Professor Mendoza-Botelho provides keynote address at the CSCU Faculty Research & Creative Activity Conference (RAC)

By Alyssa Wessner

Professor Mendoza-Botelho delivering his keynote address at the CSCU Research Conference

Political Science Professor Martín Mendoza-Botelho was honored as one of the keynote speakers at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) Faculty Research and Creative Activity Conference (RAC). The conference was held at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) in New Haven on May 4. This conference gathered a large number of scholars representing all the CSCU institutions. Dr. Mendoza was also distinguished as recipient of a research grant that allowed him to continue his ongoing research into the notion of the “Welfare State”. Dr. Mendoza-Botelho solely represented Eastern Connecticut State University among the panel of four keynote speakers.

Originating from Bolivia, as a now esteemed professor with many accolades, Dr. Mendoza-Botelho’s current research focuses on the efforts of several countries to improve social conditions through the expansion of social services and the welfare state. His work includes comparative research in several countries, including Norway, known for the success of its Welfare State, seen as many as a model for welfare provision. Dr. Mendoza-Botelho also continues his focus on Latin America, as this region is the center of most of his current and past research interests. His earned research grant provided him a good foundation for further research in the upcoming academic year. Being honored as keynote speaker and grant recipient has encouraged and supported the continuation of this very important area of inquiry.

Eastern polisci student Demitra Kourtzidis (’19) Represents Connecticut on Capitol Hill

By Jordan Corey

Eastern Connecticut State University student Demitra Kourtzidis ’19 of East Hampton was one of two researchers from Connecticut who presented their projects at the highly selective Posters on the Hill (POH) research conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on April 30. The annual event featured 60 representatives from colleges and universities across the nation. Eastern has represented Connecticut eight out of the past 12 years.

Kourtzidis, a political science major, presented her research poster titled “What Drives Criminal Justice Reform: A Qualitative Analysis of the Policymaking Process in Massachusetts, Oregon and Louisiana.” Her research was completed under the supervision of political science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Demitra (center) showing her work to Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney (right) supported by her mentor Professor Courtney Broscious (left)

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) hosts the poster session during which a select group of undergraduate students present their research to members of Congress and other invited guests. CUR works to ensure that legislators have a clear understanding of research and education programs that they fund. The organization also encourages participants to discuss the benefits of undergraduate research with their state’s representatives.

Demitra heading to the U.S. Capitol (in the back) to inform lawmakers about scientific evidence regarding justice reform in selected states. 

Kourtzidis met with Rep. Joe Courtney and a legislative aide to Sen. Chris Murphy. “We talked about the important role that research has played in the quality of my education and about my project itself, an analysis of criminal justice reform efforts,” she said. “We are lucky to have representatives who value higher education and see the clear need for change in our criminal justice systems.”

At POH, Kourtzidis received encouraging feedback from audience members, including professors, students and a legislative aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Everyone was surprised by the extent to which monied interests and law enforcement agencies impacted criminal justice reform in my cases. This topic is understudied in political science, so it was nice to find out that other scholars value work on this subject.”

Kourtzidis’ study focuses on Massachusetts, Oregon and Louisiana – where incarceration rates, political landscapes and population composition vary widely – to determine the conditions under which each reform effort succeeded. “Louisiana’s reform was modest, because certain economic stakeholders have a lot of power over criminal justice legislation in the state,” explained Kourtzidis. “Oklahoma surpassed them as the state with the highest incarceration rate, but that was already projected to happen without the reform legislation.

“Oregon’s reform has been more successful, but their final reform bill was much more restrictive than the original legislation. They now have the 17th-lowest incarceration rate in the country. Massachusetts went from having the second-lowest incarceration rate to having the lowest incarceration rate. Their reform made some necessary changes, but created new punitive policy. Last year, they underwent another reform effort with fair results.”

Kourtzidis feels that presenting her thesis at the conference was both fun and gratifying. “It was the culmination of so many months of work,” she said. “I was happy to share something that I cared so much about with other people.”

 

Eastern geography students cited in Senator Chris Murphy’s report

On May 6, 2019 Senator Chris Murphy released a report on food and housing insecurity among college and university students. Senator Murphy cites research that Eastern students conducted in Professor Patrick Vitale’s Geography of Food class. The report notes that given the lack of uniform data, students are collecting their own research on food insecurity on Connecticut campuses. This report cites that 35% of surveyed Eastern students reported limited access to nutritious food in 2018 (in fact, the Geography of Food report shows that 44% of surveyed Eastern students had limited access to nutritious food).In his report Senator Murphy calls on Congress to take a number of measures to meet the basic needs of college and university students. These include: increasing the maximum Pell grant, improving student access to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), requiring the Department of Education to collect data on basic needs security, and expanding the federal work-study program.

 

Read Senator Murphy’s report here: https://www.murphy.senate.gov/download/basic-needs-insecurity-report

Click here to read the Report from Geography of Food.

 

 

Eastern again in Posters on the Hill in Washington DC with Demitra Kourtzidis (’19)

By Alyssa Wessner

The Political Science, Geography and Philosophy (PPG) Department is proud to announce the participation of polisci student Demitra Kourtzidis (’19) to the Posters on the Hill conference on Capitol Hill, Washington D.C. This prestigious event is organized by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR). Students compete nationally with an acceptance rate of only 10%. Eastern has been represented in the last 8 out of the 13 Posters on the Hill conferences and for the past 4 consecutive years. Recent Political Science students who presented their work were Tess Candler, Kayla Giordano, and Sabreena Croteau. Moreover, Eastern is the only university in the state that has represented Connecticut this many times.

