This year we had the privilege to welcome another new member to the faculty, Dr. Joseph Zhou. Dr. Zhou specializes in comparative politics with a regional focus on China. He is interested in the role of public opinion in authoritarian China. Is people’s strong approval of their government real? Where is it from? How does it interact with governance and policies? And what lights do they shed on the established theories in comparative politics? He teaches classes in his research areas as well as topics of American politics.
"Eight months ago, I had the great honor and pleasure to join the UTEP Political Science Department. Driving down from Iowa with a cat was quite an adventure. My first greeting in El Paso was a 3-digit temperature and the assurance that the worst had passed. The last several months were fruitful:I taught two courses, published two articles, made two conference presentations, and above all, had a baby boy. Thanks to my colleagues for the wonderful baby shower!"
~Dr. Joseph Zhou
Gregory S. Schober, our new visiting professor, proudly returns to UTEP after earning his Ph.D. from Duke University. He specializes in comparative politics, political behavior, public policy, and health politics.
Schober has deep connections to UTEP and our local community. Prior to graduate school, he worked for three years as a program coordinator at the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) at UTEP. During his time at the CCE, he coordinated several service-learning programs for UTEP students, UTEP faculty members, and local community organizations. Now, on the faculty side, he remains deeply committed to community engaged scholarship, including community-based research projects and community-based learning experiences.
In one of his current research projects, Schober examines the relationship between conditional cash transfers (CCTs) and health outcomes in developing democracies. In CCT programs, governments transfer cash to poor families in exchange for the families fulfilling certain conditions, such as attendance at health checkups and nutrition workshops. CCTs receive a large amount of recognition and praise for their positive effects on health outcomes, but the particular causal mechanism remains unclear. Using original data from a randomized field experiment in Mexico, Schober finds that CCTs are positively associated with the private provision of sewerage services. Based on this evidence, it appears that some CCT beneficiaries use the cash transfer to purchase septic tanks from private companies. This finding helps to explain at least part of the positive effects of CCTs on health outcomes.This project has important implications for social policy and local governance in developing democracies. Although CCTs boost health outcomes and reduce poverty, the pathway to these desirable outcomes also have unintended consequences. More specifically, the increase in the private provision of sewerage services may let local government officials off the hook for providing public services. With fewer citizens in need of services and potentially exerting less pressure on local government, a standard accountability mechanism breaks down and the quality of local governance may suffer. As a result, households which are unable to afford private services may find it even more difficult to secure vital services from public providers.
"It encourages me to facilitate the learning process of my students by playing the role of the 'Motivating Facilitator' in order to inspire, motivate and challenge them to realize their potential by enabling them to focus on their capabilities rather than their limitations. I am honored by the years of continuous recognition by TRIO, a federally funded Student Support Services Program at UTEP for first-generation-college, low-income, students with academic need or disability for commending me for ‘outstanding service to students.’
Since my personal and professional experience has cultivated my skills in recognizing the educational needs and objectives of my students, I have adopted an instructional approach which focuses on student involvement and engagement to stimulate their interest in politics regardless of whether it is a large lecture class or an online class. The information provided through various techniques challenges them to examine their own personal beliefs and attitudes, which are vital for the development of their critical thinking and analytical skills. It helps them comprehend the theories and concepts that are not only valuable for their successful academic performance, but most significantly it empowers them to form independent perspectives about issues and the problems they will have to solve as citizens, voters, and leaders. My dedication to students’ social and academic development has been further aided by my role as faculty advisor to the student organization, University Democrats (UDems) of El Paso, which is part of the Student Engagement & Leadership Center at UTEP to help them make a positive and rewarding difference in the community. By engaging students in, and integrating experiences within and beyond the classroom, I try to contribute to the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), an initiative taken at the UTEP to promote student engagement and professional preparation."
