The Political Science Department has always sought to attract a talented and diverse applicant pool to its PhD program.  Hosting a group of nine promising young scholars and their faculty mentors from all over the country this past September is a great example of this effort.  The purpose of the Emerging Scholars Conference, which was initiated last year, is to encourage talented and capable students who come from backgrounds that have been traditionally underrepresented in academia to consider pursuing a PhD in political science, especially at the University of Michigan.  These scholars are currently pursuing or have already completed an undergraduate degree or are currently enrolled in a master’s program.  They hail from institutions all over the United States, from places like the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at El Paso, Rutgers University, and the University of Toledo in Ohio.  

The conference was held over the course of three days, from September 20th to 22nd.  Each scholar was paired with one or two current graduate student who played host for three days.  This gave attendees the opportunity to preview the academic and social life of a graduate student at the University of Michigan.   The main event of the conference was held on the second day and consisted of each scholar’s presentation of their own research.  Each scholar was allotted approximately 45 minutes, which included the formal presentation, followed by a brief period where faculty and graduate students were given the opportunity to ask questions or provide constructive feedback.  Projects were diverse in its goals, consisting of ongoing senior honors theses, master theses, collaborative work with faculty mentors, or research papers that scholars continued to pursue after completing their undergraduate degree.  Projects also reflected diversity in terms of content, with each presentation addressing one of the three following themes:  The Politics of Social Mobility in Comparative Perspective, Old and New Media Politics in the United States, and Power and Conflict Within and Between States.  Below is a short summary of each scholar’s presentation.

Anna Haro‘s “Gender Construction in Mexico’s Elementary Governmental Textbooks” is her ongoing master’s thesis, which explores how gender stereotyping in government-sponsored elementary school textbooks in Mexico may influence political socialization among children.

Vivian Ekey’s “Do Non-Profit College Entry Exam Preparatory Programs Impact the Sociocultural and Political Engagement of Participants?” outlines her research plans to evaluate the effectiveness of exam preparatory courses in expanding access of poor and working class Brazilians to institutions of higher education.

Butheina Hamdah’s “Speaking for Themselves: Identifying and Assessing the Multiple Waves of Feminism in Post-Arab Spring Egypt” reflects her research interests in Middle Eastern affairs and particularly around the social and political prospects for women in the Middle East. Her presentation centered on the status of women in the post-Arab Spring Middle East.

Julia Marisol Cramer’s “Finding Their Voice: Minority Perceptions of Media Bias and Their Effect on Political Participation” concerns minority perceptions of media bias and their effects on political participation in the 2008 election.

Megan Maldonado’s “Political Discourse and the Racial Gap in American Politics: 1900-2012” examines the contours of media discourse about racial inequality and, in particular, shifts over time in the way minority elites frame the causes of racial gaps.

Ashley Turacek’s “The Digital Commons and Copyright: The Conflict between Property Rights and Free Speech” is from her honor’s thesis, which explores the Safe Harbor Act, the legal consciousness of website owners and the individuals posting material, and their divergent constructions of rights claims.

Abena Amparbeng’s “Women and Executive Power: Citizen’s Views of Women Executives in Ghana and Liberia” is from her honor’s thesis research, which is comprised of field research on women in executive power in Ghana and Liberia and an analysis of Afrobarometer public opinion data.

Delisha Thompson’s “A Comparison of Ethnocentrism and Racism in France and the U.S.” outlines her plans for an honor’s thesis on racism and ethnocentrism as distinct predictors of policy preferences in France and the United States.

Peter Kim’s “A Case for Economic Interdependence: The Strains of China’s Rise on North Korea’s Nuclear Options” is from his honor’s thesis research, which examines how China’s economic growth since 1995 has affected U.S. policy responses to the North Korean nuclear threat.

The Conference ended with a farewell brunch and Professor Mika Lavaque-Manty providing valuable advice to the scholars about navigating the process of applying to political science PhD programs.  Hopefully, these scholars will give the University of Michigan serious consideration when they start the application process.  However, regardless of the endeavors they choose to pursue, these talented individuals have a bright future ahead of them.

The Emerging Scholars Conference, in its second year, was funded by Rackham’s Diversity Grants for Faculty Allies.  It is a new initiative by the Graduate School to fund innovations at the departmental level for diversifying and improving graduate programs in the areas of admission, mentoring, retention, and placement.  Scholars were selected on the basis of their potential and promise in scholarly research in political science.  There were many more students and faculty interested in attending this year than the department was able to invite, and thus the selection process was highly competitive. Many faculty members and graduate students devoted much of their effort and time into organizing this conference, and this widespread participation is another wonderful sign for the department.  The organizers (Rob Mickey, Pam Brandwein, Nick Valentino, Hakeem Jefferson and Vanessa Cruz) would also like to express their sincere gratitude to those who volunteered as hosts and to the many faculty who attended the events throughout the weekend.