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New Pi Sigma Alpha Inductees

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

One of the highlights of the academic year is welcoming new students to University of the Pacific‘s chapter (Alpha Delta Zeta) of Pi Sigma Alpha. the national political science academic honorary society. To be eligible for membership in Pi Sigma Alpha, a student must have excelled in their work in a number of challenging political science courses. Recently Faith James (International Relations, 2014) and Yeni Gutierrez (Political Science, 2015) became members of Pi Sigma Alpha.

Professors Dari Sylvester and Brian E. Klunk welcome Faith James and Yeni Gutierrez to Pi Sigma Alpha.

Professors Dari Sylvester and Brian E. Klunk welcome Faith James and Yeni Gutierrez to Pi Sigma Alpha.

What Do Pacific Political Science Students Do?

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

University of the Pacific junior Kyle Sasai, center, has August School eighth-graders write down his email address Wednesday during a visit to the east Stockton school. Sasai founded the HopeStreet Backpack Outreach program, which mentors Stockton middle school students as they make the transition to high school and encourages them to consider college.

Sometimes they help at risk students see the possibility of a successful future:

On Wednesday, Sasai, along with 11 other Pacific students, went to August School in east Stockton to start mentorships with soon-to-be high schoolers as part of his HopeStreet Backpack Outreach, a program Sasai founded in 2011.

The middle school students received backpacks for starters. But the most valuable gift is perhaps the mentors themselves.

They’ll be responsible for giving the August students advice throughout their upcoming high school careers about peer pressure, homework and even how to ask a girl to prom.

“Don’t ask a girl to prom over text,” Sasai said, and giggles followed. “It makes it awkward.”

Sasai offered the younger students Pacific campus tours when they’re ready and provided his contact information. “I want you guys to ask me anything,” he said.

The ongoing contact is a much appreciated resource at August, which has a largely disadvantaged student population, said Principal Lori Risso. All of the children receive free or reduced-price lunches.

“A lot of the kids think they can’t afford to go to college,” Risso said. The Pacific volunteers, she said, can relate to the kids and encourage them to seek scholarships and other financial aid.

“It makes the vision of going to high school and college possible.”

Kyle who excels in the classroom as a political science major and a member of the Pacific Legal Scholars program, has proven that academic excellence can go together seemlessly with community leadership.

Sasai . . . founded the program his first year of college. Since then, he has gathered volunteers to fill backpacks, write the kids letters and train for the continuing interaction.

Pacific mentors are each assigned about five students to befriend and help guide.

With the students they reached this year, they have connected with 500 middle school students since 2011.

 

Election Day! Election Day! Elections Day!

Go vote!

Demonstrate civic virtue like others! Exercise democratic norms! Fulfill your citizenship duty! Express your policy preferences! Help the candidate or policy you think will be better for everyone to win! Help your preferred candidate or policy win!

(That’s a lot of exclamation points. Sorry.)

And, yes, voting can be a rational act.

Don’t know where to vote? Go here (for California) or just Google your address to find out where you polling place is. If you are on campus, there is a polling place in the UC Ballroom.

Finally, come hang out with us tonight in the Lair as we watch and talk about the returns. My Campaigns & Elections class will give some short presentations starting a 4:30 PM, then we’ll turn on the TV’s and watch the results come in.

When Jordan Met Mitt

April 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Pacific Political Science student Jordan Schreiber recently attended a fundraiser for GOP frontrunner MItt Romney. Here’s Jordan’s account of the event.

While I would say on most issues I tend to land on the Democratic side of the political spectrum, first and foremost I consider myself an American political junkie. It was this longstanding addiction that motivated me to attend the Mitt Romney fundraiser here in Stockton. I read in the Record that the former Massachusetts governor would be swinging through town for a $1000-a-plate breakfast at ‘Villa Angelica’, the home of well-known local billionaire Alex G. Spanos. Now as a college student about to graduate, I assume it goes without saying that a grand is more than I plan on spending on any meal anytime soon, but I was determined to get into the event and hear what the candidate had to say. I decided then that I would call the number listed in the article for those wishing to purchase tickets and plead my case: ‘I’m a political science major at the local university and while I may not have the money to attend such a prestigious event, I feel the student voice will play an important role in the upcoming presidential election and I would gladly be in attendance as a representative of that population.’ It took some persistence on my behalf and a background check on theirs, but I was, in the end, successful in my venture.