Among our many talented students, we caught up with Alejandro Rodriguez (pictured below helping to lead a rally for immigrant rights) and sat down with him for a talk just before his graduation from UTEP. He was kind enough to share his inspiring story of hope and resilience, one that he will continue as he goes off to law school next fall:
"My journey began 32 years ago, when my mom migrated 1,982 miles to reach El Paso, Texas. I am a first-generation United States citizen, proud of my Guatemalan heritage. What I came to know growing up was challenges in poverty, and that my family’s struggles are unique to me but experienced by many. Tragedy and failure can often plagued a family's endeavors; my life goal has been forged in working to avoid falling into either of those categories. I have been set on finding a path through life where my journey becomes one of resilience and hope. I am the youngest of seven children, but I carry the burden of some major past tragedies. At the same time, I am terrified of success; I have been terrified to scream about my successes and triumphs. My journey at UTEP has been to believe my mother when she told me I could achieve whatever I wanted and accomplish everything I want to be despite any possibility that it might not occur. I worked hard because I refused to be consumed by any terror, tragedies, or failures. I have become a resilient man. This attitude was made possible in part through several college experiences, including those in being mentored/advised by amazing professors and staff of the Political Science Department. My freshman year at UTEP I enrolled in an Introduction to Politics course taught by Richard Gutierrez, and that class motivated me to change majors. Mr.Gutierrez advised me thereafter. I co-authored and presented a research paper entitled “Re-Negotiating International Law: Examining the Theoretical Model of Transnational Judicial Dialogue” at the Global Studies Association Conference in Austin, Texas where my co-authors and I were the only undergraduates at the conference. I am currently authoring another research project entitled “Revealing Law Enforcement Brutality: Agency,Race, and Activism.” I will present my research at the Global Studies Association Conference in Berkeley, California. Those experiences were made possible by Dr. Todd Curry, Dr. Rebecca Reid, Dr. Cigdem Sirin, Dr. José Villalobos, and Ms. Lorena Chavez. They have assisted me by writing letters of recommendation, reviewing and revising my research, and helping to make sure I had the proper funding to make these projects a reality at conferences. Another significant experience was interning at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA), a public-interest firm. I assisted in two federal cases and represented tenants in eviction hearings in the justice of the peace courts. I helped in cracking down on slumlords in my city and made sure municipal judges are held accountable for unconstitutional offenses, such as jailing the indigent when they are unable to afford topay traffic tickets. UTEP has been an amazing stepping stone that has made me an excellent law school candidate. I was accepted to 9 out of the 10 law schools I applied to, two Ivy League acceptance letters and full rides to three schools. Ultimately, I proudly chose to go to law school at the University of Washington in Seattle. I look forward to the significant accomplishments to come, and I have UTEP to thank for that. I am a proud UTEP student and soon to be a proud UTEP alum. I am the son of a very proud immigrant mother who is deeply rooted in activist causes due to my understanding of poverty and disenfranchisement. I am hope and resilience,not tragedy and failure. PICKS UP!"
~Alejandro Rodriguez (Class of 2017)
In April 2016, the Global Relations Organization, a registered student organization, sent a delegation of students to compete in the Model UN simulation sponsored by New York University in New York City, New York. Political Science faculty member and chair of the department, Dr. Charles Boehmer, advises the organization. This was a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in experiential learning outside of the classroom and meet students from outside of UTEP. Most of the other competing universities were private schools, including several Ivy League schools, in the northeast regions of the United States. UTEP students practiced necessary skill sets, such as navigating through the simulation using Robert’s Rules of Order as well as bargaining with others to build coalitions. One student, Mason Shuya, won the honor of being the “Best Delegate” from his committee. This trip is also a wonderful example of the use of funds provided by alumni and their giving. The trip was funded with funds provided by the Dodson endowment and the Kruszewski Student Enhancement Fund. Alumni giving can support similar student trips, which is important because many UTEP students have not travelled far from our region. For example, one student that recently participated in the 2017 Model UN in New York had never been on a plane before.
Our good friend Marshall Carter-Tripp, known for her prior work as Interim Director for the Centennial Museum and, more recently, as a still active supporter of the museum at UTEP while also leading the charge as founding member of the Frontera Land Alliance, was gracious in providing some additional history about her storied life and career. She is a shining example of an engaged citizen and community supporter, and just a wonderful human being to boot! Below is a touching glimpse into her background and UTEP experiences:
"If you’ve seen Hidden Figures, you’ve seen my home town, from which I escaped to Beloit College – recommended by one of the NASA engineers in my NASA mathematician mother’s carpool! I intended to major in archaeology, but encountered political science (known as 'government') and never looked back. Eventually I emerged from UW-Madison with a doctorate in political science and African Law, and took a teaching position at Wayne State and later Cal State-Long Beach! Along the way I co-authored two introductory political science textbooks, which were translated into French and Spanish.
