Apr 19, 2019 | Atlanta, GA
Kayleigh Haskin, a double-major in the School of History and Sociology and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, and William “Alex” Emken and Sarah Moore, both fourth-year International Affairs students, were recognized this past April 9 at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) Spring Symposium.
For her oral presentation entitled "Seeing Red: American Tourism to the Eastern Bloc, 1960-1975," Kayleigh received the Oustanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. Alex also received the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for his paper "Russia in the Near Abroad: Where Next?". Sarah Moore won the Best Overall Poster Presentation for her project titled, "U.S. Humanitarian Intervention in Bosnia and Somalia: A Case Comparison." Both Alex and Sarah created these assignments in the INTA 4500 International Affairs Pro-Seminar course.
Alex (on right in photo) and Sarah took the required INTA 4500 course this past fall with Dalton Lin (on left in photo), an assistant professor in the Nunn School. Students were expected to build up their research portfolios and produce a significant deliverable that could be presented to future employers or graduate schools. The objective of the course was to ensure that students could demonstrate their capabilities of rigorous reasoning that are required for whatever career paths they are pursuing, be the academic research, decision-making in the private sector, or policy evaluation in government.
The capstone course also tried to hone students' presentation skills--the course requirements included in-class powerpoint presentations, participation in a poster session, and preparing "elevator pitches" of students' research that would grab a viewer's interest and start a conversation within a minute.
Sarah’s award is a good vindication of the importance of refining one’s presentation skills. Her poster shows the mastery of effective communication. Instead of using many words, she used six tables to succinctly explain her research question, background information, dependent and independent variables, findings, analyses, and implications.
Sarah research focused on U.S. intervention in humanitarian crises to look at how other countries actions can help or hinder the situation. She used Somalia (a failure) and Bosnia (a success) as case studies to look at how critical differences in these situations led to different outcomes. “I think this issue is important because millions of lives are at stake when we do not appropriately address a genocide, and the outcome of one policy can impact what the U.S. chooses to do when a similar situation arises,” said Sarah Moore.
Alex's research dealt with a significant and complicated issue: what explains Russia's choices of targets of aggression in its near abroad. His research showed his deft research design skills that enable him to control a lot of confounding factors and highlight the impacts of a few necessary conditions. He designed a table to concisely illustrate his findings: neighboring countries with these necessary conditions' values flipped to positive are way more likely to suffer from Russia's aggression. Alex's research is a great example of the mastery of rigorous research design and effective presentation.
“The capstone course was a great experience, and I think that it’s good to have that standardized requirement for all Nunn School undergrads because increasingly, the ability to do research independently is important and the class is a great training tool for that,” said Alex Emken.
In the fall, the INTA 4500 International Affairs Pro-Seminar course changed its structure to be more project-based. In prior years, faculty could pick the topic of choice for the course. Past courses focused on International Law, International Cooperation, and the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). “It now serves the purpose of a capstone course, which is for students to apply all the skills and knowledge developed during their four years at Georgia Tech. It also presents an opportunity for the School to showcase the work of students at competitions because we have candidates and products to nominate, and the outcomes show that we are doing a pretty good job,” said Dalton Lin.