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Political Science Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research is an integral part of the Fordham educational experience. To advance students’ methodological training, political science majors are expected to gain familiarity with political science theories and methods in the introductory-level course Introduction to Politics, strengthen their research skills by taking a methods intensive course, and complete a research paper in an interdisciplinary capstone course.

Political science majors are strongly encouraged to take advantage of various academic resources inside and outside the university to facilitate their engagement in undergraduate research. Fordham College at Rose Hill and Fordham College at Lincoln Center provide research grants to support undergraduate research under the mentorship of a faculty member.

Moreover, political science majors can pursue a wealth of opportunities to present their research at various academic venues, including

In addition, undergraduate students are encouraged to explore opportunities for publishing the results of their original research. The Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal is a prime outlet for multidisciplinary research undertaken by Fordham students.

The Fordham Political Review (FPR) is Fordham University’s only undergraduate publication dedicated to politics, economics, social sciences, international affairs, and culture. All articles are written and edited by Fordham undergraduate students. In addition to producing a print issue once each semester, FPR publishes all articles to its website and maintains a vibrant social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. FPR strives to provide a channel for opinionated and ambitious students through which they can make their voices heard. Professor Nicholas Tampio serves as a faculty advisor for the student-run publication. You can review the guidelines for submissions and email your query to fpr@fordham.edu.

Research Highlights

Megan Farr, FCRH 2022

Megan Farr, Political Science Undergraduate Research Highlights.

Major: Political Science; Theology and Religious Studies
Minor: History
Project Title: “Lesbians in ACT UP: How ACT UP’s Coalition-Building Led to Diversification of Protest Tactics”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Olena Nikolayenko

Describe your research project

My research focuses on the role of lesbians and women in the ACT UP movement of the 1980s and 1990s, specifically how the previous activist experiences of women and lesbians contributed to the diverse protest tactics ACT UP employed. I use qualitative data from the ACT UP Oral History Project to analyze how women and lesbians viewed their role in the movement, and how they brought their passions and experiences to bear in ACT UP. I find three elements to be important to ACT UP’s coalition with the lesbian community: previous and additional activist experiences helped women and lesbians identify with the ACT UP movement; female and lesbian identities were a way to form collectives within the broader ACT UP movement; and previous experience from the feminist and women’s health movements acted as a basis for many of the actions ACT UP planned, as well as the outlook of its members.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

The most important thing I learned while doing undergraduate research is the importance of letting the project evolve as you do more research and not trying to pin it down to your original idea. My research question/argument at the end of my research is rarely exactly the same as my original question, and that’s okay! It’s more important to follow what interests you as you start researching than to stay strictly within the framework of your original question.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

I would tell other political science majors interested in doing research that they should be bold when asking professors for advice about doing research or when asking professors to advise their research. When I participated in undergraduate research, I emailed a professor I had never met before to ask for her advice, and she ended up offering to be my research advisor! Use your professors as a resource – they want to help you explore things you’re interested in!

Caitlyn Humann, FCRH 2022

Caitlyn Humann, Political Science Undergraduate Research Highlights.

Major: Political Science, Mathematics
Minor: German
Project Title: “The Criminal Justice Reform Movement in New York: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Olena Nikolayenko

Describe your research project

Prison reform has been a contentious issue in the United States since the eighteenth century. Yet, despite the countless attempts to reform the prison system, many Americans believe that people are put into prisons that are unfit to live in. Punishments on a racial bias, inhumane living conditions, and increased risk of reincarceration are just some flaws of the American prison system. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first reported to have infected a New Yorker in March 2020, inaction by government officials is more troubling than ever before as the virus continues to spread throughout ill-equipped correctional facilities. Many advocates say that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s actions don’t match his redemptive tone.

My research investigates how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the success of the Criminal Justice Reform Movement in New York, specifically regarding Governor Cuomo’s recently proposed Criminal Justice Reform legislation. Drawing on qualitative data from 2018 to 2021 regarding various criminal justice reform advocacy groups and NYS legislation, this analysis uncovers how various criminal justice reform advocacy groups have changed their claim-making as a result of COVID-19. This study contributes to social movement literature by underscoring the importance of claim making in explaining a social movement outcome.

In the spring of 2021, I made a poster presentation at the Undergraduate Research Symposium at Fordham College-Rose Hill and showcased main findings from the project.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

While doing undergraduate research, I learned the crucial role that social media plays in today’s social movements. Interestingly, many advocates recognized the COVID-19 public health crisis as creating a “natural experiment” in policing and criminal justice policy as cities and states struggle to deal with the pandemic in jails and prisons. While they see this as a moment of opportunity in the long movement to end mass incarceration and secure equal justice, it is still a moment of obvious threat to incarcerated people, their families and their communities.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

Undergraduate research gives us, students, an opportunity to immerse ourselves in a topic that we might not get to in the classroom setting, so I encourage all political science majors to do research. My advice is to be flexible and open to changing the direction of your research. You might find that as you research your initial question, you raise a new question that is more interesting. Although it might seem like more work to shift your focus after starting data collection, it is likely worth it.

