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Thinking Global: BYU Political Review January 2016

BYU Political Review, January 2016

BYU Political Review, January 2016

As we kick off a particularly tumultuous presidential election year, we feel a palpable shift toward domestic policy issues and away from international problems (unless they are related to terror or immigration). The recent passing of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will only amplify this trend, with President Obama’s political legacy and America’s sharp partisan divide hanging in the balance.

However, the first 2016 issue of BYU Political Review draws attention to many significant international events that are often glazed over in our 24-hour news cycle. From the editor and senior at BYU, Andrew Jensen, “We’ve dedicated this issue of the Political Review to exploring current events across the world. Our staff writers and student contributors have done an excellent job writing about some of the most essential global developments and events that are shaping humanity’s future.”

The review considers issues from Iranian politics to the implications of both exporting and importing democratic ideals. One student, Soren J. Schmidt, penned his opinion of the Syrian refugee crisis and subsequent potential American policies, while adding compelling statistics about the current refugee screening process.

“Since 9/11, the US has admitted 750,000 refugees from various war-torn regions. Of those, a total of two have ever been associated with terrorist activity, and even then only indirectly,” Schmidt writes. “By any measure, that is a remarkable rate of success—indicative, I think, of both the usually innocent intentions of those fleeing conflict and of the care already being taken to sort out the bad eggs.”

He continues framing the international matter in domestic terms, but broadens from policy discussion to general American ideology. Schmidt draws on what he believes are core American values to dispel the secondary partisan rhetoric of fear.

“This commitment to the protection of the innocent is critical to the core principles of this country, but I’m afraid that fear and the pressures of partisan polarization are causing many to marginalize it. Doing so might produce a short-term political gain, but it is ultimately a long-term loss of the values for which I believe we stand.”

By contrast, contributor Samantha Hawkins explores the Paris Climate Change Conference through a global lens. She acknowledges the significant role of the United States in agreements of this sort, but doesn’t stop at Congressional deadlock. Hawkins orients the reader with a history of both past policies and scientific conversations, and then moves forward with the terms of the agreement.

“Global climate change talks have been going on for decades, but nothing significant has ever come out of them, in part due to opposition from Congress, the lack of legally binding agreements, and the exclusion of developing countries such as India and China. At the Paris Climate Change Conference, the pledges were designed to emphasize participation rather than ambition, and to reflect actual scientific recommendations.”

Whether or not you agree with the contributors, the Review includes powerful assessments of global issues. According to the editor, all BYU students should embrace the university motto, becoming well versed in the events of the world.

“As students of the world we must become globally conscious and refuse to hold on to ignorant or myopic views,” Jensen said. “This world is full of billions of our brothers and sisters, and if we are to go forth and serve, we simply cannot afford to ignore them.”

BYU Political Review is the university’s only political op-ed publication. It began in 2006, and publishes the works of student contributors, staff writers, and even elected officials. If you would like to submit an article to be reviewed for publishing, visit here. To connect online, visit politicalreview.byu.edu.

BYU Career Reflections 2015

The BYU Political Science Department had the privilege of welcoming many incredible professionals to campus to address students in the department last semester. Each gave wonderful career and general advice as they relayed their field experiences related to government.

The lectures were carefully planned to highlight the vast range of employment possibilities for students of political science, from local government involvement to NGO work to communication jobs.

Director of LDS Charities, Sharon Eubank, acknowledged the unique nature of a BYU education. She maintained that the aims of the university should be a priority throughout students’ lives.

“What can I do to relieve suffering?” she told students to ask themselves. “What can I do to build self-reliance and mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort?” Eubank’s own attitude about service enriched her personal and work life, which she credits, in part, to her time at BYU.

Deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office, Mike Mower, advised students to “magnify” their internships and to volunteer for those internships, if necessary. He also urged students to keep an open mind and entrepreneurial spirit as they finish school and look for jobs.

“As you start your careers you’re going to have the opportunity to do things that were not part of your plan or what you expected,” said Mower. Like Eubank, he noted the unique perspective and skills students often leave BYU with, insisting that these factors often lead to unanticipated opportunities.