That in turn led to teaching at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria. Initially an enjoyable time, with a multinational faculty and highly motivated students, ABU became very challenging as religious problems in the fragmented state of Nigeria worsened. An abortive but fatal coup within the military government fueled rumors of US and UK complicity, and a large group of 'expatriates,' including other Africans, was rounded up on campus and detained. One of them was me. Several tumultuous months later I was preparing to leave without an onward job when I got a telegram (no phones!) offering me a one-year visiting professorship at UTEP, and I sent a telegram back 'YES!' On arriving in El Paso Tony and June Kruszewski met me at the airport - and explained why there was a Luftwaffe plane there! I greatly enjoyed my UTEP experience (which included the creation of the Border Studies program), and border life --in those days, you could drive to Juárez for lunch and return in about an hour. And faculty and students were incredibly supportive when I suffered an armed assault in my apartment. So, when I made a career change to the Foreign Service three years later, I designated El Paso as my hometown.
Fast forward. After twenty-five years of FSO life and work in Washington, D.C. (ugh), Panama, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, and Argentina, my husband (a navy officer I met in Panama!) and I debated where to retire. We thought about Madrid but could not afford the real estate. Bingo - El Paso, of course, which we’d been visiting on 'home leave' for all those years! So here we are, 13 years later. Somehow I became the 'interim director' of the Centennial Museum for nearly five years, and had a great time there. Now, after successful treatment for anal cancer – while still working at the museum – I am retired (i.e., no paycheck), but stay involved – as a founding member of the Frontera Land Alliance, working with the Border Museum Association which I served as president for five years, Senator Rodriguez’s Heritage Tourism advisory committee and formerly the Historical Commission, and the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation’s conference planning committee. And every now and then my 'political scientist brain' writes a letter to the editor! Life is good."
One of our All-Star Alumni, Russell Autry, has long been very supportive of the Department of Political Science and the College of Liberal Arts. Russell graduated from UTEP in 1975 with a BA degree in History. He was a Top 10 Senior and also served as SGA president, and in more recent years has served as President of the UTEP Alumni Association. That makes him one of only three history majors at UTEP to have all three accolades to his name. Russell also returned to UTEP to complete a master's degree with us in Political Science in 2007. The MA degree provided knowledge on political science methods that helped Russell seek out various entrepreneurial projects thereafter, building a strong business model around consulting in bond elections and other endeavors. Some of his current and former clients (though there are many more!) include the University Medical Center, Sanders/Wingo Advertising, the El Paso Independent, Socorro, and Ysleta School Districts, and numerous elected officials. In light of his successes, Russell provides an outstanding example of how majors in political science, history, and Liberal Arts more broadly can use their education as a springboard for careers in business and consulting. He is the type of alumnus who provides a superb example to our current and future students -- and an absolutely fantastic all-around person to know. We proudly recognize Russell, who exemplifies scholarly success and immeasurable generosity to our students and the UTEP community -- thanks Russell!
Below is an updated bio that Russell was kind enough to share with us:
Prior to returning to the El Paso Area in 2002, Russell Autry had a distinguished career in chamber of commerce and economic development management. He earned the highest honor given by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Chairman’s Professional Leadership Award. He was also the recipient of the two highest awards given by the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives. He has earned three professional certifications, led teams that garnered over thirty national awards for communications, marketing and public relations. He has taught over a thousand association executives on three continents. He is a past UTEP SGA president and a past president of the UTEP Alumni Association. He earned two degrees from UTEP, a BA in History and an MA in Political Science. He is married to Elva, also a UTEP graduate. His parents graduated from Texas Western College and his daughter attended UTEP. Autry currently owns a Public Relations/Public Affairs firm.
