I hope everyone has had a great year since our last newsletter release. I am writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is my hope that you and your families have been staying as safe and healthy as possible, and that you found a way to thrive this past year. As one would expect, this put a damper on our spring 2020 semester. Fewer faculty and students were able to travel compared to normal years, and we had to move our courses online. We have been working from home in recent months and will remain online through this summer, and into the fall semester. However, we will stay resilient.
We also speak out against discrimination and brutality. The events surrounding the murder of George Floyd and subsequent protests have brought to the forefront many of our academic debates and activities that we are involved with. The department is strongly united in its efforts to address this tragedy and find ways of connecting with the community to help lend our expertise and voices toward activities that help bring people together in a positive way. Last summer we all reached out to each other in the aftermath of the horrific mass murder that happened here in our own back yard; today we continue that conversation against acts of hatred as they happen in other parts of the country. See our departmental statement in this newsletter below that expresses our solidarity with victims of racism, violence, and brutality.
We would like to welcome with open arms Dr. Carlos Algara to our department, who will start this fall. He is coming to us from University of California Davis, and is completing his Congressional Fellowship. We are all very excited to have him join us and look forward to working with him!
This is also now the second year since having the MPA faculty join the Political Science Department (see last year's newsletter for more detail). It has been a real pleasure to have our department grow in size and talent with much more to look forward to.
Even though we were not able to celebrate with our graduating students in person this past semester, we still celebrated them online. Please see the section of this newsletter (that also connects to our website) where we highlight and celebrate some of our shining star students who gave us permission to brag about their accomplishments!
As you will see, there are numerous others whom we are recognizing to celebrate their achievements, including Azuri Gonzalez's Hispanos Triunfadores Award, our alumni such as Jairemy Edwards and Ruben Aguirre going on to amazing new adventures, as well as our many scholarship recipients and students landing phenomenal internships and fellowships. And the list goes on while the faculty continue to work hard in maintaining our Tier 1 standards in research, teaching, and service excellence.
Are you interested in giving back to UTEP, our department, and students? One can do so in many ways. Alumni can help students by contributing to our endowed scholarship funds or our gift fund. In the current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the variety of challenging circumstances facing our students is greater than ever before. Access to funding very often helps make life-changing experiences possible for our students seeking to build on their research and learning experiences. And our students are always incredibly grateful for the generosity of those who contribute. You can help in other ways. For example, students in Pi Sigma Alpha (PSA) and the Global Relations Organization (GRO) have benefited from alumni giving, which has helped support PSA induction ceremonies and conferences, and GRO study-away trips. Looking towards the light at the end of the current pandemic, we would also 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, such as through our Speakers Bureau, where alumni can visit classes or hold a talk (also possible in a virtual setting while the social distancing guidelines continue), ideally where we can highlight your successes as role models for our students. If you are in a position to create internships, our students are eager to engage in such educational and networking opportunities. You can read about some of the most recent experiences with these types of activities below. We thank our alumni for all of your kind contributions and continued support, which helps us to serve our students -- we very much appreciate it!
I am delighted to report that the state of our department is strong! Please feel free to visit our department website and our Facebook page for more information about us, including our MA program for those interested. Please also consider donating to the Political Science program to help us for the coming year. We look forward to seeing you at future events and wish you all the very best.
Please feel free to peruse our latest newsletter by clicking on each of the links below highlighting some of the most recent student, alumni, and faculty activities and accomplishments!
--Dr. Charles Boehmer, UTEP Political Science Department Chair
DEPARTMENT SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS
We, the UTEP Department of Political Science, stand with our brothers, sisters, and nonbinary companions in the face of oppression, systemic racism, violence, and brutality.
See our official statement here (with accessible links below it):
Black Lives Matter: https://blacklivesmatter.com/
Unlearning Racism and Anti-Racism Reading List: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SKnipRtRC7FOAztqqVXfWDZNZ48keC1CGjPzMLzB0hM/edit
How to Take Anti-Racist Action: https://www.teenvogue.com/story/beyond-the-hashtag-how-to-take-anti-racist-action
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People: https://naacp.org/campaigns/we-are-done-dying/
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/
American Civil Liberties Union - https://www.aclu.org/
UTEP Counseling and Psychological Services: (915)747-5302
After Hours Crisis Line: (915) 747-5302
This past year was incredibly challenging amid the Coronavirus pandemic so we wish to give an extra special recognition to these top graduates in Political Science for all of their achievements and perseverance through the storm!
