Author: UConn POLS

Honors Students’ Research Draws Notable Observers

April poster session
Adam Kuegler (left) discusses his research with President Herbst

Every spring the POLS Honors Program – currently under the direction of Alan Bennett Honors Professor Jennifer Sterling-Folker – hosts a poster session and reception to celebrate the research projects and theses undertaken by its honors students during the past academic year. Nicknamed “REPS” (Research Excellence in Political Science), the event is typically held concurrently with Frontiers of Undergraduate Research, a university-wide display of student scholarship.

This year’s April poster session attracted its largest crowd ever to the fourth floor of Oak Hall. Visitors included political scientists from the President’s office (President Herbst herself was there), the Dean’s office (Associate Dean Cyrus Zirakzadeh) and the Center for Undergraduate Education (Jennifer Lease Butts and Vin Moscardelli).

There were 28 projects in all featured at the 2017 REPS. The list of research projects included: “Patchwork Solidarity: Organized Labor within Latin America’s Garment Industry” (Christopher Raymond); “‘Reel’ Police, Prosecutors, and Portrayals of the Use of Force: Assessing Law & Order: SVU” (Amy Saji); “Problematic Frames: The Perception of Muslim vs Non-Muslim American Terrorists in US Media” (Madiha Shafqat); “Pollution, Resistance, and Representation in Latin American Cities” (Emily Steck); “The Politics of Remembering: Race & Gender in Women of Color Nursing Representations” (Dacia Walcott); “Extremist Headhunting: How the Islamic State Radicalizes/Recruits Members Through Twitter” (Mairead Loschi); “Representing America: Citizens Impacted by Descriptive Representation in Congress” (Evelyn Luchs); “Young Women’s Expectations and Preferences During the 2016 Democratic Primaries” (Emma Morelli); “Violence Against Women & Girls: Evidence for the Normative Gap Between Rhetoric & Law” (Susan Naseri); “Running Comes Before Winning: Explaining the Gender Gap in State Legislatures” (Marissa Piccolo); “Spiritual Social Justice: A Comparative Study of Religious Political Activism Same-Sex Marriage” (Erin Puglia) “The Impact of Organizational Affiliation on Contributions to Super PACs” (Kyle Adams) “Gender in Politics: Super PAC Donors and Contribution Behavior” (Van Augur) “Stigmatized: A Study of Refugee and Economic Migrant Integration in French Politics & Culture” (Lucas Bladen); “The Personal is Political: Gender and Political Ambition in College Students” (Caitlin Briody); “Seize the Memes of Production! Marxist Theory & Discourse Through Internet Memes” (Sebastian Chamorro); “The Criminal Court System & Campus Sexual Assault” (Eliza Conrad); “I Wish I Wasn’t in Dixie: Early Voting Restrictions & Black Turnout in North Carolina” (Carl Costa); “Corporate & Citizen Trust of US Government Surveillance in National Security” (Shea Flanagan); “The Polarization of Voting Laws” (William Fricke); “Analyzing Partisanship of Bush vs. Obama Supreme Court Appointees” (Blake Giosa); “A Means to an End: How Lobbyists Form Relationships with CT State Legislature Staff” (Lindsey Heiman); “Invisible Americans: A Legal History of Non-Citizen Nationality and U.S. Empire” (Maye Henning); “Filling the Basket of Deplorables? Donald Trump’s Victory in 2016 Republican Primary” (Peter Hopko) “Democratization Debunked: A Realist Analysis of US Democratization in Bosnia and Iraq” (Ryan Kauer); “Examining the Impact of Women in Local Governance, Social Programs and Female Empowerment in the Asia- Pacific” (Rebecca Kaufman); “Don’t Steal My Seat! Incumbent Vulnerability in U.S. House Elections” (Adam Kuegler); and “Shifting Tectonics: State and Civilian Responses to Secularism in Bangladesh” (Rubayet Lasker).