STUDENT ACTIVITIES: SHINING STARS
Each year, a select number of our top students are chosen as recipients for one of the Komarnicki Scholarship Awards. Below are seven recipients who provided a short profile so we can get to know a little more about each:
Name: Amarige K. Azzam
Major: Political Science
My favorite thing about El Paso: The food and the hidden gems that can be found around town.
Name: Tyler Joe Herrera
Major: Political Science
Minor: Intelligence and National Security Studies
Favorite thing about El Paso: TACOS
Name: Jesus Soria
Major: Political Science
Minor: Legal Reasoning
Favorite thing about UTEP and/or El Paso: This is a very difficult question to answer because El Paso offers so much. One of my favorite things about El Paso are the people. I’m a transplant and the people make El Paso feel like home. I also like the food, culture, history,community, 297 sunny days/year, and easy access to New Mexico and Juarez, MX.
Name: Marisol Ruiz
Major: Political Science
Minor: Asian Studies
Favorite thing about UTEP and/ orEl Paso: I love UTEP's wonderful community and unique architecture.
Name: Sydney A. Vazquez
Major: Political Science
Year: Second Year Grad Student
Favorite thing about UTEP and/or ElPaso: My favorite thing about UTEP is the unique identity that we hold not only as a university, but as a community. We are a community of diversity where everyone and anyone belongs.
Name: Jason Vickers
Major: Political Science
Minor: Intelligence and National Security Studies
Favorite thing about UTEP: My favorite thing about UTEP is all of theopportunities that have been presented to me im the form of employment, research,and student organizations activities.
Name: Karolina Zajakala
Major: Political Science
Year: Last year of Master's
Favorite thing about El Paso: Mexican Food and the view from the Franklin Mountain.
FACULTY ACTIVITIES: TRAIN KEEPS A-ROLLIN'
Dr. Charles Boehmer continues as Chairperson of the Department of Political Science and was promoted to full professor in 2016. He published a peer-reviewed journal article this year and presented conference papers. Of particular satisfaction was teaching courses on international security and US foreign policy, and continuing to serve as faculty adviser of the Global Relations Organization (GRO). The highlight of the GRO was their trip to New York University to participate in the UN model, which included ceremonies at the United Nations Headquarters.
Dr. Irasema Coronado returned to UTEP after being appointed by President Barack Obama to the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission for the Environmental Cooperation, which concentrated on environmental issues in Mexico, Canada and the United States. While based in Quebec, the commission brought in ideas to help solve environmental issues. Dr. Coronado led as the executive director of the commission for three years and covered nearly 50 major projects during her service, including efforts related to the topics of saving the environment of North America, stopping the trafficking of endangered animal species, grasslands in North America, and acid batteries in North America, as well as various other environmental projects across different communities—mostly rural and indigenous.
Dr. Todd Curry balanced productive teaching and mentoring with important research production. While significant process was made on many different projects, numerous of them with our own students, he published two articles this year in peer reviewed outlets. Both examine different aspects of state supreme courts. The first which landed in American Review of Politics, examines the degree to which the length of judicial careers is shaped by the methods which are used to retain judges. The second. which placed in The Journal of Politics, a top three journal in Political Science, examines whether judges retained under different methods modify their strategic calculations at the point of retirement. Dr. Curry also was proud to present with two different students at two different conferences in 2016.
Dr. Gaspare M. Genna published a co-edited book, Jürgen Habermas and the European Economic Crisis: Cosmopolitanism Reconsidered (Routledge). The volume brings together a team of interdisciplinary scholars to explore how transnational identity can be used to resolve the European Union’s economic challenges. He also continues his activities with the Minors on Track program, which seeks to assist at-risk UTEP students in continuing and excelling in their studies.
Dr. Taeko Hiroi published a book chapter, titled “Agenda Setting and Gridlock in a Multiparty Coalitional Presidential System: The Case of Brazil,” in E. Aleman and G. Tsebelis, eds., Legislative Institutions and Lawmaking in Latin America (Oxford University Press.) Dr. Hiroi was also an invited speaker for a seminar at the Institute of Developing Economies/Japan External Trade Organization. She presented various papers at both national and international conferences. Dr. Hiroi continues to serve as Director of Graduate Studies and Faculty Advisor for Pi Sigma Alpha. She oversaw Pi Sigma Alpha’s successful Student Paper Conference on Development held in April 2016. Our Pi Sigma Alpha chapter won yet another Best Chapter Award, which is awarded to only a few chapters among over 800 chapters nationwide.
