Rockefeller Students Present at Virtual Student Research Conference

Rockefeller Students Present at Virtual Student Research Conference

Undergrad Research

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 15, 2020) — On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, the University at Albany’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Engagement (CURCE) hosted the 17th annual Student Research Conference — a shared virtual showcase of achievements.

While the coronavirus crisis caused the more than 200 registered conference participants to move their presentations of research and creative endeavors from Campus Center West to the cyberworld, the conference commenced on the online learning management system Blackboard, and students were able to share their research via video recordings and documents within an interactive discussion forum. 

Rockefeller undergrads Lucas Campo (Senator Bernie Sanders, The Political Context of the 2020 Election, and the Treatment of the Democratic Frontrunners by the Mainstream Media) and Sophia Patka (The Relationship Between Political Ideologies and College) were honored as two of the 24 UAlbany scholars who received the Presidential Award for Undergraduate Research. 

Rockefeller also had students present the work they completed in their Undergraduate Research Assistantship, including Asher-Leigh Boone, Connor Cota, Nicholas Gilbert, Mark Marinkovic, Elizabeth McCormick, Brian Poltie, Zaneta Soumbounou, and Jenna Speranza. Funded by generous donations to the College, the Undergraduate Research Assistantship offers students hands-on experience with faculty advisors in a formal research environment. 

Below are the projects the students and faculty collaborated on and had the opportunity to present at the research conference:

Asher-Leigh Boone
Major: Public Policy and Management
Faculty Supervisor: Mila Gascó-Hernandez
Description of Research: Confronted with a range of complex challenges, cities and their governments are faced with increasing pressure to improve their innovation capacity. In recent efforts to do so, creating innovation labs, within the city government’s organizational structure or as external organizations, has become a popular solution. Despite increasing research in innovation labs, this is still an underexplored phenomenon in the public administration literature. The research project aims at better understanding how these labs can contribute to strengthening innovation capacity and producing innovation outcomes in public organizations. Further, given the importance of context, this project aims at comparing different innovation labs in different countries.
Asher-Leigh’s Research Experience: “Working as a research assistant has been a challenge, but it has pushed me to become a better student. It has forced me to learn to be more resourceful. It has also allowed me to consider how innovation is developed on both a macro and micro level and how this directly impacts on communities around the world. I have enjoyed this new challenge, and as a graduating senior, feel this has prepared me to be a stronger candidate for both my pursuit of higher education and in the job market.

Connor Cota
Major: Political Science, Journalism
Faculty Supervisor: Mila Gascó-Hernandez
Description of Research: Local governments have been involved in the adoption of information and communication technologies and disruptive technologies to support different policies and services that can enhance the well-being of individuals and make the city more attractive. In particular, a growing attention has been given to smart cities. This research project draws upon the literature on organizational capacity from management, public administration, and urban studies to assess whether and how organizational capacity matters in the implementation of smart city initiatives.
Connor’s Research Experience: “My research with Professor Gasco has been a supremely pleasant time, as well as a thoroughly interesting one. I like to travel a lot, and have throughout my life, so researching many cities that I’ve spent time in gave me many new perspectives. I would highly recommend working in the field within my research, as it is on the forefront of infrastructural needs for most developed cities.”

Nicholas Gilbert
Major: Political Science (Global Politics)
Faculty Supervisor: Zsofia Barta
Description of Research: Compiling a database of sovereign credit rating reports from Fitch, Moody's and Standard & Poor's.
Nicholas’ Research Experience: “The work that I did for Professor Barta was entirely preliminary to what I'm currently doing as a substitute to my cancelled internship. My assistantship consisted of compiling a database of credit-rating agency reports, which I am now coding.”

Mark Marinkovic
Major: Political Science, Philosophy
Faculty Supervisor: Julie Novkov
Description of Research: Ethnic and racial minorities have been a part of our nation’s military history since before we were even a nation. Millions of African Americans, Native Americans, Filipinos, and others have fought and died valiantly defending our nation across the world. Yet, those who did survive often returned home to what was hardly a hero’s welcome – instead, they faced harsh institutional and social barriers that seemed to neglect the great service they had done. Thousands of these racial minorities would later leverage this military service in a wider struggle for civil rights, arguing that their service had hardly been reciprocated and they were entitled to expanded rights. The research seeks to explore how the process of this leveraging occurred throughout roughly the period of 1850-1925, spanning several wars and several eras of the civil rights struggle.
Mark’s Research Experience: “I had a great experience with the research. Working with Dr. Novkov was great; she was always very encouraging, understanding, and helpful. The research topic itself concerned a time period of personal interest, which made the experience especially rewarding. I was surprised at how challenging it was, though. It definitely helped me hone in my research skills that will serve me for the rest of my academic career and beyond!”

