Preface to the Joint Proceedings of the University of North Texas Department of Political Science National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates and the American Political Science Association Undergraduate Research Fellows Program

Program Description

Given the growing frequency of civil conflicts in the world, and the security concerns these conflicts engender for the United States in the 21st century, the development of human capital that is equipped to deal with these challenges is critical for the national security of the country. The Department of Political Science at the University of North Texas (UNT) initiated a unique program to provide 10 undergraduate students (recruited from across the country) the opportunity to engage in graduate-level research in conflict management and peace studies, in a senior faculty-mentored, in-residence, eight- week, Summer Research Experience (SRE) that integrates training in civil conflict management with training in propositional calculus and computer simulation skills. Participants used propositional calculus and simulations to develop theoretical propositions that will be tested empirically. Participants collected and analyzed empirical data and will report their findings in a national professional political science conference. Activities included workshops on computer simulations, research methodology, and the graduate school application process. There were also activities designed to build a sense of research community among students, faculty, and graduate student mentors. 

The political science department at UNT is ideally positioned to offer such a program. With 27 full time faculty members, the department is home to the Vivian Castleberry Peace Institute and the only degree granting program in peace science in the Southwestern United States. Additionally, with some of the most noteworthy scholars in the field of international and civil conflict (as well as having faculty with substantial experience in managing undergraduate research programs), the UNT Department of Political Science is very well equipped to offer an REU on conflict management and peace science. 

The Papers

The collection of papers in this issue of The Eagle Feather is distinguished by their level of quality, and by sophistication of their empirical analyses.

 Dellea Copeland of St. Edwards University in San Antonio, Texas, examines the relationship between different types of authoritarian regimes and the decision made by opposition forces to engage in peaceful or conflictual resistance.  She finds that different types of regimes raise the probability of one form of collective action over another.

 Inanna Craig-Morse of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, investigates the question as to whether third party intervention affects conflict intensity. She finds that strong interventions, rather than weak interventions, lead to longer and more severe conflicts.

 Joshua Counselman of Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio, examines the effects of protest on democratic progress. He finds that violent protests and larger protests are less likely to cause democratic progress while more widespread protests and longer protests are more likely to lead to democratic progress.

Nicholas Dietrich of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign tests the effect of popular state support on civil conflict onset using World Values Survey data to measure support across a sample of 69 countries. He finds that decreased support for a regime significantly increases the likelihood of civil conflict breaking out in subsequent years.

Derick Fan of the University of Houston, attempts to demonstrate that higher levels of political and fiscal decentralization deter the onset of intrastate-armed conflict. Using a rare events logistic regression model, he analyzes this relationship.

Frances Reka Fink of the University of North Texas examines the impact the size of a peace keeping force has on promoting peace duration. She examines 1,077 peace spells following civil wars and establishes a relationship between the size of peacekeeping forces as a percentage of population and the likelihood of peace failure.

 Aerik Francis of the University of Chicago investigates in his paper the extent to which social trust is affected by racial marginalization in Brazil. Using ordered logit regression tests, he examines relationships between racial marginalization, social trust, and affirmative action, and finds that racial marginalization is related to lower social trust in Brazil.

Sarah Hayden of the University of Kentucky examines the relationship between legitimacy and support for military rule. Using data from the World Values Survey she tests the notion that when the perception of legitimacy is lower, the desire for military intervention will be higher. She finds some surprising results that challenge the existing literature.

Deva Kellam of the University of North Texas investigates the process by which former combatants reconcile. Using machine coded textual analysis of parliamentary debates in Kenya after the violence in 2007, she finds that that education, party affiliation, and temporal distance from the conflict all have a positive influence on individual orientations towards reconciliation.

Greyson Mann, in a timely paper, examines the impact of Chinese foreign aid on human rights performance in the developing world. Studies of western aid have suggested that aid helps promote human rights performance. This paper tests whether Chinese foreign aid has the same effect.

Finally, Colin Wood, of the University of North Texas, tests the relationship between colonial legacies and the likelihood of genocides and politicides. He demonstrates convincingly that different types of colonial legacies are related to the brutality seen in current conflicts, particularly mass killings and genocide.

In sum, the following papers represent some of the best in undergraduate scholarship in political science and peace science. It is with great pride that we present to you these pieces in this special section of The Eagle Feather.