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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MURFs Hold First Symposium

Georgetown’s recently-founded Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellows presented their current research projects in the group’s first-ever symposium in the Mortara Center Thursday night.
The program was founded by the Mortara Center for International Studies and the Walsh School of Foreign Service in 2012 and consists of three SFS students per class year. Fellows are nominated through their SFS proseminar professor and then must complete an application before pairing with a professor for research training and later independent research.

Emma Murphy (SFS ’16), Erin Sielaff (SFS ’16), Rahul Kaul (SFS ’16), Asjed Hussain (SFS ’15), Soumyajit Mazumder (SFS ’15) and Elaine Colligan (SFS ’15) shared their past and current research projects and their experiences as MURFs at the symposium. The newly-selected freshman cohort of MURFs, Duncan Hobbs (SFS ’17), Bethan Saunders (SFS ’17) and Samantha Mladen (SFS ’17), were also in attendance.

Murphy presented the interview-based research she is currently working on with professor Rochelle Davis about forced displacement, specifically among Syrian refugees. Murphy championed her interview method as a way to connect directly with refugee concerns.

“I think there is a disparity between the story you hear from the humanitarian community and the story you hear from the refugees, and it made me realize all the more important it is to go and talk to the refugees and make sure that their voice is heard,” Murphy said.

Murphy plans to study abroad in Jordan in the fall in the hopes of sparking and expanding her own independent research.

Sielaff, who is mentored by professor Erik Voeten, presented her data set on gender mainstreaming in United Nations Security Council resolutions from 1990-2013. Sielaff coded for specific words and phrases that would determine the effectiveness of Resolution 1325, a resolution passed in 2000 to better include women in matters of peace and security. She plans to present her data at the Georgetown Undergraduate Research Symposium in April.

Kaul researched the effect of international regulation on industry and the dissemination of regulation exemplified by the Hague Convention on International Parental Child Abduction under the tutelage of professor Abraham Newman. Kaul plans to conduct his own research on public debt and political institutions, possibly focusing on austerity packages in Europe and comparative political economy.

Hussain worked with professor Marc Busch on research involving the World Trade Organization Dispute Settlement Reform and other areas of international trade. Hussain presented the beginnings of his independent research on the relationship between Foreign Direct Investment and Bilateral Investment Treaties in developing countries. He will continue to expand his paper in the coming months.

Mazumder presented his research on the political manipulation of the European Union through the role of the presidency. With professors James Vreeland and Kathleen McNamara as his mentors, Mazumder examined the amounts of foreign aid given to temporary UN Security Council members in the EU in years when France, Germany and the United Kingdom held the EU Presidency. He is planning two independent projects that will examine the effect of bilateral investment treaties on leader survival across regime types and the effect of international political economy on the U.S. debt ceiling crisis.

Colligan presented her proposal for an upcoming ethnographic study of Senegalese fisherwomen. After working for a Non-Governmental Organization in Senegal last summer, Colligan will return this summer to study women’s vulnerabilities and responses to climate change and environmental degradation in a culture of gender-discriminatory labor. She hopes to work at the intersection of activism and academics in the future.

The MURFs program will reach its full capacity of twelve students next year, after which point the program may expand, according to Mortara Center Assistant Director Moira Todd. “After we reach the full size of the program and the financial plan, then we can evaluate and see what goes from there,” Todd said. “I see the demand with the number of applications for MURFs, so there’s clearly more students who would like to be doing this.”

However, fellows and administrators agree that its small size is part of what makes the program unique.

McNamara, who was instrumental in the program’s founding, says the program has come far in just two years.

“It’s far outstripped my fondest hopes,” McNamara said. “It’s been a stunning success, really because the MURFs themselves are so talented and then the faculty mentors have clearly taken this very seriously.”

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