However, as the course instructor, Kellie Daniels, introduced the class to her students, she quoted Bill Waterson who said, “I don’t think I’d have been in such a hurry to reach adulthood if I’d have known the whole thing was going to be ad-libbed.” She challenged students not to simply look for job training, but to take advantage of their education by enjoying the rich learning opportunities made available to them. Courtesy of the Kennedy Center, this particular learning opportunity is also available to anyone with an internet connection. Below is the collection of 2015 lectures.

Allison Pond – Editor, Deseret News National Edition

Peter Valcarce – Campaigns and Direct Mail

Mike Mower – Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor’s Office

Sharon Eubank – Executive Director, LDS Charities

Jennifer Hogge – Executive Director, Engage Now Africa

John Dinkleman – Director of the Office of Caribbean Affairs, U.S. State Department

Patricia Dorff – Editorial Director, Council on Foreign Relations

The career lecture series is a one-credit class available every fall semester. It functions as a networking and career guidance resource for students, exposing them to different careers available to students of political science.

BYU Students Conduct Research in Thailand

Carly Madsen and Professor Joel Selway on a group excursion in Thailand. Madsen aided Selway on a research project on Thai nationalism conducted during the summer of 2015.

Carly Madsen and Professor Joel Selway on a group excursion in Thailand. Madsen was an aid for Selway during a research project about Thai nationalism conducted in the summer of 2015.

Several BYU undergraduates spent last summer in Thailand as research assistants studying Thai nationalism with Professor Joel Selway. Carly Madsen, a recent graduate of the Political Science Department, helped facilitate the student and faculty research conducted over the summer.

Under the direction of Selway and Madsen, students created, translated and oversaw administration of a Qualtrics survey to over 1000 people in the Chiang Mai area about nationalism and identity.

Due to the nature of the study, research assistants from BYU were unable to conduct the survey themselves. Students from the English Department of North Chiang Mai University partnered with BYU undergraduates to help translate and administer the survey. The translation process was the most difficult portion of the study, according to Madsen.

“When we got to Thailand a lot of our work was re-translating multiple times with different people. Someone would read it and say oh this is fine and then another person would read it tell us it makes no sense or it was too casual or not casual enough,” she said. “Yeah, the language thing was kind of hard.”

While translating the words used in the survey may have been difficult, speaking Thai every day was not new. Madsen served an LDS mission in Bangkok, Thailand from February 2013 to August 2014, and it was her language proficiency that qualified her for the facilitator position. “Basically, I was a communicator and an organizer,” she said of her role.

A significant part of the group’s preparation effort was developing question for each of the research assistants. Before they left for Thailand, Madsen spent time with each student to help them develop a compelling research question of their own.

“I was making sure everyone had a good research question that they felt excited about and then making sure that they were writing proposals that were impressive enough to receive grant money,” she said. The effort paid off. Each student that went to conduct research received funding from the department or school. She cites the opportunity to conduct personal research as a rewarding part of her experience.

“It was really cool for me to get answers to my own questions about women in Thai politics,” she said. Madsen interviewed many professional women, one of whom was an influential municipal leader. Each of these women had examples of the strides women had made in the public sector and hope for the future, which Madsen appreciated. “Thai politics are something that matter a lot to me, as does gender in politics. Having the chance to merge those together and see how women are doing in Thai politics was really cool.”

Madsen is still analyzing the data from her survey with Professor Selway, but observed that many surveyed citizens feel a stronger tie to their region than the country. She anticipates presenting papers of their findings at conferences within the year. Her next step is graduate school, after publishing a paper on the research she conducted personally in Thailand.

Ultimately, “the summer was a success,” she said. 

Dr. Joel Selway joined the BYU Political Science faculty in 2009 after earning his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He has researched the democratic systems of ethnically diverse societies, particularly in Asian countries. Ralph Brown was the previous faculty advisor of the Thailand international development internship program at BYU.