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Research Spotlight

2017 Research Grant Abstracts

Narratives of Conflict in the Great Lakes Region of Africa: Strong Man Politics and Communicating Ideology

Jason Anderson, Instructor School of Security and Global Studies

The implementation and continuity of constitutional democracies in the Great Lakes region of Africa (GLR) is complex. This study will examine the confluence of using expressions of ideology and power capital as forms of social calibration within Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Rather than treat each nation/state respectively as its own unique vehicle for analysis, this examination seeks to place conflict-oriented rhetoric in a regional context on a continual spectrum that is influenced by neo-patriarchal political communities and their respective leadership structures. Particular attention will be given to specific periods of conflict in each of the three countries. Open source collection with regards to multiple, platform specific media outlets will serve as a key vehicle for language and content analysis in gathering specific data that are indicative of how social mechanisms and the manipulation of ethnicity become ideological weapons in the GLR resulting in conflict. Uganda will function as the initial historical analysis of how these meta-narratives formed with the emergence of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) during the Civil War of 1981-1985 illustrated by the rise to power of Yoweri Museveni. The analysis will then look at open source indicators of conflict rhetoric and ideology prior to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with regards to specific media outlets and the subsequent constitutional reforms in the Paul Kagame era that indicate further repression and conflict incitement. Burundi will be used to indicate the use of social media data that are congruent with a more modern version of neo-patriarchal suppression when the same form of transitional leadership is complicated with tribal and ethnic differences.

A Comparison between U.S./Israel Relations During President Obama's First Term and that of President George H.W. Bush (1989-1992

James Barney, Associate Professor School of Security and Global Studies

The purposed research will be a work of historical analysis in the field of U.S. foreign policy history. Drawing on a host of primary and secondary sources including archival research funded by this grant, this research will explore Israeli/U.S. relations during the first term of President Obama by exploring the rhetoric and the stated foreign policy positions of President Obama's administration. Then, this proposed research project will compare U.S./Israeli relations under President Obama (2009 to 2012) with that George H.W. Bush (1989-1992). George H.W. Bush was selected as a focal of comparison because many within President Obama's administration have stated that the rhetoric and policies of George H.W. Bush served as a template for the Obama administration's treatment of Israel. To date, only a handful of historians have explored the nature of the relationship between the two countries during the Obama years and those who have done so have been quite critical of President Obama's treatment of Israel and have characterized the relationship between the two countries as strained or a historical anomaly. This research seeks to explore whether such criticism is warranted and whether the relationship between Israel and the United States has historical precedent or represents a radical break as many of President Obama's critics contend.

Geographic variation in gut parasites among free ranging vervet monkeys

Dr. Jennifer Cramer, Program Director School of Arts and Humanities

Throughout Africa, development and tourism create increasingly fragmented habitats shared by both wild primates and people.  This human-primate interface is a source of conflict.  As wild primates turn to crop raiding and dump scavenging, some people are frustrated about loss of resources while others find ways to capitalize through illegal activities such as bushmeat hunting and the pet trade.  All of these points of overlap between primates and people provide increased risk of disease transmission.    One major concern is that because primates and humans are closely related biologically, the bidirectional risk of disease transmission when we are in close quarters increases.  For primates living in highly altered habitats there are major health effects including significant changes to their level of parasite infection (Chapman et al., 2006) and gut microbiome diversity (Amato et al., 2013). This project will examine gut parasites in free ranging vervet monkeys in West Africa.  Fecal samples will be collected from monkey troops living in different environments (forest, coastal, urban) and with different levels of human habitat alteration.  The PI will use these data to examine if there is a relationship between vervet monkey gut parasite infection and their environment.  In addition, these data will be compared with data from a previous project by the PI.  The combination of data from the two projects will create a one of a kind survey of gut parasites in a single widely distributed primate species at the end points of its natural range- West Africa and South Africa.

Radical Animal Rights Extremism: Assessing the Nature of the Threat

Nicole K. Drumhiller, Program Director School of Security & Global Studies, and Jason Roesler

This case study will explore criminal acts carried out by radical animal rights extremists, and will assess the perception of fear they instill within their targets of aggression. In order to have a clear definition of “ecoterrorism,” it is important to have a clear understanding for what this term fully encompasses. While recent literature has attempted to clearly define terrorism as it relates to the radical animal rights movement, there is conflicting interpretations on what should and should not be classified as an act of “ecoterrorism.” The academic literature discusses assassinations, unarmed assaults, bombings/explosions, facility attacks, cybercrimes, animal liberations, house visits, and vandalism all as criminal acts carried out by radical animal rights extremists but fails to look at how these acts are perceived by the population under threat. This study will utilize survey and field research to assess the perceptions of those targeted by radical animal rights based extremism, and the degree to which these criminal acts cause fear within their targets. This research will be assessed to further understand the current magnitude of REAR related crime and terrorism.

