves but also public safety and waste taxpayer money as they are generally not effective in reducing crime.
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!
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!
Harvard National Model United Nations two time participant, Ioana Zanchi, shares her thoughts on participating in this Honors opportunity:
I am so honored and humbled to have been able to be part of HNMUN for the second time. I really enjoyed being able to meet and exchange different world and regional views with people who come from China, The Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and various parts of the US. HNMUN is truly an experience of a lifetime where you can learn, engage, and compete with like-minded students who have a passion and fire for change. It was also extremely humbling to get to be one of the few delegations to win awards! I would definitely recommend HNMUN to anybody who would like the chance to learn diplomacy while meeting an array of new people.