Dr. Carlos Aglara received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Davis in June 2019 and he has been serving as a Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate for the American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship Program (2019-2020). Beginning in August 2020, he will be joining us as an Assistant Professor of Political Science here at the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Algara's research agenda focuses broadly on the nature of ideological representation, collective accountability, voter decision rules in congressional elections, and legislative behavior. His dissertation project, chaired by Professors Walter J. Stone and Erik J. Engstrom, focused on what determines citizen perceptions of congressional job performance and how these perceptions shape electoral outcomes and partisan legislative incentives. In addition to his dissertation, Dr. Algara is also involved in projects analyzing how polarization changes the nature of congressional election dynamics, how political attitudes distort proximity voting and democratic participation, and the dynamics of legislative obstruction and collaboration. He also has a methodological interest social network analysis and in latent variable measurement, particularly with respect to measurement of voter and elite ideological preferences in the common space and over time. We are very excited to have Dr. Algara join our team at UTEP and to welcome him to the El Paso community! See more about Dr. Algara on his webpage here: https://calgara.github.io/
Azuri Gonzalez, our lecturer in Political Science and also Director of the Center for Community Engagement was recognized as one of three recipients of the 2019 McDonald's Hispanos Triunfadores Awards (see the full announcement here: https://www.utep.edu/newsfeed/campus/UTEP-Educators-Earn-Hispanos-Triunfadores-Awards.html). The recognition highlights Professor Gonzalez's abilities as a role model inpiring youth. Professor Gonzalez has now been leading UTEP's Community Engagement mission for over 17 years, has also been recognized by the UT System Board of Regents with the Outstanding Employee Award (2018), and her efforts have helped UTEP earn Carnegie Foundation designation as a Community Engaged Institution. This past year, Professor Gonzalez also published a book chapter entitled "Sources of Professional Development for Community Engagement Directors in an Evolging Field" in the volume Democracy, Civic Engagement, and Citizenship in Higher Education: Reclaiming Our Civic Purpose (Rowman & Littlefield 2019).
STUDENT RECOGNITIONS & ORGANIZATION ACTIVITIES
POLITICAL SCIENCE SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS (2018-2019)
Each year, a select number of our top students are chosen as recipients for one of the Komarnicki Scholarship Awards for political science. Here is the latest lineup of super stars for the current academic year (listed alphabetically):
Ruben Aguirre (Joseph Graves Undergraduate Award)
Gisela Argote (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Alan Cardenas (Komarnicki Graduate Award)
Katrina Crouch (Mary Misiewicz Memorial Award)
Briana Elizondo (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Lisette Farran (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Marcela Fuentes (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Gabriel Garcia (Irena Grabowska Kruszewska Memorial Award)
Noah Gutierrez (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Ariella Guzman (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Christopher Hibbert (June M. Kruszewski Memorial Award)
Joseph Muela (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Sandra Nehring (Komarnicki Top Graduate Award)
Jonathan Picado (Komarnicki Graduate Award)
Paola Quintana (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Edgar Rodriguez (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Ryan Ross (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Kellyn Shute (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Diego Valles (Komarnicki Undergraduate Award)
Kenia Guerrero Internship and Fellowship Activities
Kenia G. Guerrero, MPA student, was selected for a paid internship appointment for the spring 2020 semester with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS). This Center is a think tank located in Washington, D.C. whose staff support many kinds of research, communication, and publication on topics relevant to broad areas of study. Ms. Guerrero was assigned as a Communications Intern for the Mexico Institute. Due to the stay at home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Guerrero worked on her internship remotely from El Paso.
Ms. Guerrero was also selected for The University of Texas System: Graduate Archer Fellowship Program for summer 2020. This fellowship program consist of various components including: the internship itself in Washington D.C., policy working groups, and graduate-level courses.