The interpretive communities of first year undergraduate online students: An exploratory factor analysis

Susan Ferebee, Instructor School of Business

Online education enrollment is rising however, persistence rates remain lower for online learning. Thirty percent of students leave before entering their sophomore year. First year online students experience conflicts that impede their ability to persist. Addressing this practical problem leads to improved education and thereby an improved human condition. The problem of low first year online student retention will be examined through the lens of interpretive community theory, which describes the social context of interpretation. An interpretive community is a community that shares a point of view or way of organizing experience. The interpretive community shares an attitude toward events or concepts. This study will identify the interpretive communities of first year online students. These students will not be uniform in how they conceptualize the first year experience, but will make sense of their experience within their daily communities of interaction. The study will answer these research questions:

  1. What interpretive communities exist among first year online students?
  2. How do first year online students in distinct interpretive communities differ in how they talk about and interpret their first year experience?
  3. What relationship exists between membership in a particular interpretive community and demographic characteristics?

Exploratory design will be applied. Students will respond to semantic differential scales that measure attitudes toward their first year online experience. The responses will be analyzed using exploratory factor analysis to extract the interpretive community clusters.

Humanities at Work: Unpacking the Experiential Learning of Military Members

Dr. Grace Glass, Dean School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Bethanie Hansen, Faculty Director School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Jennifer Cramer, Program Director School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Colleen Lindecker, Program Director School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Greg Stratman, Faculty Director School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Rick Hines, Program Director School of Arts and Humanities
Dr. Jeff Stone, Faculty Director School of Arts and Humanities

This project will focus on how veterans who have seen combat or another type of service later make sense of, or theorize, their experience through various forms of online learning. We intend to individually and collaboratively explore the relevance and application of humanities and the liberal arts education in the lives of individuals affiliated with, or who have served in, the military. Current rhetoric regarding higher education has publicly accused humanities fields as being irrelevant, or not useful in preparing students for gainful employment, as noted by Zakaria (2015). Our team plans to contest this assessment by analyzing how online work in the humanities helps veterans make sense of past combat experience and achieve the transition between military service and civilian/professional life.

Who Can I Be Now: An Examination of Refugee Entrepreneurs in Germany and the Netherlands

Dr. Ronald Johnson, Professor School of Business

Refugees have entered the European Community in unprecedented numbers since September 2015.  Many of these new arrivals (mainly from Syria and Iraq) will require years of language training, skill training, and other cultural education to successfully integrate and become productive in their new communities. There is one segment of this new population that will not need so much time: the entrepreneurial class. My proposal’s research focuses around an examination of refugees who have chosen Germany and the Netherlands as their adopted home. I propose to begin by interviewing government officials responsible for refugee affairs in Berlin and Amsterdam to learn more about their efforts to assist the refugees. I then plan to interview refugees in both countries in order to learn specifically the entrepreneurial success stories. I plan to use certified interpreters in the languages of Arabic, Dutch and German to get expert translation of the data. This qualitative research is important as studies have not yet been conducted on this population and topic. Previous entrepreneurial research has centered on migrants who have entered western nations (specifically the United States and Canada) in order to start businesses. There is currently a tremendous amount of societal stress and conflict in both Germany and the Netherlands due to this sudden influx of so many refugees. Learning more about what makes some refugees successful entrepreneurs in their new land may add to better understanding, reducing conflict and stress, while providing more information on the subject of entrepreneurship

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Disputes in the U.S.-Japan-China Strategic Triangle: Explanations from Analytical Eclecticism

