Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement's Scholars Day

April 4 - April 7, 2011

Maria Fernanda Aguirre
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ivy Hamerly
Title: Humanitarian Organizations and NGOs in Latin America: The Cases of Mexico and Colombia
          (Department of Political Science)

This paper argues that non-governmental organizations in Latin America, specifically those dealing with human rights, have not lived up to their potential due to the weakness of the states; caused partly by their colonial history and late transition into democracy. Through the study of Colombian and Mexican past political experiences, as well as current national problems, we are able to conclude that the history-state strength-NGO model can offer a successful explanation for existing 'third sector' trends. Using evidence from both countries, we can observe a pattern develop; an increase in state stability and strength leads to a rise in civil society, which fosters the development of NGOs. The result of the investigation is that Mexico's humanitarian sector is more extensive than Colombia's, because of its stronger state. In order to test this method and apply it with more certainty to Latin America, it is suggested that the same study is performed with countries such as Brazil and Argentina. These reports will further prove the theory, or bring forth new explanations for the current trends.

Haley Allee
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ivy Hamerly
Title: The Successes of the Finnish Education Model and Possible Implementation within the Declining American Education System
          (Department of Political Science)

The paper's purpose is to identify what makes the Finnish system of education thrive, and if these elements could be implemented into the struggling American education system. Finland ranks 1st in math and science compared to the U.S. who ranks 26th and 29th respectively. Finland currently spends less than the U.S. on their model and get better results. Finland continues to lead the world in education due to the Finnish government's high standards regarding its education system, such as government expenditure for education (i.e. subsidization for higher education) and stricter requirements for teachers, as well as societal emphasis of getting an education, particularly pertaining to the benefits of education. In regards to this model, it can be applied to the U.S. education system thus helping America regain its competitive edge in education. However, the subsidization for higher education from the national government seems to be the most critical aspect that cannot be implemented, due to difference in government and economic systems.

Jennifer Cook
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dave Bridge
Title: Courting Disaster: Why Dred Scott Was Different from Its Predecessor
          (Department of Political Science)

This paper compares two Supreme Court cases, Groves v. Slaughter (1841) and the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857). The two cases have remarkable similarities. The set of facts in both demonstrated owners transporting slaves from free territories to slave states. Both came off the heels of a presidential election. Even the Justices who presided over the two cases were extraordinary in their ideological makeup. In fact, three Justices were on the bench long enough to hear both cases. If these variables can be held constant, then what accounts for the difference between the two? How did the Court skirt the issue in 1841, but later come to the conclusion that blacks were "so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect"? This paper applies and expands upon the non-majoritarian theory of Supreme Court politics. In sum, the Court could avoid the controversial issue of slavery expansion in Groves because legislative compromise was still possible in 1841. By 1857, though, the actual legislative compromise was an acceptance to let the Court try its hand at the divisive issue. The comparative case study research design allows us to apply the theory to both cases, where we can gain even more traction on the conditions under which we can expect the Court to come to such divisive conclusions. Finally, the conclusion questions the wisdom of a dominant majority coalition choosing to employ the non-majoritarian strategy.

Samantha Jones
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Ivy Hamerly
Title: Changing Norms: How International Humanitarian Organizations Can Do Their Part
          (Department of Political Science)

This paper argues that international humanitarian organizations (IHOs) change international norms by participating as powerful international actors in domestic politics, thereby affecting the cooperation of states to international humanitarian norms. I used three main comparisons to reach my conclusion. The NGOs I compared were International Justice Mission (IJM), Invisible Children, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). By making comparisons of these NGOs, I showed different methods of how each is involved in domestic politics in order to change international norms. As legitimate international actors, IHOs change international norms by exposing human rights violations by states, by helping states to implement international humanitarian law, and by continually advocating for and practicing international humanitarian laws, such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. By challenging counterarguments against the international legitimacy of IHOs, I sought to establish more credibility for these groups. Using cited evidence, my paper proves that states accept norms created and advocated for by IHOs. The involvement of IHOs in domestic politics then becomes an international norm.