Andrew Millman, FCRH 2022

Andrew Millman, Political Science Undergraduate Research Highlights.

Major: Political Science
Minor: English & American Studies
Project Title: “The Tyranny of Their Mirrors: Social Backgrounds and Variations in Conservative Judicial Philosophies”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Robert Hume

Describe your research project

My research project sought to assess the dissimilarities in the judicial philosophies and voting of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court. To do so, I looked at how often each justice joined the opinions of other conservative justices or were joined by their fellow conservatives in their own opinions over the course of several terms. Through this, I was able to show how much each justice tended to agree with their fellow conservatives, yielding some interesting insights, particularly regarding Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

I learned that while the public often treats Supreme Court justices of the same ideological bloc as all the same, there is actually a great deal of differences between them, especially when their views are contrasted on specific issues.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

There’s no reason your interest in a topic discussed in a class has to end when the semester ends. If something intrigues you, there are faculty members eager to help and support you pursue that interest to the fullest extent, as well as opportunities, such as the Undergraduate Research Symposium at FCRH, to share that work.

The research symposium provided a clear goal for my research as a platform to share my research with a broader audience of students and academics interested in similar topics. It can be a very solitary experience conducting research on your own, but the ability to share the product of that work with a community of peers was really rewarding.

Gabrielle Rivera, FCRH 2022

Gabrielle Rivera, Political Science Undergraduate Research Highlights.

Major: Political Science and International Studies
Minor: Spanish
Project Title: “The Impact of Liberation Theology on Mass Mobilization: Findings from the Philippines”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Olena Nikolayenko

Describe your research project

My research focused on the ongoing political protests in the Philippines in response to the controversial Anti-Terror Law of June 2020. The study explored the relationship between religion and political participation, and in the case of the Philippines, this project analyzed the role of the Catholic Church and Liberation Theology in a society. During the protests I monitored, recorded, and analyzed the responses of the religious community of the Philippines in regards to the new law and COVID-19 restrictions. I found that religious leaders were vocal about their political beliefs and democratic values and presented the findings from this research at the 2021 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

This research project allowed me to combine my own personal interest in Filipino politics with the knowledge I had learned in my Social Movements and Revolutions class, and I believe that the merits of conducting research while an undergraduate allows one to marry a wide variety of interests into a focused and clear project. My research also allowed me to connect the unfolding events I saw across the world in summer of 2020 as part of a global movement based in the power of protest and collective action. Doing research allowed me to feel closer to my home country of the Philippines and its politics.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

My advice to fellow political science majors interested in doing research is to not doubt themselves and the subjects that make them feel impassioned. The idea of conducting research does not have to feel as formal and stuffy as one might assume from observing others conduct research, it is truly an activity that asks for a unique perspective on political events or processes and your own particular interest can always have a political aspect to it. Research in political science can be so open ended and inviting to insert your own unique perspectives into it.

Gianna Tilocca, FCRH 2021

Gianna Tilocca Political Science Undergraduate Research Profile Head Shot.

Major: Political Science, Middle East Studies
Minor: History
Project Title: “Analyzing the Humanitarian Impact of the United States’ Sanctions Apparatus: The Case Study of Syria”
Faculty Mentor: Professor John Entelis

Describe your research project

My research focuses on the humanitarian effects of United States sanctions on Syria after the Civil War in 2011. Using a framework developed by the United Nations, I analyzed the humanitarian impacts of petroleum sanctions in Northwestern Syria. I used a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods in order to paint a full picture of the humanitarian situation. My research yielded interesting insights into how even the most targeted sanctions programs have unintended and often negative humanitarian consequences.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

The most important thing I learned during my research was to not become too attached to one particular outcome. I am incredibly passionate about the topic I chose and wanted to prove definitively that sanctions programs have devastating humanitarian consequences. However, I did not find compelling evidence I was looking for. My research took on a life of its own, and that is OK! As an undergraduate student, it is absolutely OK not to have all the answers.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

Have the courage to ask for what you want! If you want to interview an expert in the field, you should go for it. I took a leap of faith and asked the former CIA director (and proud Fordham alum!) John Brennan if he would be willing to chat about my research after he visited one of my classes. To my surprise, he said yes. It is so important to advocate for yourself if you are interested in doing research. More often than not, people will be willing to help!

Julia Tuck, FCRH 2022

Julia Tuck, Political Science Undergraduate Research Highlights.