Dr. Yukinori Komine, Associate Professor, School of Security and Global Studies

This study adopts an eclectic approach to explaining the principal implications of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands disputes in the East China Sea for U.S.-Japan-China relations. It employs three major theories (Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism), to explore the military, political, economic, and cultural-normative implications of the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue. Realist approaches focus on the balance of power in the U.S.-Japan-China triangle. Realists assess that the U.S.-Japan alliance could either deter China's naval expansion or trigger China's assertive responses. Liberal analyses explain the role of complex interdependence among the world's three largest economic powers. Liberals highlight that the reported potential reserves of natural resources in the East China Sea could promote energy security or become a major flashpoint of regional energy disputes. Constructivist proponents explore how nationalism, especially the search for greater prestige, has become a major driving force in Sino-Japanese rivalries. Japan and China seek to boost their prestige, namely the reputation for power. The U.S., as an offshore balancer, faces the risk of entrapment into Sino-Japanese conflicts over tiny inhabitant rocks. Alternatively, the three major powers may attempt to develop mutual understandings to discuss regional challenges. In essence, the employment of analytical eclecticism could explore the on-going territorial issue an unintended `geopolitical center' in U.S.-Japan-China strategic triangle. The study concludes by providing policy relevant suggestions to comprehend the linkage among material and normative factors of the Senkaku/Diaoyu situation.

Habitat and Community Characterization of two New England Reintroduced Populations of a Global Threatened Beach Plant, Seabeach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus)

Kristen Kostelnik, Assistant Professor School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus) is a threatened, annual beach plant that has seen significant declines in population number throughout its range.  Research, restoration, and management efforts have thus far focused on the southern part of the species' range.  Reintroduction at two historic sites in New England by a cooperative team of researchers, refuge managers, and USFWS biologists will occur in June 2017. I propose to collaborate in that effort and supplement it by conducting independent research that characterizes the habitat and community structure of these two restored sites both at the time of planting and at the end of the season before frost kills any plants that survived the season.  This information will expand the existing body of knowledge to include between and within site differences that might be important for species recovery.

What’s Technology Got to Do with It? Using Geospatial Technology to Diffuse Conflict in Geographically Challenged Areas.

Liam O’Brien, Instructor School of Security & Global Studies, and Nicole K. Drumhiller, Program Director School of Security & Global Studies

Research has demonstrated that conflict over territorial issues, like that of boundaries or area management, have a tendency for heightened escalation, and can lead to recurring conflict. In issues over territory, the use of geospatial imagery and technology has proven useful in assisting with the resolution of international conflict in areas such as Latin America and the Balkans. This study seeks to further assess how remote sensing technologies can be used to further mitigate conflict in so-called geographically challenged areas, where the landscape presents mapping challenges and leads to questions over state ownership and management. Using a structured-focused case study comparison, this study will assess the Peru-Ecuador Cordillera del Condor conflict, the Southern Patagonia ice field and the border dispute between Chile and Argentina, and the ownership and management disputes surrounding the Northwest Passage conflict. The study will conclude with recommendations to policy- and decision-makers on how advances in geospatial technology can be used as a diplomacy aid in issues specific to territorial disputes.

Correlation of Remotely Sensed Data with Wetland Condition as Determined through Field Data: Tapping the National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA) to Address Wetland Condition across Scales

Dr. Kelly Reiss, Program Director School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

The passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 mandated protection of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. One mechanism of supporting CWA reporting, the National Aquatic Resources Survey (NARS) has been described as nationally consistent, scientifically defensible, and first-of-its-kind with a focus on resource-specific surveys, including lakes, rivers, wadeable streams, coastal waters, and wetlands. Results to date have offered a unique perspective on aquatic resource health, with the same methods used in collecting samples for each resource in the same field season at sites identified through a probability-based design, which allows scaling up to estimate resource condition at the national scale. At the same time, analysis of NARS data has largely been limited to local field data. With improved technology and computing capabilities, this data set is primed for comparison of field data with remotely sensed data, collected through passive satellite technology. This research would specifically focus on wetlands data from Florida collected through the NARS National Wetland Condition Assessment (NWCA), which includes over 100 assessment areas sampled in 2011, 2012 and 2016. Comparisons, such as the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to the Florida Wetland Condition Index (FWCI), the Vegetative Multi-Metric Index (VMMI), and soil and water measures, will be used to test which remotely sensed data accurately evaluate wetland condition. Once correlations are identified, expanding the review of wetland resources to those without field data can help inform our understanding of the condition of wetland resources across the landscape. Further, having a baseline for wetland condition to evaluate across time and through a changing global climate expands the scope and importance of this research.

