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AU Student Dissertations and Theses Presentations

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Student Name: Michael Richard Stanaitis

Graduate Level: Doctoral

Field of Study/Major: International Relations

Committee Chair Name: Stephen J. Silvia

Date of Presentation: 07/27/17

Presentation Location: SIS 348

Time of Presentation: 10:00 AM

Title of Dissertation: Trading Spaces: Openness, Deconcentration, and the Great Recession

Abstract: This dissertation presents and develops a theory of global trade openness focused on the impact of global economic deconcentration, whereby national economies move toward increasing equality with respect to economic size. In particular, global economic deconcentration is theorized to impact global trade openness through two causal mechanisms: the disaggregation of production and the diversification of the global trade portfolio.

To assess the theoretical claims of global economic deconcetration against the existing explanations for global trade openness in the scholarly literature, this research employs a multi-method approach. First, this research employs time-series regression analyses using data from 1960-2015 to assess the expectations of global economic deconcentration theory over time. Second, this research presents a case study analysis of the Great Recession using the congruence method, in which the outcomes of the Great Recession are assessed for congruence with the observable expectations of global economic deconcentration. These claims of congruence are assessed against the observable expectations of alternative explanations provided in the scholarly literature and in light of certain standards of causal logic such as spuriousness, causal priority, and causal depth.

All in all, global economic deconcentration is found to outperform alternative explanations for variations in global trade openness over time and during the Great Recession. The final chapter presents a discussion of the theoretical and policy implications of the empirical findings and what global economic deconcentration means for the future of trade openness, particularly given the recent rise of anti-trade populism among developed countries in the West.

Student Name: Raymond Zuniga

Graduate Level: Doctoral

Field of Study/Major: Public Administration

Committee Chair Name: Dr. Dave Marcotte

Date of Presentation: 07/28/17

Presentation Location: Ward 300

Time of Presentation: 9:00 am


Title of Dissertation: Policies Affecting Educational Outcomes in Primary, Secondary, and Postsecondary Education


Abstract: Education policy researchers have long sought to understand how various inputs of the education production function facilitate educational success, especially for traditionally underserved populations. This dissertation examines the effects of three such inputs on educational outcomes using quasi-experimental research methods.


Chapter One uses Current Population Survey data to examine how tuition subsidy policies affect educational attainment and labor supply outcomes for Latino foreign-born noncitizens (i.e. proxy for undocumented youth) in high school. Findings show tuition subsidy eligibility lowers dropout rates, while access to state financial aid programs increases labor supply. Tuition subsidy bans, however, might briefly increase dropout rates following policy adoption. I argue this implies that tuition subsidy policy signals influence educational attainment and labor supply for likely undocumented youth.


Chapter Two uses data from a top-100 private, nonprofit college to examine how assigned academic advisor sex affects academic performance (i.e., GPA and earned credits) and educational planning (i.e. changing majors and persistence). Findings show cross-sex student-advisor matches affect male and female students differently; females perform better academically, while males change educational plans at lower rates. This suggests colleges should employ both male and female advisors.


Finally, Chapter Three uses Texas Education Agency data to examine how a large worksite enforcement operation (LWEO) impacts academic performance for nearby children. Findings show the LWEO lowered reading and math proficiency rates for third graders, and absenteeism likely drives effects. This suggests a need to revise immigration law enforcement strategies to minimize harms inflicted on children while still meeting policy goals.


Student Name: William L. Harder

Graduate Level: Doctoral

Field of Study/Major: Political Science

Committee Chair Name: Patricia Sykes

Date of Presentation: 07/28/17

Presentation Location: Ward 300

Time of Presentation: 1:30 PM

Title of Dissertation: The Administrative Governor and the Parties Environment


Abstract: This dissertation examines how political parties impact an executive's decision to engage in administrative policymaking. Specifically, it explores how five dimensions of a state's parties environment (control, fragility, competition, polarization, and factionalism) influence a governor's use of executive orders as either substitutes or complements to legislative policymaking.

This study proposes a contingent theory of administrative policymaking that suggests executive orders are used both as substitute and complementary goods depending on whether the governor's party also controls the legislature. The theory is tested by employing multi-level modeling on an original dataset of 21,433 gubernatorial executive orders issued by 95 governors serving between 1993 and 2010.

During periods of divided government, the nature of a state's political parties is shown to incentivize governors to use executive orders as substitutes to legislative policymaking. Alternately, during periods of unified government the nature of a state's political parties has no significant impact on the use of executive orders. A case study of mental health reform in New Jersey reveals evidence of complementary use during periods of unified government. This case illustrates that in certain hospitable environments administrative actions can be successfully coupled with legislative actions to produce coordinated and directed policy change.


Student Name: Ari A. Cohen

Graduate Level: Doctoral

Field of Study/Major: Justice, Law, and Criminology

Committee Chair Name: Richard Bennett

Date of Presentation: 08/08/17

Presentation Location: Ward 300

Time of Presentation: 10:00am

Title of Dissertation: Maritime Crime, Targeted Intervention, and the Diffusion of Guardianship

Abstract: The foundation for this case study is a U.S. Government (USG) policy initiative and intervention which provided 25 high performance patrol vessels, maritime domain awareness technology, and requisite training to the Bangladesh Coast Guard (BCG) in order to support their counter-piracy efforts, particularly in the Chittagong Anchorage and Port. Prior to the inception of this policy intervention, Chittagong was an acknowledged piracy hot spot, with the International Maritime Bureau calling Bangladesh's main commercial port "the world's most dangerous" because of its high levels of piracy and maritime criminal activity.

However, after the USG began to provide materiel, technology, and training support to the BCG in mid-2010, the number of reported pirate attacks against international merchant vessels in the Chittagong Anchorage and Port fell, on average, by 45.1% annually. USG support also enabled the BCG to increase criminal apprehensions by 112% and the value of illicit goods seized by almost 17 times on an average annual basis. With additional patrol boats and technology, the BCG was able to patrol the Chittagong Anchorage and Port area more intensively and effectively, reducing piracy by providing increasingly capable guardianship over suitable targets and effectively deterring motivated offenders (See Routine Activities Theory). Similar to previous urban, land-based studies of hot spot police interventions, the BCG was able to make a substantive impact on piracy in the Chittagong Anchorage through the effective integration of USG provided patrol vessels and technology into an intensive program of patrol and visible deterrence.