Dr. Rebecca Reid had another highly productive year in teaching, research, and service. Among other things, Dr. Reid published a co-authored journal article entitled "Examining the Development of Judicial Independence" in Political Research Quarterly. The article develops a multidimensional theory that focuses on the interplay of constraints on ruling elites derived from levels of political competition within the government, the potential for social competition within the state, and regime type. Dr. Reid and her co-authors test their argument using a dataset of approximately 145 countries over forty years, and their results support the argument that development of judicial independence is related to the political landscape encountered by the executive. Ethnic fractionalization in the state, political competition, and regime type each has a conditional effect on the observation of judicial independence.
Dr. Greg Schmidt taught fourteen classes (three at Fort Bliss) in 2016 that were completed by 1,085 students. He published an article (research note) in Electoral Studies on the 2016 Peruvian election and completed work on two books. He also presented papers at academic conferences in New York and St. Louis and was elected to a three year term on the executive board of the Midwest Association of Latin American Studies (MALAS).
Dr. Cigdem Sirin published four co-authored refereed journal articles in the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, American Behavioral Scientist, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. She also continued taking part in the Academic Technologies’ TeachTech program and continued to serve in the Women’s Advisory Council to the President, as well as the Faculty Senate’s Teaching Effectiveness and Development Committee.
Dr. Kathleen Staudt, the Endowed Professor of Western Hemispheric Trade Policy Studies, completed a lengthy book based on her research and teaching in multiple borderlands entitled Border Politics in a Global Era: Comparative Perspectives (released May 2017). The book advances border theories with a 300-item database of border inequality ratios and the inclusion of four border regions: US-Mexico (of course!), South Asia, Europe, and maritime borders, focused on East Asia and Australia. The book covers three major public policy areas (security, migration, and trade), includes a chapter on borderlands in film and another on NGOs/non-governmental organizations. Kathy gave her “legacy” speech in April to a large gathering of mostly campus but also some community people. With Dr. Coronado, she presented at a Border Walls conference at the L'Université du Québec à Montréal in June. She is very involved in community organizations and gave a presentation on TPP concerns to a packed Town Hall meeting organized by Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s office in fall.
Dr. José Villalobos published four co-authored refereed journal articles in the Journal of Politics, Political Psychology, American Behavioral Scientist, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. He also continued serving as faculty liaison for nonpartisan voter registration for the UTEP Center for Civic Engagement (more than 12,000 voter registrations to date in his activities with students!) and as Director of Student Enhancement and External Relations for Political Science.
Dr. Joseph Zhou, the newest member of our faculty, specializes in comparative politics, particularly on the role of public opinion in authoritarian China. He also has interests in research methods and on topics relating to American politics. He has now taught his first classes, presented two conference papers, and published two journal articles in Democratizationand the Journal of Chinese Political Science.
Border Politics in a Global Era: Comparative Perspectives
by: Dr. Kathleen Staudt
Broadly comparative in nature, Border Politics in a Global Era will appeal not only to students of border studies; it will also stimulate attention in comparative politics, international studies, and political geography.
POLS IN PICTURES: MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM 2017
Tiffany Baker-Strothkam (with Dr. Irasema Coronado)
Dr. Rebecca Reid presenting
As mentioned above, for this year's Homecoming, we moved our ceremony off-campus and in the evening to the Tosca Italian restaurant. The event was well attended and it was wonderful to see those of you who could make it. We would like to increase the number of opportunities for alumni to interact with students in the coming years, and we hope that you will think about participating in various activities. We are forming a Speakers Bureau and would love it if you could visit classes or hold a talk, ideally where we can highlight your successes as role models for our students, and offer potential internships or other networking opportunities. Alumni can also help students by contributing to our endowed scholarship funds. We thank our alumni for all of your kind contributions and continued support, which helps us to better serve our students--we very much appreciate it!