Elizabeth McCormick
Major: Public Policy and Management
Faculty Supervisor: Stephen Holt
Description of Research: Examining the effects of changes in school board composition on spending across schools within a district, changes in superintendents, and the resulting changes in the hiring of principals.
Elizabeth’s Research Experience: “I think doing research taught me a lot, especially about time management and not putting too much on my plate at once. It gave me a greater appreciation for the small things that have to be put into research before you can get results.”

Brian Poltie
Major: Public Policy and Management
Faculty Supervisor: Luis F. Luna-Reyes
Description of Research: Rapid urbanization and population growth in urban areas in recent decades pose multiple challenges for cities across the globe. Consequently, building smart city systems has become a popular strategy for urban planners and developers. While large and mega-cities tend to dominate the headlines, the more ubiquitous small and medium-sized cities remain understudied, especially in their approaches to the adoption of the smart city model. Applying the perspectives of social informatics to a dataset comprising 12 cities in the USA, this paper explores the adoption of smart city initiatives in small, medium and large cities. Complementing previous studies, the analysis builds on a comprehensive conceptualization of the smart city concept that includes the dimensions of government, physical environment and society. Our findings suggest that all cities in the sample experience significant pressures from population growth, and that smaller cities have less complex approaches to smart city adoption. In addition, medium cities appear to emphasize more on the social dimension of smart cities.
Brian’s Research Experience: “One thing I really enjoyed this semester of research was the one-on-one learning with both Professor Luna-Reyes and Emmanuel. The meetings with the three of us have taught me new and more effective researching techniques. This was also the first time I had actually used Excel/Google Sheets for more than class work. The practical use of these applications are far greater than that of what I have learned in class, and this project has shown me that. I am definitely excited to where this project may go in the future.”

Zaneta Soumbounou
Major: Africana Studies, Political Science Minor
Faculty Supervisor: Lucy Sorensen
Description of Research: The epidemic of opioid drugs in rural regions of the United States has received widespread attention. Although the direct health consequences are obviously immense, the broader implications of opioid abuse, dependence, and overdose for families and communities are still unknown. This research project seeks to understand intergenerational impacts of opioid prescribing patterns on children and youth, using national geospatial datasets and quantitative analysis. The Children of Despair: Rural Opioid Prescribing and Student Achievement
Zaneta’s Research Experience: “I really enjoyed my research experience as it challenged me to think about things in new ways while helping me hone in my skills. I learned a lot of new information about child development, school administration, and public health and this learning and expanded my career interests.”

Jenna Speranza
Political Science
Faculty Supervisor: Mila Gascó-Hernandez
Description of Research: This research project aims at exploring and understanding the different pathways government organizations are pursuing to implement open innovation approaches as well as the innovation outcomes of open innovation processes.
Jenna’s Research Experience: “Researching this semester has been a wonderful experience that has greatly expanded my skills in ways that classroom research cannot. I've greatly enjoyed researching a topic that's on the cutting edge of the future of public management. Learning to overcome obstacles and seek out the best way to communicate my finding was the greatest challenge, but also my greatest source of growth throughout this experience."

Other Rockefeller Students that Presented at the 2020 Student Research Conference Included:

Shelby Hafener
Comprehensive Sexual Education in New York State
Faculty Advisor: Julie Novkov
As of spring 2020, New York is one of the many states that does not currently have a comprehensive sexual education law in place. Currently, there are two bills in the New York State government that will mandate comprehensive sexual education state-wide and make sure that LGBT students are included in public school sexual education. The passage of these two pieces of legislation would allow LGBT students to receive the education they need in order to lead healthy, safe lives.

