Preface to the Proceedings of the University of North Texas Department of Political Science 2010 National Science Foundation Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates

The Program

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 eight 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 31 full time faculty members, the Vivian Castleberry Peace Institute, and the only degree-granting program in peace science in the Southwestern United States, and with some of the most noteworthy scholars in the field of international and civil conflict (as well as 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 the sophistication of their empirical analyses. Eliza Kelly, of the University of North Texas, examines the impact of gender equality on the whether a civil conflict resumes. Using very sophisticated quantitative techniques, particularly proportional hazard analysis, she finds that gender equality enhances peace duration after the end of a civil conflict.

Michael Kennewick, from the Department of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, conducts cutting edge research on the relationship between ethnic conflict and militarized interstate disputes. He theorizes that ethnic civil wars will be more likely to spur international disputes than non-ethnic civil wars, given the presence of a transnational ethnic group. This theory is then empirically tested over the time-period 1945-2001, and, while transactional ethnicity is found to share a positive relationship with international dispute initiation, ethnic civil wars do not.

Minh Mai, of the Department of Philosophy and International Relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, in a path breaking study, examines the understudied relationship between financial institutions and civil conflict, in particular Central Bank independence (CBI) and civil conflict. Using data from 1980 to 2003, he finds that that CBI and the onset of civil conflicts are highly related.

Jacqueline I. Rojas, of the Department of Political Science at Bloomfield College in New Jersey, empirically examines the relationship between globalization and indigenous group violence for 415 indigenous groups in 15 Latin American countries. She finds that higher levels of globalization significantly reduce the propensity for violence; further, the extent to which the political system is “inclusive” via a more proportional electoral system and federalism significantly reduces the propensity for political violence. Her work represents one of the very first systematic studies of globalization and indigenous group violence.

Victor Cheung Yin Chan, from the Departments of Sociology and Economics at the City University of New York-Hunter College, seeks to explain protests in the People’s Republic of China. Using a negative binomial regression model, he finds that the more large cities there are in a province, the higher the level of protests. Second, the more urbanized the province, the higher the level of protest. Third, the larger the number of state-owned enterprises relative to foreign owned enterprises in a province, the lower the frequency of mass incidents. Again his is one of the first studies to examine protest in China, quantitatively.

Daniel McGee, of the Department of Political Science, Xavier University of Louisiana, examines the effects of post-September 11 European counter-terrorism efforts. Using negative binomial regression, he finds that the more comprehensive a counter-terrorist policy, the more casualties are incurred.

Finally the work of Joseph Jones of the University of Arizona and Gene Puerto from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, addresses the issue of regional peacekeeping. Jones’ work examines the effectiveness of peacekeeping efforts in Africa and finds that  humanitarian peacekeeping interventions by regional organizations must be cohesively undertaken with a salient force that encompasses a clear mandate and demonstrates commitment to the mission in order to achieve success. Gene Puerta, of the Departments of Political Science History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on the other hand, investigates why African states choose to contribute to peacekeeping operations on the continent. He argues that factors such as whether national and regional interests are involved are crucial in explaining when a state decides to participate in peacekeeping operations.

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 The Eagle Feather.