Pressman’s Efforts to Count Marchers Gain National Attention

A crowd fills Independence Avenue during the Women's March on Washington, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
A crowd fills Independence Avenue during the Women’s March on Washington, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As hundreds of thousands of Americans marched against Donald Trump and for women’s rights in Washington D.C. and elsewhere on the day after the inauguration, many began to wonder what the final count of protestors might be. UCONN Professor Jeremy Pressman and University of Denver Professor Erica Chenowith went a step further, translating various reports of crowd sizes into more valid estimates in real time.

Their efforts began the morning of January 21st, just as marchers were lining up across the country. After Pressman posted a query on Twitter asking “Is there an exact spreadsheet totaling all the marchers in the city today?”, he began to collect the figures himself. Thus while the Associated Press reported late Saturday that “more than 1 million people” rallied in marches across the nation. Pressman and Chenowith put the final number much higher – their best guess was that approximately 4.15 million people participated in the U.S., with another 300,000 participating in other countries.

“The overall number was bigger than I expected,” Pressman told Yahoo News. “We’ve listed several hundred protests and marches across the country…. And we’re being more conservative with the numbers than with the locations.” Reports from cities with no public record documentation to support them were left with blank cells on the spreadsheet; still, most of the numbers were far greater than had been first reported.

Pressman and Chenowith have received national media attention for their work. Pressman in particular was interviewed by Business Insider, Efe News, Fortune, Univision, Vox, and Atlantic. The two professors also documented their work on The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog. For those interested in examining the actual estimate, the document can be found online

Read more about the Department’s latest accomplishments in the Winter 2017 POLS Newsletter.

Former Department Head Gerson Leaves Large Legacy

Louis Gerson
Louis Gerson

Photo Credit: Hearst Connecticut Media

Dr. Louis Gerson, 94, the political scientist and former department head who escaped the Holocaust as a teenager, died on October 16, 2016 in Southbury, CT. Gerson was a central figure in the post World War II development of UCONN; he was also active in local Democratic politics, serving on the Mansfield Democratic committee from 1969-1972. Yet perhaps his greatest legacy was as a member of the political science department – he taught courses over four decades and inspired many students to serve in various offices in Connecticut politics. Dr. Gerson also served as department head from 1967-77, and remained there until he retired in 1988.

Professor Elizabeth Hanson, now a Professor Emerita who still teaches in the political science department, offers her own personal reflections from her time as an assistant professor:

When I first came to UConn many years ago, Lou Gerson was the chair of the political science department. It was the last year of a decade in which he established the foundations of the department as we know it today. It was also a period of expansion. In 1969-70 alone he hired no less than 12 faculty members, most of whom received tenure at UConn and became notable contributors to the field of political science.

Alas, they were all men! In my first two years in the department I was the only woman in the 26-member department on the Storrs campus. Juicy anecdotes might be expected from this experience, but I cannot think of any. Lou was a supportive department head, and he must have set the tone that made me feel not just tolerated but also welcomed. My most vivid memories of Lou are around a table at lunch in the long defunct faculty club. He regaled us with his views on past and current U.S. foreign policy and always stimulated a lively discussion. It felt like we were talking to the Secretary of State and, in fact, I always thought he looked the part.”

Read this story, and more, in the Late Fall edition of the Department Newsletter.

Political Science Welcomes Newest Faculty

Dr. Morse
Dr. Morse
At the department’s annual academic kickoff reception held on August 31, 2016, faculty, staff and students alike welcomed two new faculty members: Dr. Yonatan Morse of Georgetown University, and Dr. Alexander Anievas of Cambridge University.

Dr. Morse joins the department after a three-year stint as Assistant Professor of teaching and Associate Director of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown.  Upon graduating with a Ph.D. from Georgetown in 2013, he  received the Harold N. Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences.  He then went on to publish in such journals as  World Politics, Democratization, and Comparative Politics.  In addition to teaching classes on the politics of Africa and democratization on the Stamford campus, Dr. Morse will also be teaching the required graduate seminar in Quantitative Methods this Fall in Storrs.

Dr. Anievas
Dr. Anievas
Dr. Anievas joins the department after serving as a Levrhulme Early Career Research Fellow in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge.  His research interests in international political economy, postcolonial studies and the origin and development of capitalism gave rise to his first two books: Capital, the State and War (University of Michigan Press, 2014) and How the West Came to Rule: The Geopolitical Origins of Capitalism (Pluto Press, 2015).    The former work garnered him the 2015 Sussex International Theory Prize.

