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Political Science Students Present at International Studies Association-West Annual Conference in Pasadena

This summer, the annual political science Summer Research Fellowship returned for its second year with six new members and three returners. Thanks to the success of last summer, Professor Naomi Levy was able to continue the program that invites a team of students to assist her team in their research. 

The project, Peacebuilding Through Service Delivery, is a multi-year collaboration between Professor Levy, Dr. Naazneen Barma, and Dr. Jessica Piombo, both of whom come from the Naval Postgraduate School. Overall, it seeks to improve the theory and practice of how peace is achieved in post-conflict countries. In their most recent paper, “Disentangling Aid Dynamics in Statebuilding and Peacebuilding: A Causal Framework”, the researchers have (1) introduced the idea that peacebuilding and statebuilding are two different concepts and should be treated as such when analyzing post-conflict countries; (2) examined the effects of aid dynamics on state strength and depth of peace; and (3) developed a conceptual framework that can allow for a broader way to analyze the different elements of aid affecting statebuilding and peacebuilding. In doing so, they focused on three main case studies: Uganda, Laos, and Cambodia.

After several training workshops, students on the research fellowship team were asked to code hundreds of project documents. These documents are released by major aid organizations and discuss the details of the program that they implemented. The analysis involved reading through the document in detail and answering questions in a Google Form to show how well the project fits into the framework of the study. In addition to thinking about the mechanisms by which these aid organizations were affecting statebuilding and peacebuilding, students needed to analyze the purpose of the project, details about the administration, and the coordination between international partners and the local government. This extensive data proved to be very helpful to the researchers who will be using much of it as they prepare a book-length manuscript.

On top of working on the major research project, students were asked to develop their own

Independent Research Projects. These projects could be about any topic as long as it fell under the framework created by Professor Levy’s project. Each student worked on his or her own research project, and four of the students were able to present their research at the International Studies Association Annual Conference in Pasadena, California at the end of the summer. Patrick Watkins analyzed external engagement in the form of reconstruction in post-conflict Iraq. Andrew McCarty applied the framework by looking more closely at the donor side of Laos’ post-conflict statebuilding and peacebuilding. In his paper, he discusses the United States, France, and Japan as three main donors who each had different interests in the country. Nhada Ahmed took the framework in a different direction by analyzing the current Syrian refugee crisis. She chose to investigate the effects of aid dynamics on Egypt and Jordan as they are dealing with a huge number of refugees coming into their countries. Finally, Kellyanne Towers decided to focus on the Islamic State, and how exactly it fits into the concept of a “state”, as presented by the original research project. All four presentations were very successful, the students benefited from Prof. Gordon’s feedback as the panel discussant, and they had a great opportunity to experience a real Political Science conference.

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