Research Projects

Student Scholarship Recognition Day (SSRD) is held each spring to celebrate the exemplary scholarship and creativity of Willamette University students. Students work directly with faculty members or design and conduct their own research throughout the year.

Featured Projects

Here are a few projects that exemplify the wonderful research students from the Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics department have done over the years.

Abstract: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become obvious to most that certain deficiencies plague our pandemic response schema. This research investigates the origins of the current administrative framework that guides national responses to international epidemics and pandemics. It considers the role that "securitization" (the process by which national security dominates public health as a guiding impetus for action), as a guiding force in shaping these responses. How can we characterize the balance between public health and national security concerns in national responses to international epidemics, and what, if anything, are we missing thanks to this construction?

Megan Pratt (2020)

Abstract: With black children occupying only 14% of the US child population but 23% of children in foster care, blacks are overwhelmingly exposed to the adverse health, penal, and socioeconomic risks that foster youth face. While policy solutions must be evidence based, 50 years of literature on race in foster care has produced no consensus as to which factors drive this racial disproportionality. Surprisingly, the three most racially proportionate foster care systems are in Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi. This thesis analyzes trends in foster care racial disproportionality against trends in variables suggested to cause said disproportionality in these states from 2005-2017.

Adrian Uphoff (2019)

Abstract: How can an average person influence environmental policy making? To answer this question we draw on 21 in-depth, semistructured interviews with environmental activists, lobbyists, and legislative staff members at the state level. We find that public activism has a role to play in creating an environmental controversy. We discuss email activism effectiveness and also detail the continued importance of personal communication in lobbying beyond email templates generated by environmental groups. We argue that personal stories that indicate authentic motivations to address environmental problems are another aspect of the strategic avoidance of contentious politics.

Elizabeth Gill (2016)

Additional Research Projects

These are all the projects the Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics department has presented at SSRD in the last few years.


  • Alabama, Arkansas, Do I Stay With Ma and Pa?: An Analysis of Decreasing Racial Disproportionality in the Foster Care Systems of Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi from 2005-2007 - Adrian Uphoff (Thesis)
  • What happened to Oregon? Since the Implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, What has Contributed to the Decline of the Reach of the Oregon Welfare Policy? - Emma Johnson (Thesis)
  • H-1B Visa Use for the Filipino Nursing and Indian Information Technology (IT) Industries: Coloniality and Diaspora in Skilled Migratory Employment - Jonathan Louangrath (Thesis)
  • Tweaking Drug Policy: An Analysis of the Diverging Socio-political Responses to the "Crack" and Opioid Epidemics - Paige Spradlin (Presidential Scholarship)
  • Post-Racialism as Utopia - Akerah Mackey (Thesis)
  • No War but Class War; How class-conflict based worldviews shaped the ILWU - Avery Bento (Thesis)
  • Norwegian Exceptionalism: Can Oregon Model a Less Punitive Penal System? - Mia Noren (Thesis)
  • Looking For Support: Identifying Support for Undocumented and Second Generation Immigrant Youth within Public Education - Kiki Drum Bento (Colloquium Grant)
  • 7 Children-A study of Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics and Theater - Evan Kohne (Colloquium Grant)


  • Bones for Justice: Recent Exhumations in Spain - Ada Lawson-Herranz (Thesis)
  • Redistricting in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom - Jack Wellman (Thesis)
  • A Citizen's Evaluation of Oregon Work Program Agencies - Elizabeth Hartman (Thesis)
  • How IIRIRA affected Guatemala - Elizabeth Brown (Thesis)
  • Chain Migration - Santiago Nieto (Thesis)
  • The Examination of the “Other”: An Insight Into The Asian Pacific Islander Experience in the Prison Industrial Complex - Michelle Hicks (Colloquium Grant)