I must admit I felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing as I entered the Spanos compound. I was one of the few younger attendees and every time I was told I was the future of the party, I couldn’t help feeling that I probably had more in common (politically and socioeconomically) with the scores of protesters standing outside in the rain. But I took my seat, made small with my fellow table 23ers and eagerly awaited Romney’s speech. He was introduced first by one of the grandchildren of the Spanos’ and then by his wife Ann, who discussed her husband’s adherence to family values and the importance of the upcoming race before turning the microphone over to the candidate.

Pacific Political Science student Jordan Schreiber met GOP frontrunner MItt Romney at a Stockton, CA fundraiser.

The bulk of the governor’s speech focused on the economy and his concerns regarding President Obama’s policies stifling American growth. He told a variety of anecdotes about people he’d met on the campaign trail who have found great success in their entrepreneurial endeavors and explained how each were each a symbol of the spirit of this country’s economic drive. He traced their success to an American culture rooted in the principles of our founding fathers, a commitment to freedom and opportunity. He went on to state the current administration fails to understand this atmosphere of innovation and that they would rather government, not individuals, guide our industry. He cited the controversy surrounding Solyndra, the solar energy company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011, two years after the Obama administration pledged $535 million as part of a federal program to boost alternative energy growth. Romney stated that it was programs like Solyndra that proved the current president is determined to undermine economic freedom and crush that entrepreneurial spirit that is so much a part of our country’s past. It was clear that he knew he was in a room full of dedicated supporters, for the rhetoric was slightly more heated than I had heard at campaign rallies over the past few months.

The governor spoke for about twenty minutes and allotted the same amount of time for questions from the room. The questions ranged from Romney’s ability to reconcile between his Massachusetts healthcare plan and President Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 to what federal departments he would eliminate once in office. The majority of his time was spent responding to a gentleman’s question regarding a ‘hot mic’ gaffe the president had made while talking to Russian President Dmetry Medvedev in South Korea a few days prior. The microphone overheard Mr. Obama claim that after the election he’ll have much more flexibility in terms of foreign policy. Governor Romney explained that the statement was damning evidence that the president “has an agenda he is not communicating to the American people, not just with regards to Russia, but with regards to many other policies.” He painted the president as a naïve player in world politics, who fails to understand the threats posed by nations like Russia and Iran as well as non-state actors such as “radical violent jihadist”. The governor closed the event thanking his hosts and all those in attendance and was rapidly escorted out of the hall, in a hurry to make it down to Los Angeles for a scheduled appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

I must say that leaving the breakfast my opinions on the upcoming election and the issues that America faces hadn’t changed dramatically. But I was very happy to have an opportunity to meet the man I’ve spent the last year reading about. I can now say I’ve seen Mitt Romney’s charm and I’ve shaken his hand. Whether I support him or not, he is clearly a man who cares deeply about this country and I’m fortunate to have gotten to see that. At the very least I can say that I got my political junkie fix for the week.

Chelsea Kelleher is the Pacific Political Science 2011 Outstanding Graduate

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Chelsea Kelleher is the University of the Pacific Political Science Department’s 2011 Outstanding Graduate.  She will graduate on Saturday, May 7,  magna cum laude, completing minors in English and Art History as well as her major in Political Science.  She is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society.  As a member of the University of the Pacific Speech and Debate team during her first three years at Pacific, Chelsea was a nationally ranked competitor and earned as she says, “about a kajillion trophies.”  Chelsea has worked with Jeff Becker as a writing mentor in several of our Writing in the Disciplines courses.  The department faculty are especially proud that Chelsea has developed a keen interest in public policy research.  A project she conducted under Keith Smith’s direction on the impact of certain housing policies on crime rates in Stockton garnered her an award at the recent PURCC for outstanding oral presentation.  Following graduation Chelsea will accept a research internship at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.  She also plans to do graduate work in public policy, ideally at UC – Berkeley.  Chelsea is the daughter of immigrants from Ireland and she is especially proud that she will be the first member of the US-branch of her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Kelleher Takes Top Prize at 2011 PURCC

Graduating senior Chelsea Kelleher recently took home the top prize for oral presentations at the 2011 Pacific Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference. She was up against 23 other students from a variety of disciplines. Congrats Chelsea!