Impact of Course Quality on Student Academic Performance

Dr. Cassandra Shaw, Program Director School of Business
Dr. Thomas Schaefer, Program Director School of Business
Dr. Chad Patrizi, Dean School of Business
Dr. Kathleen Irwin, Program Director School of Business

Quality is an important factor in the delivery of online courses. Quality is defined as "a high level of value or excellence" by Merriam Webster (Quality, 2016). Through this research, a quality pre-assessment in the ENTR, MKTG, ECON, and BUSN courses will be conducted, course corrections initiated, and a post-assessment of the quality in the same courses conducted.  Data will be compared to student GPA data to see if improvement has been made in the average grade level. Quality will be measured using a Course Quality Rubric that scores quality in various categories including announcements, syllabus, lessons, assignments, and tests/quizzes. Today, a philosophical conflict still exists with online learning and this study is an attempt to demonstrate that online learning does provide quality learning.

Allan and Helen Cruickshank- Shifting conservation to environmentalism through education, science and the arts

Charles Venuto, Instructor School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Allan and Helen Cruickshank were mid-20th century conservationists who educated millions of Americans on the beauty and importance of nature. As a National Audubon Society (NAS) lecturer and photographer, Allan toured the country showcasing his photos and films, which by their content included a conservation message. Helen's and Allan's books chronicled the behavior and wonders of birds and other wildlife. The Cruickshanks lived in the era when many conservationists were transformed to environmentalists. The roles these widely respected naturalists played has never been fully captured in a single publication.  The qualitative research method will be used to review and analyze date. The research will focus on three primary sources: NYC Library-The NAS  holdings at the library contain information on the Cruickshanks and their colleagues University of Florida Natural History Museum Archives-Most of the Florida Audubon holding are located in the museum including letters between the couple as well as diaries. Hog Island, ME-Allan was an instructor at this NAS camp for over 20 years. Archives at this camp include Cruickshank material. A survey instrument will be developed to interview those who knew Allan and/or Helen with the goal of better understanding how the Cruickshanks educated, influenced and worked to promote environmental education.

The dynamics of indigenous governance: technology, conflict and cooperation

Michelle Watts, Faculty Director School of Security and Global Studies

This inter-disciplinary research project has three intertwined goals. First, it seeks to formulate a framework for evaluating indigenous governance structures. Second, it will assess the use of information technology (ITT) among the indigenous in Alaska. Finally, it will examine the role ITT plays in governance, conflict and cooperation between indigenous and non-indigenous governance structures in Alaska. The indigenous, meaning groups with a distinct heritage and ancestral ties that predate colonization; have a complex relationship with the governing bodies of the nation-states in which they reside. Scholars note that what constitutes effective governance is highly contested (Smith 2005; Hunt, Smith, Garling and Sanders 2008). This project proposes to evaluate governance using the following framework: First, World Bank indicators of governance, “voice and accountability,” “political stability and absence of violence/terrorism,” “government effectiveness,” “regulatory quality,” “rule of law” and “control of corruption” (World Bank 2015) will be assessed using empirical indicators and interviews. Data will be collected on information technology performance metrics, including the reliability, availability, and serviceability of voice and data services as well as means of access such as computers, cell phones and other mobile devices using both available data and surveys. Interviews will be used to understand the story behind the metrics. Conflict in this context refers to both physical and political conflict, while cooperation represents the pooling of information technology resources and capabilities to enhance the capabilities of indigenous governments and the services they provide. Thus, this study seeks to wed the fields of political science and information technology to gain greater insight into conflict, cooperation and governance between indigenous and non-indigenous entities.

Death, Displacement and Hope: Comparing Jordan and Lebanon's Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Dr. Deborah Wheeler, Instructor School of Security and Global Studies

This project examines why Jordan and Lebanon have accepted more than two million Syrian refugees, even at great risk to their own national security.  The project uses ethnographic research methods in order to examine the impact of refugee communities on the host society.  It uses comparative case studies of the governments' responses to the newcomers in both countries, and attempts to locate the costs and potentially hidden benefits of hosting refugees.  The significance of this project is that few if any academic researchers have studied the national security impacts of proactive humanitarian assistance.  If it can be shown to be in a country's best interests to host refugees, then perhaps more countries can be persuaded to help the displaced and downtrodden, instead of sealing their borders.

The Impact of the Domestic Policy Context on the Europeanization of Civil Society Organizations’ Political Activity

Melissa Schnyder, Ph.D

The ways in which civil society organizations “Europeanize” their political activities has become a very popular area of research in political sociology and European Studies. Although Europeanization can take different forms, it generally refers to organizations’ political activity that targets the European Union (EU), or domestically-targeted political activity that is triggered by an EU-level issue. Most Europeanization research to date has primarily focused on (a) how groups Europeanize their political activities as reflected in different modes of political action, or (b) why some types of organizations choose to Europeanize whereas others do not. Although these are important questions, scholars have not thoroughly investigated what drives the Europeanization of organizations’ political activity in the first place, including how the domestic policy context in which they operate may encourage or constrain activity directed toward the EU. Using survey data of organizations across Europe working in the area of migrant and refugee rights, along with publicly available data on national policies relating to immigrant and refugee integration, this study aims to fill this gap by analyzing how the domestic policy context facilitates or constrains political activity directed toward specific EU institutions and actors.