Dr. Anievas will be teaching classes in IR Theory, Globalization and International Political Economy on the Storrs campus.

Read this story, and much more, in the POLS Fall Newsletter!

Historian Beschloss Meets Students, Discusses 2016 Race

Michael BeschlossMichael Beschloss is an award-winning historian, best-selling author, and an Emmy-winning contributor to NBC News and the PBS NewsHour. But perhaps it is his social media prowess that makes him so relatable to young people—with more than 110,000 followers, he has the largest Twitter following of any historian on earth. Prior to giving his talk for the Edmund Fusco Contemporary Issues Forum on April 13, he met with POLS students Lucas Silva Lopez, Samantha Houghton, Marissa Piccolo, and Tim Faucett. What was discussed? Why, the crazy 2016 election, of course.

“Donald Trump appeared on The Apprentice for 14 seasons,” Beschloss told the students. “During those years, an average of between 5 and 20 million people per week watched him. That’s a pretty impressive following with which to start a campaign.” Beschloss also cautioned against making predictions in 2016: “Trump has broken every rule in American politics and survived. Who knows what rules remain to be broken?”

The New York Times Book Review has called Beschloss “easily the most widely recognized Presidential historian in the United States.” Albert Hunt of Bloomberg News has called him “a national treasure.”

He is currently working on a major history of American Presidents and wars from 1812 to the present, which will be published by Crown Publishers in 2017. For The New York Times, Beschloss writes a monthly business history column on Sundays and a weekly sports history column on Saturdays—the first time The New York Times has ever published a regular columnist on either of those subjects.

Read more about recent happenings in the POLS Department in the Spring 2016 Newsletter.

State Department Negotiator Highlighted in Latest POLS Newsletter

Brett H. McGurkThe latest (Winter 2016) POLS Newsletter is out today! It highlights the recent achievements of faculty, undergrads, Grads, and alumni. In this edition, we profile the remarkable career of diplomat Brett H. McGurk (UConn POLS ’96), who skillfully served as President Obama’s lead negotiator in last month’s prison swap with Iran. He is building a reputation for cool, constructive pragmatism in the uneasy realm of foreign policy:

(The following is based on information found in The New York Times and other reports)

Brett H. McGurk (UCONN POLS ’96) was President Obama’s lead negotiator in a secret prisoner swap with Iran last month. By his own account, McGurk choked up as he boarded a Swiss government jet in Geneva on the night of January 16 and greeted three Americans who had just arrived from years of detention in Tehran. More than anyone else, he was responsible for their freedom. “It was an incredibly emotional moment,” he said.

For the 42-year-old lawyer who began his diplomatic career in 2004 as legal advisor to both the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the United States Ambassador in Baghdad, it was a remarkable professional triumph — another chapter in a career that has prospered through Republican and Democratic administrations, and kept him at the heart of America’s most tangled relationships in the Middle East.

Even as Mr. McGurk was meeting furtively with Iranian officials over 14 months to negotiate the release of the Americans, he was leading a very public campaign as Mr. Obama’s special envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State. He continues to be deeply involved in the complex politics of Iraq. The CPA which McGurk once advised was the American civilian administration that ran Iraq in the months after the 2003 invasion. “He’s a doer, who is nonideological, pragmatic, which very much meshes with the president’s approach,” notes Benjamin Rhodes, President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor.

“Over the years, the president has come to trust Brett’s judgment on things,” Rhodes said.

Mr. McGurk was later transferred home to serve as the director for Iraq on the National Security Council. In 2006, he came to President Bush’s attention after being one of the first to advocate a surge of American troops into Baghdad to stabilize what he called a “disintegration” in security. Mr. Bush made Mr. McGurk the lead negotiator of the Status of Forces agreement, which set a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

“He had that combination of knowledge and passion, and then a prodigious work ethic,” said Peter D. Feaver, a professor of political science at Duke.

CNN and NPR Weekend Edition also discussed McGurk’s role in the tense prisoner release negotiations.