Conferences – Layaal Hage

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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!

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!

Harvard National Model United Nations – Ioana Zanchi

 

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.

Honors Symposia – Dr. Stephen Blank

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Dr. Stephen Blank, a Russian foreign policy expert from the American Foreign Policy Council, spoke to UT Honors Students on February 1st. The focus of the talk was on Russian foreign policy in the modern era. The talk included discussion about how Russian foreign policy is in many ways a continuation of Cold War era policies. According to Dr. Blank, Russia wants to be respected and considered a great power, and in order for that to be the case, Russia needs to be feared. Thus, Russian foreign policy is driven by imperialism and efforts to unbalance other governments, creating room for Russian influence.

Coffee Conversation – Dr. Kevin Fridy

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On Friday, September 22nd, roughly 15 Honors students joined Dr. Kevin Fridy in the McKay Hall common room for a coffee conversation. In this more intimate setting, the students discussed, “How are power, privilege, and politics reflected in disaster vulnerability?” Over coffee, tea, and muffins, the students engaged in a conversation about the topic, which was tied directly to the recent experiences all of the participants had with Hurricane Irma.

Witnessing President Obama Live on Counter-Terrorism

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016: A phenomenal day for select Honors Students at the University of Tampa. We had the distinct privilege of witnessing President Obama speak on counter terrorism at the MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa.

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The buses left UT at noon, heading for the Base through Tampa’s average thunderstorm. Everyone was dressed in presentable business casual, excited to see President Obama in his last days as the Commander-in-Chief; an opportunity of a lifetime, granted exclusively to the Honors Students at UT. As we got off the buses, none of us imagined the experience that awaited us. We were to stand in a long queue to get through security, as Tampa’s average thunderstorm turned into Poseidon’s wrath and drenched us all. Even as we complained about our respective ruined attires, there was not a single person who was not laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all. In hindsight, the drenching made the whole day that much more memorable.

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When the rain stopped, and we made it through security at about 1345 hrs only to wait for the President to give his speech at 1600 hrs, most of us began to wonder if we could have done without the drenching. The feeling of impatience shrouded in damp clothes is not exactly the best combination on the planet. However, we made the best of the situation and took some terrible pictures, spotted soldiers in uniforms from different countries, and made conversation with some of them to find out where they were from. My friends and I talked to soldiers from France, Australia, Great Britain, and Italy, asked them questions about their home countries, families, and life in the USA. Yet another activity we could not have done without the opportunity offered by the Honors Program at UT.
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At 1556 hrs, President Obama walked into the hangar with swift confidence, gave yet another one of his remarkable speeches, and humbly expressed, “it has been the privilege and honor of a lifetime to be your commander-in-chief,” before he waved and casually exited by parting the stage curtain. His incredible oratory skills were inspiring, asalways. President Obama’s words (and the following video captures him saying them), “Right makes might. Not the other way around,” are likely to resonate with us for a lifetime. Personally, I will never forget the joy I felt when he boldly stated, “Islam is not the problem. Us mistreating our own Muslims is exactly what terrorists want…the war on terrorism cannot be a war on Islam.”

As we got into the buses once again, discussing how moving President Obama’s words were, we saw his fleet of cars- leaving with their flashing lights- through the windshield. Despite the dampness of our clothes, and the discomfort of the (Florida) cold December wind, we are all immensely grateful to the UT Honors Program and Director Dr. Ryan Cragun for giving us the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the POTUS in person and in action.

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