  • An Evolutionary Trade-Off of Exopolysaccharide Production in Caulobacter Crescentus - Alexis Carey (Thesis)
  • Investigating the Impact of Carbon Allocation on Caulobacter Crescentus Growth and Survival - Taylor Heckman (Thesis)
  • It takes Two: Sex and Stress Behaviors are Synergistically Modulated in the Hindbrain by Two Cannabinoid Receptors, TRPV1 and CB1 - Lauren J Merlino (Thesis)
  • Marcus Theory - Yuyla Yakubovsky (Thesis)
  • Collective Responsibility for Action Against Injustice - Cheyenne Boon (Thesis)
  • Naming and Shaming in International Diplomacy - Alexandra Kolomensky (Thesis)
  • And the Walls Kept Tumbling Down: The Destruction of Hungarian Democracy from Within - Isabel Seiden (Thesis)
  • Differences Between Younger and Older Children in Child Sexual Abuse Disclosures - Hio Chao (Thesis)
  • An Alternative Approach to Academic Achievement: Personal Strivings as a Measure of Academic Goal Change and a Performance Predictor - Madison Montemayor (Thesis)
  • The Effects of 24-Hour Sleep Deprivation on Neural Indices of Visual Working Memory - Malayka Mottarella (Thesis)
  • So Below, as Above: A Collection of Ephemeral, Reflective Mayfly Poetry - Tyler Griswold (Poster)
  • Sally and Insignia: The Collision of Public and Private Identities - Emilia Cubelos (Poster)
  • Mark O. Hatfield Portrait - Emma Smoll (Poster)
  • An Ethnographic History of the Oregon Department of Education's Equity Unit - Hania Marien (Poster)
  • Humanitarianism in a Neoliberal Age: Refugee Services in Salem, Oregon - Phoebe Wagner (Poster)
  • A [partial] Fulfillment of Emptiness - Miles MacClure (Learning by Creating)
  • A Beginner's Guide to Using Film for Positive Change - Hania Marien, Grace Pochis (Learning by Creating)
  • Unconventional - Oliver Muggli (Learning by Creating)
  • Blurring the Lines between Self and Other: Seduction and Self-Determination in Prosper Merimee's Carmen - Laura Hu (Thesis)
  • The Self and the Other: Exploring "Frenchness" in Marguerite Duras' L’Amant and Régis Wargnier's Indochine - Rebecca McKitis (Thesis)
  • Marie de France and Cultural Subversion through Lanval - Peyton Wallace (Thesis)
  • Militarized Citizenship and the Fight for Rights - Brianna Carstens (Thesis)
  • The Ingrained Structural Inequalities in Washington and Oregon's Cannabis Laws - Kailani DeVille (Thesis)
  • Utah's Chronic Homeless Population Reduction and the Homeless LGBTQ Youth in Salt Lake City, Utah - Connor Mertens (Thesis)
  • Tory Men and Liberal Policies: Richard Nixon, Automatism, and the Fate of a Guaranteed Income - Andrew Wakelee (Thesis)
  • A Shifting Republican Environment: The Precautionary Principle, Environmental Governance, and the GOP - Liz Gill (Thesis)
  • Litter in Latin America - Fabian Guerrero (Thesis)
  • Tests or Teachers: Why Politicians Have Failed to Fix America’s Schools - Madison Immel (Thesis)
  • Taxes, Trust, and Presidential Candidates: Why the Public Release of Tax Returns is Important - Meghan Burry (Thesis)
  • Why Isn’t the Police Unified on Gun Control? Examining Law Enforcement Perspectives on Gun Control Initiatives - Tyler Harris (Thesis)
  • The Big Pop: Far-Right Populism in the U.S. and Europe - Oliver Muggli (Thesis)
  • Slamming the Door: An Analysis of Syrian Refugee Policy - Zach Ward (Thesis)


  • The Mogul and the Tea: How the Tea Party Primed a Pro-Donald Electorate - Meghan Cusick (Independent Research)
  • Negligence in the Negev; A Documentarian Perspective of an Unrepresentable Atrocity - Isabel Easley (Independent Research)
  • Recidivism Variance in Oregon - Rebecca Brownlee (Independent Research)
  • Opportunists: Electronic Surveillance in the United States and France - Dylan Sheldon (Independent Research)
  • The Failure of the Western Climate Initiative in Oregon and Beyond - Jack Caplan (Independent Research)
  • “Turning out the Grassroots”: Refining Public Engagement in Environmental Policy Making - Elizabeth Gill (Independent Research)
  • Conserving the Economic Benefits of Coastal and Marine Ecosystems in the Puget Sound Region - Diego Samora (Independent Research)
  • Money Wins Out: The Death of Public Financing in the U.S. Presidential Election - Paul Beery (Independent Research)
  • The Demise of a Representative Democracy: The United States’ Failure to Federalize Universal Voter Register - Bethany Hladick (Independent Research)
  • Immigration and the Labor Market - Lucas Immer (Independent Research)
  • American Indians and the Voting Rights Act - Hadley Jackson (Independent Research)


  • "We Are a Family": Drag Queens, Queer Relatedness, and Familial Love - Christian DeBok (Independent Research)
  • Bridging the Gap Between “Far-away” Justice and Local Communities: An Analysis of the Outreach Programme of the ICC - Caroline Taylor (Independent Research)
  • Veto Interval Graphs - Jessica Kawana (Independent Research)
  • The Problems of David Foster Wallace's Poetics - Zane Sparling (Independent Research)
  • Millennials, American Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics, and New Media: The Motivations Behind A Growing Generation - Katie Kalugin (Independent Research)
  • On the Road Again: Explaining statewide variance in driver’s license policies for undocumented immigrants - Rebecca Hayes (Independent Research)
  • Wage Theft and Sexual Violence in the Workplace - Maria Hernandez (Independent Research)
  • Nuestra Comunidad Sana: Political Advocacy in Hood River, Oregon - Martha Elena Sonato (Independent Research)
  • Can Voting Restrictions Be Justified? Why Maine and Vermont Became Outliers for Never Instituting Criminal Disenfranchisement - Merideth Stroh (Independent Research)
  • Religious Messaging in Federal Criminal Drug Sentencing in Both the United States and Canada - Lucas Verwolf (Independent Research)
  • Rethinking Reform: Oregon House Bill 3194 and Prison Resentencing in the Prison-Industrial Complex - Andres Oswill (Independent Research)
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Department of Politics, Policy, Law and Ethics

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