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Students Present Research at National Undergraduate Conference

Matthew Wilson giving his presentation at the NCUR.
Senior Matthew Wilson giving his presentation on identity and voting at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Memphis.

For the second year in a row, American University’s School of Public Affairs sponsored six students to attend the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and present their research. The conference, which was hosted by the University of Memphis in Tennessee, promotes undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study.

The six students – Jack Bevacqua SPA/BA’17, Carolyn Turkaly SPA/BA’17, Matthew Wilson SPA/BA’17, Saagar Gupta SPA/BA’18, Mary-Margaret Koch SPA/BA’18, and Hayley Carlisle SPA/BA’19 – presented their research to a wide audience and interacted with students and researchers with similar interests. 

Matthew Wilson, a double major in Political Science and Economics, presented his research on the source of political cohesion within acquired identity groups, and whether in this case, feminists, are politically motivated by their ideology or by other factors such as socio-economic background or educational attainment.

“My study found that the political cohesion among this specific group (women who identify as feminists) is mainly the result of some other source such as the pursuit of a tangible economic benefit,” said Wilson. “Being surrounded by fellow undergraduates who are also passionate about research was an incredible experience. I really enjoyed seeing the application of some of the theories and knowledge I learned in my classes at AU in some of the research projects presented at NCUR.”

Carolyn Turkaly presented her interdisciplinary project on the climate-driven population movement in Bangladesh and Vietnam exploring the gap between the UN’s response to displacement from sea level rise and the response in those two countries. Carolyn worked on her research with an environmental science student and two international relations students.

“NCUR was a great opportunity to strengthen my presentation skills,” said Turkaly. “I had never been to an academic conference before so this was a great way to learn how to present my research, which may be very niche, to a more general audience.”

For Mary-Margaret Koch this was the second year presenting at NCUR.  As a political science and communications major working on mental health among students, she notes that these issues seem disparate but there are connections.

“The techniques used to analyze data from surveys about mental health and surveys about voter turnout are remarkably similar,” said Koch. “Many of the techniques used by campaigns professionals to encourage the electorate to vote on Election Day can also be used to encourage students to utilize mental health services.”

Her research this year focuses on the help-seeking behaviors of first-year college students. “The chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Memphis was the monitor of my session,” said Koch. “He asked a lot of interesting questions and offered a few suggestions of areas for additional research which I would not have thought of had I not had the opportunity to attend!”

Other research included Victims or Victimizers? An Analysis of American Media Perception of Juvenile Delinquency co-presented by Hayley Carlisle, The Crisis of Modernity: Liberal Democracy and the Road Toward Illiberal Democracy in the West by Jack Bevacqua, and Examining Predictive Efficacy of Dropout Risk Factors at a D.C. Charter School by Saagar Gupta.