Pi Alpha Alpha: The Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration
The MPA program recently inducted 11 MPA students in the spring 2020 semester to its Honor Society, Pi Alpha Alpha. Pi Alpha Alpha is the Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration. There are more than 160 chapters located around the world at NASPAA member schools. Students are invited to join based on holding an overall GPA of 3.7 or above and completion of at least 18 hours in the MPA degree.
Pi Sigma Alpha: An Update from PSA Advisor, Dr. Taeko Hiroi
I am pleased to report that our Epsilon Epsilon Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, The National Political Science Honor Society for which I serve as faculty advisor, was awarded one of the national 2019 Best Chapter Awards! Congratulations to PSA members! This is the seventh national Best Chapter Awards that we won and is a testament to PSA members’ excellence, commitment, and hard work. I look forward to seeing many smiley faces once the coronavirus pandemic settles down. Until then, please stay safe and healthy!
SHINING STAR ALUMNI
Jairemy Edwards (BA 2017, MA 2019) Goes on to a Doctoral Program at UTSA!
Jairemy Edwards completed both his Bachelor of Arts (double-major) and Master of Arts degrees with the UTEP Department of Political Science. As an undergraduate, Jairemy was a member of the UTEP Rugby Club, the New York University Model United Nations Vietnam Committee (NYUMUNC 2017), and a presenter at the UTEP Student Conference on Race, Gender, and Violence. During his graduate studies, Jairemy was a recipient of the Komarnicki Graduate Scholarship, the UTEP Graduate Student Scholarship, the West El Paso Memorial Disabled Veterans Scholarship, and was the Graduate School Banner Bearer in Spring 2019.
Under the mentorship of his thesis committee chair Dr. José D. Villalobos, Jairemy successfully defended his thesis titled, U.S. Perceptions of Economic Mobility Since the Enactment of NAFTA and Their Impact on American Politics and Society. Jairemy is currently a second year PhD student of applied demography at the College for Health, Community, and Policy with the University of Texas at San Antonio, where he studies the political demography of public opinion and demographic analytics.
Ruben Aguirre (BA 2020) Now Serving as Intern for Rep. Veronica Escobar in Washington, D.C.
For his last semester of his UTEP undergraduate degree, Ruben Aguirre began interning for Congresswoman Veronica Escobar at her Washington D.C. office along with participating in the Bill Archer Fellowship. Interning at the Hill, Mr. Aguirre was a first-hand witness to the impeachment trials of President Donald Trump along with the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, Mr. Aguirre was able to interact with his fellow classmates during a Presidential election campaign cycle. While in Washington D.C. during such a historic time, he has been able to improve his writing skills by researching national security policy for Team Escobar. Along with interning and being an Archer Fellow, Mr. Aguirre is working on publishing an article for the UT Austin Undergraduate Law Review. Previously in Fall 2019, he also interned for Judge Philip Martinez at the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Mr. Aguirre has now graduated from UTEP and will be going on to law school.
Dr. Charles Boehmer continues as Chair of the Department of Political Science for a sixth year. He enjoys teaching courses in the area of international relations, such as International Security and Foreign Policy of the U.S. He has been working on papers studying the effects of economic development and growth on interstate conflict. His research also continues on the relationships between human rights compliance by countries and networks of international organizations. Dr. Boehmer is serving as faculty adviser of the Global Relations Organization (GRO), which has participated in UN model simulations in New York the past few years.
Dr. Todd Curry was equally productive in scholarship and the community in 2019. He published a book, a book chapter, two peer-reviewed articles, and two editorials. Furthermore, he represented UTEP in numerous media outlets including CNN and covering Beto O’Rourke’s presidential announcement for NBC. He also helped organize the medical response to the refugee crisis on the border and currently is the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for Justice for Our Neighbors El Paso.
Dr. Gaspare M. Genna was honored to be named a Distinguished Teaching Professor and is now a member of UTEP’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. This reflects his work in helping students in and out of the classroom, including the development of methods to retain students and graduate them on time. He co-authored a chapter in The Rise of Regions: Conflict and Cooperation, which is due out this spring. The chapter analyzes the future of the European Union in light of departure of the UK. He was also co-awarded a grant from the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s office to bring out nationally recognized free trade experts to campus for discussions with students and faculty. Finally, he was honored to receive a Leadership Recognition Award from UTEP’s Center for Faculty Leadership and Development for his work in developing leadership training for faculty.