Here’s the abstract of her paper, which she completed as an independent research project under the direction of Prof. Keith Smith:

Is there a relationship between crime and Section 8 housing? In 2008, Atlantic Monthly journalist Hanna Rosin published an article investigating the relationship between high crime rates in the Memphis area and newly formed clusters of Section 8 recipients. She argues that the Section 8 program is responsible for the rise in crime rates for Memphis, Tennessee, and extends this conclusion to the rest of the United States, implicating a host of popular affordable housing programs as well. Housing advocates and policy makers were quick to respond to these allegations, arguing that Rosin had established no causal link between Section 8 and crime, and that her findings could not be verified for the country as a whole. This paper seeks to test the hypothesis that the presence of Section 8 housing increases crime rates in an area. To do this I use a controlled comparison of crime rates in six Stockton neighborhoods in 2009, using three pairs of neighborhoods matched by similar demographic characteristics. Drawing from crime statistics from the Stockton Police Department, I then examine their crime rates in comparison to their matches, before finally drawing a conclusion. The results reveal that there is insufficient evidence to state that there is a relationship between Section 8 and crime; while areas with higher poverty rates tended to experience more crime, whether or not they accepted Section 8 did not make a difference.

Pacific@MPSA: English for the children?

Ed. note: This is the third in our series of entries about presentations by people associated with the department at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings. Today’s entry is especially exciting as it is from Ms. Julia Sweeney, one of our students. Ms. Sweeney presented a poster about her project evaluating the impact of Prop. 227 in California. Be sure to check out the photo at the end.

In 1998, California voters approved Proposition 227, “English for the Children”. This ballot initiative promoted an English-only approach to teaching English Second Language (ESL) learners. The impact of ESL policy in California is great, as 23.7% of the California public school population is classified as ESL (cde.gov). This project assesses the impact of that English-only proposition on the success of ESL students in each California school district.

The implementation of Proposition 227 varied immensely throughout the state. Some districts drastically changed their services from providing primary language support to English-only; some districts continued primary language support; and some districts provided the same English-only services before and after Prop. 227. Due to the differences in impact Prop.227 had throughout the state, this project analyzed the relationship between services provided within a district and ESL test scores, assuming that Prop. 227 influenced an overall increase in English-only methods and decrease in primary language support.

The literature discusses the importance of embracing an ESL student’s primary language, stating that ESL students can fall behind academically if they don’t learn the basic skills being taught in English. If a student enters the first grade and spends that year focusing on learning “Survivor English” (the very basic English communication skills) and does not comprehend the academic content being taught, by the time that student understands academic English, they have missed the foundation for their academic content. The research in this area also stresses that academic skills established in a primary language are transferable once the student better understands English. For these reasons I predicted to see a negative relationship between English-only instruction and ESL test scores. As the percentage of students in a district receiving no primary language services increased, I predicted to see a decrease in the percentage of students in a district testing at a proficient level.

Using the data from the California Department of Education website on school instructional services, ESL populations within a district, and California English Language Development Test (CELDT) scores, I analyzed a cross section time series. Although the results initially have shown an insignificant relationship, the proponents of Proposition 227 were incorrect to say that English-only services would improve test scores and raise ESL student success.

After receiving feedback at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference last weekend, I plan to expand this project to include other test scores and more quantitative analysis for my senior political science capstone presentation at the end of April.

Ed. note: This is the second of several entries on our faculty’s presentations at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings in Chicago, IL. Prof. Susan Sample presented her paper, “From Territorial Dispute to War:  Timing, Causation, and the Steps-to-War.”
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