Redefining the Classroom

Poli Sci senior theses explore eclectic range of issues

Posted: April 29th, 2014

POLI SCI PRESENTERS – Political science students who presented senior thesis projects Apr.16-23 gather around faculty advisor Gary Johnson, center. From left to right are Robert Swain (South Lyon, Mich.), Sarah Tamlyn (St. Ignace, Mich.), Derric Knight (Detroit, Mich.), Patrick Brooks (Oxford, Mich.), Gabriel Schmidt (Troy, Mich.), Tyler Theel (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.), Prof. Johnson, Rose Scheid (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.), Marily Galloway (Alpena, Mich.), Kalie Tyree (East Jordan, Mich.), Anna Duffield (Sunfield, Mich.), Zachary Sternberg (Toronto, Ont.), and Kristen Pop, (Rochester, Mich.). (LSSU/John Shibley )

A print-resolution photo that runs with this caption can be found by clicking here.

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Lake Superior State University's political science department showcased the work of its spring graduates during a series of public presentations Apr. 16-23. This year's topics ran the gamut from an analysis of the impact of legalized gay marriage in Michigan, to proposals for sensible regulations on the international fireworks industry.

Thesis research projects are created during a student's final year and must offer original research in local, state, national, or international political affairs. Students submit a written thesis, followed by a public presentation and defense in front of the faculty, emeritus professors, and student colleagues. Much of this work goes on to be fully developed in graduate school.

“A senior thesis requires that students integrate the various strands of their education,” says Johnson. “They must draw upon knowledge and skills they have acquired from courses in multiple disciplines, and they must carry out a long-term and ambitious project that requires creativity, planning, and self-discipline.”

Patrick Brooks (Oxford, Mich.) - Repairing the Physician-Patient Relationship: A Two-Step Plan for Revitalizing Michigan’s Primary Care System. Over the past decade, the United States system of primary care has consistently been ranked as one of the worst, most inefficient systems among all developed nations in the world. Though lawmakers have done their best to patch the system, it has continued to provide substandard outcomes for patients and providers, leading to skyrocketing costs. The Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model, an organizational redesign of primary care, has shown promise of improved care and lower cost. However, roadblocks still exist on the path to primary care redesign. Brooks' thesis explored why the primary care system fell into such a state of disarray, the ways in which the PCMH rectifies these problems, and proposes a plan to enhance PCMH transformation in primary care facilities across Michigan. Brooks has been admitted to the graduate schools of Harvard University, University of California-Berkeley, and Emory University, where he has been offered two scholarships. He will also be graduating May 3 magna cum laude.

Anna Duffield (Sunfield, Mich.) - Satisfying the Hunger: An Alternative to Government Funding for Nonprofit Food Program Organizations. Nonprofit food program organizations are essential in providing adequate nutrition for those experiencing food insecurity. In the past decade, federal funding for such organizations has been extensively cut. The largest cut will be seen in the years following the governmental sequester of 2013. Without federal funding, nonprofit organizations - and more specifically, nonprofit food program organizations - will be forced to scale back on employees and ultimately services. Duffield's thesis examined budget supplementation strategies for nonprofit food program organizations and ultimately develops a plan that will utilize all of the major money generating techniques to sustain an organization independently from governmental aid. Duffield has already received two grants that are helping support the Sault Area Public Schools Students in Transition Program.

Marily Galloway (Alpena, Mich.) - Presidential Recess Appointments: Abuse of Power or Political Adaptation? American presidents have always used their appointment powers to staff their cabinets and fill other positions in the federal bureaucracy. Within the past few decades, an increasing number of these appointments have been made through executive order or recess appointment. These appointments avoid the Constitution’s advise and consent clause. Are these appointments made simply to avoid the long, drawn-out confirmation process, or are they an inevitable result of more power being collected within the executive branch? Galloway's thesis explored potential causes of this power shift, looked at whether these appointments present a danger to the separation of powers in the federal government, and examined potential methods by which this presidential power could be curbed. Galloway graduates May 3 summa cum laude.

Derric Knight (Detroit, Mich.) - Saving City Hall: Achieving Financial Sustainability for Michigan Local Governments. There are more than 2,800 local governments in Michigan. Many of these units are facing a financial crisis that threatens their missions and even their continued existence. This crisis is partly a product of the recent recession, but it is also partly a product of fundamental social, economic, and technical changes that have transformed the fabric of our state. This crisis calls for immediate action, action that allows local government to realize financial sustainability while still serving citizens. Knight's thesis examined how local governments can strive to achieve financial sustainability thorough collaboration, consolidation, and intergovernmental agreements.

Kristen Pop (Rochester, Mich.) - Spare Some Meds: Getting Mental Illnesses off the Streets. Thirty percent of America’s 630,000 homeless people suffer from a serious mental illness. Most of these people do not have adequate access to the health care and services they need. When programs are available, they are often under-utilized, either because the programs do not engage in follow-up or because the potential clients are afraid to seek help. Pop's thesis critically examined the programs available to those who are both homeless and mentally ill, suggested improvements in those programs, and proposed the foundations for a new program that would assist the homeless mentally ill and help get them off the streets.