Dr. Taeko Hiroi recently published two peer-reviewed articles. Her sole-authored article, “Paradox of Redistribution: Legislative Overrepresentation and Regional Development in Brazil,” was published in the premier federalism journal, Publius: The Journal of Federalism in 2019. Her co-authored article, “Todos os estados são iguais, mas alguns são mais iguais do que outros,” was published in Revista Brasileira de Ciências Sociais (one of the top two social science journals in Brazil) in February 2020. She is also working with Dr. Genna on an introductory political science textbook project under contract with Sage/CQ Press. She also presented her work at the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association and the American Political Science Association. In addition, as noted previously, the Epsilon Epsilon Chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, The National Political Science Honor Society for which she serves as faculty advisor, was awarded one of the national 2019 Best Chapter Awards. This is the seventh national Best Chapter Awards that PSA has won and is a testament to PSA members’ excellence, commitment, and hard work.
Dr. Rebecca Reid published two peer-reviewed articles, appearing in American Politics Research (APR) and PS: Political Science & Politics. Both articles highlight the importance and effects of diversity within institutions, where she finds that women on courts ease war-induced groupthink that would otherwise undermine civil liberties (https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2020/02/17/why-more-diverse-courts-may-be-better-for-civil-liberties-in-times-of-war/), and addresses the lack of representation in the APSA Law and Courts Section and its implications (https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics/article/are-we-there-yet-addressing-diversity-in-political-science-subfields/CCD4DF09901D8142A5F270A61F0DC5AE). She further published a peer-reviewed book chapter in Edward Elgar's Research Handbook on Law and Courts, compares indigenous sovereignty rights across the United States, Canada, and Australia. Finally, she also published an article in Inside Higher Ed that identifies the inherited white, cis-male template of academia that systematically disenfranchises scholars who seek to expand research to innovative or novel research agendas.
Dr. Gregory D. Schmidt taught a thousand students in online and newly developed hybrid sections of Political Science 2311 in English and Spanish. As a member of the 2019-20 Teach Tech cohort, he worked to eliminate expensive textbooks from his undergraduate courses. He had a peer-reviewed article accepted for publication in both English and Spanish and also completed work on the fourth edition of his textbook, Peru: The Politics of Surprise. Early drafts were presented at the annual meetings of the Western Political Science Association and the Midwest Association for Latin American Studies (MALAS). Schmidt also served as vice-president and program chair of MALAS, was a member of several departmental committees, and reviewed a manuscript for Electoral Studies.
Patrick Timmons, Ph.D. wrote an article on migrants drowning/braving the river at Piedras Negras that made it into the Guardian’s best journalism book of 2019 (for full details, see: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/26/us-mexico-border-migrants-crossing-rio-grande). He was also interviewed on numerous occassions throughout the year, but perhaps most notably on BBC Radio 4's World Tonight in a discussion about Mexico's homicide rate and the tragic murder of Isabel Cabanillas in Juárez (you can see his interview in this link starting at about the 42 minute mark: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000dfql).
Dr. José D. Villalobos published a co-authored book chapter entitled “The Study of Discrete Emotions in Politics” in a volume by Oxford University Press (2019) that provides a comprehensive overview of the role discrete emotions (as opposed to dimensional emotions) play in politics. Dr. Villalobos and his co-authors also now have a book in press entitled Seeing Us in Them: Social Divisions and the Politics of Group Empathy (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming), which details their originative Group Empathy Theory and application of their Group Empathy Index (adopted by both the ANES and BES) vis-à-vis a litany of large-N representative survey waves and experiments demonstrating that group empathy is a primary determinant of political opinions and actions across racial/ethnic groups even when other competing factors are at play. Dr. Villalobs also recently became a UTEP Distinguished Teaching Professor and served on the Distinguished Teaching Award Committee for the American Political Science Association. He currently serves as Chair of the Dean's Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Task Force and Review Committee.
POLS IN PICTURES
The 2019 Political Science Department Homecoming Celebration
Professor Singh working from home during COVID-19 (with a few research assistants by her side)
Presentation by the Finnish delegation in Quinn Hall (Dr. Boehmer helped in hosting this event)