Major: Political Science
Research Project: “Human Rights Abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Melissa Labonte

Describe your research project

As a political science major, I am keenly interested in the study of human rights. In an effort to advance my understanding of the topic, I have recently participated in the 18th Northwestern University Community for Human Rights (NUCHR) conference. This three-day conference highlighted strategies and tools of human rights activists and featured speakers who are spearheading movements for change across the world. As the only delegate from Fordham University, I was fortunate to actively engage with experts involving various movements such as the Landless Workers’ Movement, Prison and Asylum Reform, and Radical Change Movement, and incorporate these ideas into my own research on human rights struggles. I was particularly inspired by Julian Falconer, a constitutional and human rights lawyer, who unveiled the social and political ills of our time. He shed light on the court systems and the idea of anti-indigenous racism embedded at local and federal levels.

The specific project I am in the process of completing for the International Politics of Civilian Protection course examines human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the effects of violence on Congolese refugees. The project investigates how colonization, civil wars, and disputes over mineral acquisitions have exacerbated the current political situation and the persistence of violence. I retrieve data from the websites of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

As a result of my participation in the NUCHR conference, I learned many important things. One of the most valuable learning points I took away from it is that it is important to speak up and express your viewpoint. I noticed that sometimes people shy away from having meaningful conversations about problems faced in modern times. However, I believe that the study of human rights politics is an important subject which needs to be better understood and discussed. My research allowed me to validate and ensure my own viewpoint in the broader context of others.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

My advice for political science majors interested in doing research is to seek out opportunities and believe in yourself. Additionally, it is key to stay committed to a chosen topic and analyze all aspects of it. I recall coming across ideas that were vastly different from one another and would have to figure out my own perspective. After the work is then completed, it is equally important to be bold and put your perspective forward for consideration and debate.

Brianna Wagner, FCRH 2021

Brianna Wagner Political Science Undergraduate Research Head Shot.

Major: Political Science
Minor: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Project Title: “Youth Political Engagement on Instagram”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Olena Nikolayenko

Describe your research project

After the murder of George Floyd last May, millions of Americans burst into street protests. Instagram became an outlet for this rage, and provided a platform for political discussions and organizing. I became intrigued by the sudden rise in political content popping up in my Instagram feed, the majority of which came from people my age. I decided to investigate this phenomenon and recruited participants for my study. I conducted 17 in-depth interviews with undergraduate students in the northeast. The participants were asked a series of questions that prompted them to talk about their political engagement on Instagram, and how race, gender, and prior political interest might influence the political content they post as well as the frequency of their political posts. For this study, I had several criteria for political engagement, including posting or reposting about political or social justice issues, following accounts related to politics or social justice issues, and encouraging followers to vote or sign petitions.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

When it comes to social media, it is extremely easy to get stuck in an echo chamber. While it is reassuring to exist in a community of like-minded people, I think it is important to challenge your views as well. Listening to opinions that conflict with your own and sitting in some discomfort is how we learn. I think the most interesting part of my research project was hearing the different perspectives on how my participants use Instagram politically. Conducting research allowed me to talk with people that have different perspectives than my own. Despite the varying opinions I heard in the interviews, one common opinion among my respondents was that the murder of George Floyd marked a shift in the political use of Instagram. Many of my participants said that Instagram served as a platform for organizing protests and facilitating conversations about social justice issues. For some of them, this participation translated offline as well in the form of attending protests. I found this important because it shows how Instagram can be used to increase political engagement among youth online and offline.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

My advice to political science majors considering research would be to just do it. I had no experience conducting a study prior to this year, but the guidance of Professor Nikolayenko proved to be a great help. If you are passionate about a particular subject, it will be rewarding in the end.

Samantha Wong, FCRH 2022

Samantha Wong Political Science Undergraduate Research Head Shot.

Major: Economics
Minor: Political Science; Mandarin
Project Title: “The Future of NYC Mandarin Chinese Bilingual Programs”
Faculty Mentor: Professor Nicholas Tampio

Describe your research project

The purpose of the project is to conduct a qualitative analysis of recent developments in Chinese dual language bilingual education programs in New York City. Using such concepts as multiculturalism and bilingualism, this project seeks to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. I intend to interview students and teachers in these programs to gauge their sense of belonging. A higher sense of belonging has been linked to greater intrinsic learning and academic achievement, something important for English Language Learners (ELL) students. The aim of this project is to provide empirical support for the NYC Department of Education to continue to develop and fund the Chinese dual language bilingual education program.

What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?

The most important thing I learned is that people are extremely important resources. Reaching out to different people and listening to their inputs helped me enhance my research skills, refine the direction of my research and overcome some barriers. Through the process of applying for Fordham’s Summer Undergraduate Research Grant, I had an opportunity to speak to many different people and get their feedback, which helped propel my project into the right direction.

What advice do you have for political science majors interested in doing research?

Start early and do not be afraid to reach out to professors in different fields! Even though my research is policy focused, it has taken drawn on psychology literature and informed my research and the findings.