Neon lights, casinos and political scientists? This month, Las Vegas, AKA Sin City, will host the Western Political Science Associationâ€™s annual conference, which for the first time has given undergraduates a unique opportunity. Ten political science and international relations students from the University of San Diego have been chosen to present their research proposals and receive feedback at the upcoming conference.
This is the first year the WPSA allowed undergraduates to submit their work, and more students from USD were chosen than from any other college.
The WPSA is a consortium of more than 1,400 political scientists headquartered at California State University, Sacramento. For scholars, the conference offers a place that provides feedback on their work before they submit it to academic journals.
The conference provides constructive criticism for undergraduates as well, but also gives some students a chance to hone their public speaking skills when they present their proposals.
Each of the ten students chosen to participate took political science professor Casey Dominguezâ€™s (pictured at top) capstone class last fall. In the class they developed their own theories, hypothesis and research designs. Most of the students’ proposals stemmed from their senior thesis. The topics explore current political problems ranging from cultural imperialism in Africa to the exploitation of art in America.
For his proposal, senior Christopher Magnum investigated the gender bias coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign.
â€œMost people donâ€™t think sexism is still a relevant topic for discussion,â€ said Magnum, â€œThe truth is women and men are perceived, and thereby treated, differently.â€
Magnum believes Hilary Clinton provides a â€œprimeâ€ example of a women receiving different treatment because she attempted to break out of her traditional gender role. He also feels his theory fits perfectly into the 2009 conference theme of â€œIdeas, Interests, and Institutions.â€
â€œThe ideas that shape our societyâ€™s gender have a direct impact on our governmental institutions,â€ Magnum said.
Magnum credits Dominguez for motivating him to submit his proposal. â€œWe all proposed projects because of Dominguez and for Dominguez,â€ he said. â€œNone of us were required to write proposals, but she did a good job convincing us that it would be a worthwhile experience.â€
The students will attend the Las Vegas conference from March 19 to 22.
â€” Anthony Shallat