Can Islamists be Secularized? Religion and Politics in Urban Bangladesh

Sayeed Iftekhar Ahmed, Ph.D.

Islamist political parties play significant roles in various societies and states where a majority of the Muslim population resides. In Bangladesh, which has the world’s third-largest Muslim population, Islamist parties operate as counter-hegemonic projects, whose main objectives are to challenge the existing secular or quasi-secular political system in order to establish a theocratic state. Therefore, the question arises whether it is possible for the Islamists to work within the secular, democratic framework of the state. The literature on secularization, secularism, and Islam relies on a grand narrative of the reasons to address the question and provides us with polarized answers regarding the Islamists’ ability to accommodate the principle of secularism. Most of the literature suggests that due to the innate nature of the religion of Islam itself, which rejects secularism and the process of secularization, the Islamist parties are unable to accommodate secular, liberal-democratic values. In contrast, some scholars argue that secularism per se poses no inherent threat to Islam and hence, it is possible for the Islamists to work within the rubric of secular, democratic polity. However, almost all of the works have been done on the abstract, theoretical level and do not take into consideration the interplay of social and political factors in Muslim societies. Therefore, it is important to examine these opposite theoretical claims in the context of the socio-political realities of the state where the Islamist parties play important roles in the political system.
Research has been conducted regarding the genesis or the role of Islamists in the political system of Bangladesh, but none of this work addresses whether Islamist parties can in fact acclimate to secularism. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to determine both sides of the theoretical claims—the ability or the inability of the Islamist parties to accommodate secular values—at the grassroots level of socio-political realities in the quasi-secular state of Bangladesh.

Unconventional Warfare Project

Dr. Jon Holstine  Project Launch: April 2016

This study will seek to answer whether or not the United States is politically prepared to support an expanded capability and interest in UW? Unconventional Warfare consists of operations and activities are conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency, to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area. UW has become an increasingly important tool of US policy as resistance forces in many parts of the globe organize to confront oppressive regimes. This proposal examines the success and failures of the past UW operations to include: the Office of Strategic Services in World War II, Russian UW in the Ukraine/Crimea, the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom with the US in support of the Northern Alliance, Contras in Nicaragua, and the US in Operation Iraqi Freedom in partnership with the Kurdish Peshmerga.

Guiding questions for researchers include: are training, equipment, and readiness levels of special operations forces adequate to capitalize on strategic opportunities and enable resistance movements at times and locations of choice approved by US authorities? In each example of successes and failures in past UW operations, what were the conditions and how was success defined? What were the best practices? Are the American people and political leaders prepared to support unconventional warfare given ethical questions and the long-term demands of UW?

Special Operations Research Project

Dr. Robert Redding Project Launch: March 2016

This case study will describe the special operations techniques that were used by British special operations forces during their campaign against Argentina in the Falklands theater of operations in 1982. The Falklands campaign was one of the few military campaigns in the late 20th Century that included major combat operations. Multiple sources of information will be investigated in order to help develop an understanding of the role that special operations played in the Falklands campaign. This study will evaluate specific special operation missions conducted by the British during the Falklands campaign in order to provide a descriptive analysis to help provide insight for special operations planners seeking an understanding of past successful operations.

In the case study, the investigators will identify operations and evaluate their characteristics within the framework of Spulak’s Theory of Special Operations. The architecture of British special operations at the time will be evaluated, as well as the mission effectiveness in regards to the overall British campaign objectives. The research questions under investigation include: What special operations were instrumental in facilitating the strategic success of the British liberation of the Falkland Islands from Argentina during the Falklands War in 1982? Were these actions consistent with Dr. Robert Spulak’s Theory of Special Operations, or are there alternate explanations for British special operations forces successes in supporting British success?

Resources

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Contest

Graduate students around the world are participating in the Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®), and APUS students are no exception. First established by Australia’s University of Queensland in 2008, 3MT® provides students with a unique opportunity to take their graduate research project and condense it into a three-minute presentation.

View student entries in the 2018 APUS contest.