The past fall’s teaching

I’m not yet done grading but her are some of the highlights from this past fall’s teaching and advising:

  1. Just finished teaching two courses, Africa in World Politics and Introduction to International Relations.
    • My students in my IR course wrote some fantastic research and policy papers. One of the stronger policy papers examined US food aid policy options vis-a-vis North Korea. Reviewing many of the obstacles and some of the bad experiences of the past, she suggests that the best idea out there might be to provide information and technology that is targeted for improving food production. These are resources that are not
    • I am still reading through my Africa in World Politics research papers, so I’ll just mention some of the interesting questions they are asking:
      • How has the international Islamic community influenced the development of Islamic law in northern Nigeria?
      • How have African diplomats and ambassadors been treated by Western nations, and how is that treatment related to the broader relationships and political dynamics between African and Western states?
      • How did colonialism differentially impact political cultures in Libya and Egypt?
      • How did the DRC’s colonial legacy contribute or lead to developmental problems in the DRC in the last two decades?
  2. I have been advising several independent student research projects. Two of them are long-term honors theses and are not yet finished. A third was a semester-long independent project that arguably should have been a full senior thesis.
    • Thesis One’s Question: “Why despite the prevalence of microfinance in Uganda, do moneylenders continue to exist?” This student is basing much of her research on original fieldwork she did in Uganda with IPA.
    • Thesis Two: “How does the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) impact effective leadership in Umlazi high schools?”. Once again, this student is basing her research on original fieldwork she carried out in South Africa, this time on her own.
    • An here is an excerpt from the introduction of the 86-page semester-long project (which also relied on in-depth interviews with key informants that the student carried out last summer and spring): “ This paper will identify the process by which software intended to promote security becomes a tool of repression. It will answer the question: what are the primary factors that promote government adoption of political content filtering at a national level? In order to answer this question, I will focus on three cases from a single region, the Middle East and North Africa, that have a history of restrictive press laws, but have chosen to apply different degrees of political filtering. Iran exhibits substantial filtering, Jordan filters selectively, and Egypt has no evidence of filtering. In comparison, these cases demonstrate that changes in filtering are motivated by two main factors: Internet proliferation and/or online communication threatening to political authority. However, filtering can only occur if a government has access to filtering software and this software can be integrated into the network. Democratic institutions, international agreements, and circumvention efforts, moderate the costs and benefits of filtering, while other tools, such as Internet surveillance and cyber attacks provide less costly alternatives.”
  3. Finally, my research assistant, Ivan Stoitzev, has been making we look lazy with his progress on our study of the determinants of participation in international organizations. He has been busy coding participation in terms of attendance and in terms of mentions in meeting minutes. He has also done a great job with some preliminary analysis of the data.

So, after yet another semester at Wesleyan, I must say I am still very impressed with these students!