On Jan. 15, several students from the Florida Southern Political Science department travelled to New Orleans to present their original research at the annual Southern Political Science Association (SPSA) conference.
The SPSA conference primarily features research presentations from PhDs and graduate students, but there are a few panels for undergraduates, including those from Florida Southern.
Covering a range of topics from marriage laws to the problem of American criminal recidivism, these students represented their department and college exceptionally well. Each student presented his or her research before a panel of professors from other universities – including Valdosta State University and the University of Arkansas – who then gave each presenter feedback.
Kassandra Galvez, a junior political science major, presented two academic papers at the conference. The first one, “What is the Most Effective Form of Coercive Diplomacy in Modern International Relations?”, was co-authored with fellow students Jon Klos, Matthew Geras and Braden Davis; and the second, “How to Produce John Locke’s Unbiased Adjudicator,” she wrote and presented solo.
“I had such an amazing time at the SPSA,” Galvez said. “After working last semester on my Honorization paper, it was a really unique experience to present the paper and get feedback from the chair and discussant.”
Galvez also stated, “While the conference was very nerve-racking, I was able to network and gain experience at a well-respected conference. I believe these conferences are good for undergrads because it allows the student to not only gain experience presenting in their field, but also to network.”
Indeed, professors and graduate students from across the country – not just the South – represented their various universities in New Orleans. This proximity to potential colleagues and mentors was a great opportunity for Florida Southern’s political science majors.
Political Science Professor Bruce Anderson, who accompanied his students to the SPSA conference, said, “A major goal in this department is to give every student the opportunity to present research at a national forum. We believe in undergraduate research, and we have gone to conferences every year for the past five years.”
“There is far more undergraduate research done at Florida Southern than at other institutions,” Anderson said. “Our advantage is that we include everyone. Places like the University of Florida are very competitive for undergraduate research. The quality of the research being done here reflects the same quality as that of any honors college. We also maintain a personal connection with each student, which gives them the guidance and freedom they need.”
Political Science Professor Kelly McHugh, who also attended the SPSA conference and presented her own research, stated, “Both of our classes [hers and Dr. Anderson’s] focus on preparing students to present at a conference. We train them in professional scholarship.”
In the Political Science department, McHugh explained, “It is also built in to the curriculum where every student takes at least one class in which he or she writes a major research paper, which can then be presented at a conference.”
Anderson added, “It’s currently an informal requirement, which may soon be formalized, that every student will have presented or published original research. We are meeting that goal 90 percent of the time.”
Next year, Florida Southern will play host to the Florida Political Science Association’s annual conference, with McHugh presiding as the arrangements chair.
It is clear that the Political Science department exemplifies Florida Southern’s commitment to both academic excellence and experiential learning.