Rose Scheid (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.) - Toward Securing Peace in a New Age: Reforming the United Nations Security Council. The United Nations Security Council's mission is to maintain international peace and security. It is the only UN agency that can impose binding action on member states, using military force if necessary. The Security Council has sometimes been a highly effective arbiter of collective security, but it has also sometimes been nothing more than ineffective forum for empty talk. The Security Council must be reformed so that its sanctions and peacekeeping mission can be more effective in our contemporary age. Scheid's thesis reviewed major peacekeeping missions, analyzed the various plans proposed to reform the Security Council, and explained why these plans have been unsuccessful. It went on to propose a new solution for creating a more effective and representative Security Council. Scheid has been admitted to law schools of University of Michigan, University of Minnesota and Michigan State University. She graduates summa cum laude and from LSSU's Honors program.

Gabriel Schmidt (Troy, Mich.) - Eavesdropping in the Global Electronics Age: An Analysis of the National Security Agency’s Role in Twenty-First Century American Foreign Policy. The National Security Agency (NSA) is one of the major intelligence agencies of the U.S. government. Its principal mission is “signals intelligence” (SIGINT), which is the gathering of intelligence through the interception of signals. This may be done through clandestine means. The NSA is also responsible for protecting U.S. government information and communications systems. The internal documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 provided an inside look at NSA’s massive and secret surveillance programs. They also prompted an intense international controversy and a national debate about what limits should be imposed on the NSA. Taking these developments into account, Schmidt's thesis analyzed the role the NSA should play in our post 9/11 world.

Zachary Sternberg (Toronto, Ont.) - Governing the Ice: Essential Components of Successful General Management in the NHL. The general manager of a National Hockley League team is the organization’s governor. It is up to him (or her) to coordinate the organization in a way that will lead to success on the ice. The GM builds a team by putting together a roster of players, hiring and overseeing a coaching staff, hiring and overseeing the scouts, and coordinating the entire operation. A successful team must have good players, a good coach, and a good staff, but it is ultimately the general manager who puts the entire package together. Some general managers succeed, while others fail. Those who succeed do so because of their skills and insights as leaders. Sternberg's thesis identified the key characteristics and strategies behind successful general management in the NHL.

Robert Swain (South Lyon, Mich.) - The Economics of Marriage Equality: An Analysis of the Impact of Legalizing Gay Marriage in Michigan. Religious implications aside, marriage is a state-recognized secular institution that carries a host of legal and economic implications. People who are married in the eyes of the law receive benefits, including differential treatment in taxation and spousal rights of visitation, attorney, survivorship, and others. More and more states are today making it legal for same sex couples to marry. However, under a constitutional amendment passed in 2004 (Proposal 04-2), gay couples in Michigan are denied the opportunity of entering into this state-recognized relationship. This limitation—which is being challenged both legally and politically—has important economic implications for same-sex couples. There are surely also economic implications for the state itself. Swain's thesis assessed the financial impacts on the State of Michigan of legalizing gay marriage.

Sarah Tamlyn (St. Ignace, Mich.) - Righting Judicial Wrongs: A Legislative Proposal for Compensating Michigan’s Wrongfully Convicted. There have been more than 1,250 wrongful convictions in the United States over the last 23 years. In many cases, the wrongfully convicted have spent years in prison, years in which they were away from their families, unable to establish careers, and unable to build any economic security. In some states, the wrongfully convicted are compensated for their losses. Unfortunately, Michigan provides no relief to those whose lives have been devastated by wrongful convictions. They must rely, instead, on the uncertainties of civil lawsuits. Tamlyn proposes a statutory alternative that focuses on improvements to Senate Bill 61, a proposal that would provide compensation to Michigan’s wrongfully convicted.

Tyler Theel (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.) - The Pursuit of Happiness: The Role of American Political and Religious Institutions. Over the last thirty years, Americans who identify themselves as conservatives, Republicans, and religious have consistently reported higher rates of subjective self-happiness than their counterparts who identify themselves as liberals, Democrats, and irreligious. As an explanation, it has been suggested that Republicans and conservatives attend church more frequently, and given that religion indoctrinates its members, greater church attendance is a determinant of happiness. However, comparative study of other countries and the relationship among their religious, social, and political structures is inconsistent with this explanation. Theel suggests a causal correlation of happiness with conservatism itself. In order to support this premise, his thesis examined the meaning of conservatism and liberalism from an over-choice perspective, the influence of religion in American history, and provided an explanation for why there is a correlation in religious attendance and happiness in the United States and why there is not this correlation in others. Theel has been accepted to graduate school at Texas A & M University and University of New Mexico. He graduates magna cum laude.

Kalie Tyree (East Jordan, Mich.) - Saving Our Celebrations: Sensible Regulations for the International Fireworks Industry. Fireworks have long been a patriotic ritual in the United States. From the tradition of watching fireworks on the Fourth of July to counting down on New Year’s Eve, fireworks are integrated into our culture year round. In 2010, the United States adopted new laws governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). These new laws now require EX Numbers to be obtained for every type of fireworks shell. These recent transportation regulations, as well as growing international markets, are seriously impacting the competitiveness of American firms in the global fireworks industry. Tyree's thesis reviewed recent literature to determine the trends and indications for the future of this industry. Practical implications include exploring new strategies for counteracting regulations. Tyree has been admitted to law programs at Marquette University, Michigan State University, and Chapman University in Calif. She graduates cum laude and from LSSU's Honors program.

Run a Web search on LSSU political science to read more about that area of study at Lake State.


CONTACTS: Tom Pink, e-mail, 906-635-2315; John Shibley, e-mail, 635-2314; Prof. Gary Johnson, Political Science, e-mail, 635-2763.