Two Politics majors from the Class of 2018 traveled to Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Saturday, April 21st to present their undergraduate research theses to the New England Political Science Association’s annual conference. Both Erica Hudson ’18 and Clare Robbins ’18 were a part of a panel that focused on the intersections of race and gender with politics.
Professor Lucas and others in the Politics Department encouraged Hudson and Robbins to apply to the conference after reading their senior theses. Both of them were selected from a large pool of applicants. Professors at the conference said the process was highly selective.
Erica Hudson’s research focused on gender differences in various forms of government in post-Soviet states. The nature of her topic made the research process difficult for Hudson. She said, “I had to find data from the Soviet Era, much of which was only available in semi-rare books that I received through inter-library loan.”
She also shed light on the difficulties for International Relations majors in conducting research. “The South Caucasus region is the most linguistically diverse in the world, so data and papers I was finding were in Armenian, Arabic, Russian, etc. I often found myself wishing I could speak even just one of these languages,” Hudson explained.
Clare Robbins’ research focused on the political participation of Native American women. Robbins explained her passion for this issue. “Native American women are a group of people that have been oppressed for hundreds of years and little has been done about it,” she said. “I wanted to learn more and listen to their stories.” Even though she did a lot of listening, Robbins was cognizant of the complex relationship between white Americans and those indigenous to the United States.
The nature of the relationship provided complications for Robbins who found that Native American women were often unwilling to share their experiences. “The research process was difficult, especially because I was conducting interviews. People are not always willing to sit down and speak for something that may be published or shared publicly, which is understandable,” she said. The one interview she was able to do required Robbins drive for a few hours in snow and sleet.
“I think the most important thing I learned over the course of this experience was that I cannot speak for this group of people, but I can learn from their experiences,” Robbins said when asked about the most important thing she learned from her research.
Attendees of the conference asked questions of both Hudson and Robbins. These questions ranged from the generalizability of their research and the complexities of their research methodologies to questions about their passion for their research topics.
Hudson said the positive feedback she received at the conference was encouraging. She may even continue her research in the future, she said. “I received some great feedback, so I am definitely tempted to continue research, even if I pick it back up later on in graduate school,” she explained. Robbins is not planning on continuing her research on the topic but said that if she goes to graduate school, it is something she would consider.
Hudson also presented her research at a similar conference in Chicago, Illinois earlier this month.