Samuel Seitz
The Constitutional Evolution of Mirada v. Arizona and its Effects on Law Enforcement: Judicial Legislation and Beyond
Faculty Advisor: Julie Novkov
Summary: In 1966 the Supreme Court penned the landmark case Miranda v Arizona which forever changed law enforcement policing practices. Since that decision, Miranda has amassed a myriad of scrutiny from all sides. In 1968, as part of the Omnibus Crime Control Act, Congress attempted to have the final say on police custodial practices. In statute 3501, Congress attempted to revert to the pre-Miranda totality of the circumstances test. Consequentially, the statute was never invoked or utilized until 2000 in Dickerson v United States. Dickerson perhaps is the most significant case in all of 5th Amendment jurisprudence because of its implications on separation of powers. Since 1966 Miranda has undergone a fundamental evolution to become what we know today as part of routine police practices. Part of this fundamental evolution has forever impacted law enforcement tactics, confession rates, and conviction rates. The research presented here examines the questions: can/should Miranda be congressionally modified? Based on the intent of Miranda, was Dickerson decided correctly? How has Miranda impacted police?

Lucas Campo
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Political Context of the 2020 Election, and the Treatment of the Democratic Front Runners by the Mainstream Media
Faculty Advisor: Anne Hildreth
Summary: This paper offers a comprehensive breakdown of the context surrounding the 2020 presidential primary process and a systematic analysis of how the media treats the candidates. The political context includes how candidates juggle the primary calendar, their quest for donors and financial support, the polls, and supporter activism. However, how a candidate is presented in the communication environment is also critically important to his or her success because media bias has the potential to alter voters’ perspectives on the candidates. For instance, throughout the 2016 and 2020 primaries, Sanders’ supporters in particular have complained about unfair treatment from the media that may have played a role in the outcome. The research that was conducted was aimed at determining if the mainstream media has any bias in favor of or against any of the Democratic front-runners. To evaluate this, several hundred articles were analyzed to determine if the stories were framed in a positive, negative, or neutral tone. The study found that the mainstream media outlets offered far more positive coverage of Senator Warren and Vice President Biden’s campaigns, compared to Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign, which faced an overwhelming amount of negative press coverage.

Ian Kundel, Paige Nogid, Lucas Campo
Still “With Her”? Financing the Democratic Presidential Campaign
Faculty Advisor: Anne Hildreth
Summary: The path towards a Democratic presidential nomination is inconceivable without money. In this research I delve into the financing aspect of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign in comparison to the other top tier Democratic hopefuls. What difference can individual donations have in comparison to assistance from PACs and Super PACs? Furthermore, what is the relationship between the money spent on the campaign trail and Senator Warren’s place in the polls? I also analyzed the top tier candidates’ speaking time during debates against the polls. For the Democratic candidates, debates are the best opportunity for exposure to establish name recognition with the American electorate. While this research suggests there is little-to-no correlation, the current political climate shows that there is significant importance to individual contributions and questions the legislative priorities of candidates that accept beyond the minimum donation. Where the money comes from is of significance as geographical locations represent a wide coalition of support if they are not coming from a secular area.

Emily Matott
There Was a Riot on the Streets, Tell Me Where Were You?: The Role of Riots in Political Participation
Faculty Advisor: Sally Friedman
Summary: Political participation is an important aspect of American democracy with more common examples including: voting in elections, lobbying elected officials, and organized protesting. Participation has been significant in shaping the outcome of different political issues, but other actions such as occupations or rioting have often been overlooked in this discussion. Examining several riots throughout American history allows for a deeper understanding of why this unconventional form of political participation takes place as well as how it relates to concepts of power, political conflict, and democratic theory. Through analysis of riots that highlight different power struggles, rioting can be described as political participation when it is a reaction to governmental and societal behavior. Furthermore, rioting can be an attempt to control the scope of conflict and work toward desired goals.

Paige Nogid, Lucas Campo, and Ian Kundel
Twitter & The Primary Election
Faculty Advisor: Anne Hildreth
Summary: With the rise of the internet over the last two decades, political candidates are moving towards running online campaigns to reach a new demographic of voters across the country. Does the use of these strategies correspond to candidates’ standings in the polls? Scholars believe that social media has already proved its ability to influence politics after the 2016 Presidential election. In this study I collected information on the social media usage of four Democratic presidential primary candidates’ Twitter use over a 12-week period. I looked at the frequency of each candidate's tweets, engagement, and follower trends and compared them with each candidate's polling numbers. While the results of this study were limited, I find connections between candidate Twitter use and their public support. One factor remained consistent across each candidate’s Twitter usage, increases in each candidates’ polling numbers correspond with increases in candidates’ Twitter followers. Although it cannot be conclusively determined that Twitter directly influences a candidates’ standing in the polls, the results suggest that how a candidate communicates, especially early in the campaign, can have important consequences in their viability.

Click here to view the full conference program.