This academic year has truly been rewarding for Demitra. She has been working very hard on her research investigating criminal justice reforms. Last year, Demitra presented her research titled, “State Policy Impacts on Imprisonment in Louisiana,” at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Kennesaw, Georgia. In January, Demitra attended the Southern Political Science Association Annual Conference in Austin, Texas with one of her mentors, Dr. Courtney Broscious. Her thesis received great feedback from the conference attendees. Demitra will continue presenting her work in April at Posters on the Hill, in company of Dr. Broscious.

Eastern polisci student Demitra Kourtzidis (’19) ready to engage in a discussion on the policy impacts of imprisonment in Louisiana at NCUR last year.

Their time at the conference will certainly be busy as they have many goals to accomplish. Half of the day is devoted to the presentations of undergraduate research. Dimitra will be presenting her work in the U.S. Congress for House Representatives in the Ray Burn House Office Building. The other half of the day will be spent lobbying and promoting awareness in the her area of interest, justice reforms. Last year, Dr. Broscious and Tess Candler met with House Rep. Joe Courtney. This year, Demitra and Dr. Broscious expect to meet with Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy along with Rep. Joe Courtney. Demitra is ready for this event and as she explains: “I look forward to presenting my thesis alongside undergraduates from around the country and meeting with members of Congress to show them the value of undergraduate research. I’m really grateful that Eastern has given me the opportunity to go to conferences like this, and to my thesis mentor, Dr. Broscious, for her unwavering support in this process.” Eastern is extremely proud of the accomplishments of Demitra and grateful to the efforts of her mentor Dr. Broscious.

Professor Martín Mendoza-Botelho interviewed by World Politics Review

Morales Moves Ahead With His Divisive Re-Election Bid in Bolivia
The Editors Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 – World Politics Review

Bolivian President Evo Morales arrives at the Legislative Assembly accompanied by lawmakers, La Paz, Bolivia, Jan. 22, 2019 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

Bolivian President Evo Morales marked the 13th anniversary of his presidency this week as he prepares a controversial run for a fourth consecutive term in office. Bolivia’s top electoral court has upheld his right to run in October, even though Morales is term-limited by the constitution and his attempt to amend the constitution was rejected in a 2016 referendum. In an email interview with WPR, Martín Mendoza-Botelho, a professor of political science, philosophy and geography at Eastern Connecticut State University, discusses the implications of Morales’ attempt to cling to power and explains why he is still favored to win despite the unpopularity of his re-election bid.

For the full interview follow the link (subscription required) https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/27267/morales-moves-ahead-with-his-divisive-re-election-bid-in-bolivia 

Eastern Professor Patrick Vitale Wins Ashby Prize

By Raven Dillon

Patrick Vitale, a geography professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, recently won the Ashby Prize for the most innovative paper of 2017 in the journal “Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.” Vitale’s article is titled “Making Science Suburban: The Suburbanization of Industrial Research and the Invention of ‘Research Man.’”

The article traces the invention of the modern “tech worker” to an unlikely location: the suburbs of Pittsburgh. In the early 1900s, Pittsburgh’s industrial firms began to move research laboratories away from plants in crowded urban areas and into suburbs.

Vitale explains that workers, scientists and engineers had once worked alongside each other in factories. However, starting in the early 1900s, they increasingly worked in different places, lived in different communities, and began to see themselves and their labor as different. These new “labs” created a geographic and social division between mental and manual work.

“The class, race and gender relations of the suburbs were essential and invisible components of science and engineering,” Vitale writes. “In capitalist economies now and in the past, science and engineering are rooted in injustice, misery and inequality; the very problems they are supposed to solve.”

Industrial firms even created a new title for scientists and engineers – “research men” – and argued that they needed to be isolated from the factory to do their work. “Many of the most prominent industrial scientists in the United States embraced their identity as ‘research men’ to cement their own place within industry and society,” writes Vitale. “Scientists and engineers actively adopted a class position that industry was producing for them.”

Vitale notes: “In the present, when local and state governments are offering billions of dollars to attract technology firms, it is important to realize that these companies are built on inequality and injustice.”

Vitale’s article is a part of a larger research project: a book manuscript titled “The Atomic Capital of the World,” which explores the role of science and engineering in the remaking of Pittsburgh during the Cold War.

Westinghouse Research Laboratories (depicted here in the 1940s) is a research firm that fled the urban areas of Greater Pittsburgh for the suburbs.

Vitale is an urban, economic and historical geographer whose research broadly examines the effects of suburbanization, science and technology, and war on North American cities. He has published his work in academic journals including “The Annals of the Association of American Geographers”; “Journal of Urban History”; and the “International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.”

“Environment and Planning A” is an interdisciplinary journal of economic research. Articles focus on regional restructuring, globalization, inequality and uneven development. The Ashby Prize was established in 1990 and is awarded to the most innovative paper published in the calendar year.

New class: Activist Research Lab

What is an Activist Research Lab?

By Patrick Vitale

In the last few days several students have written to ask me a very good question: what is an activist research lab?

We will not be experimenting on activists in this class! Instead we will experiment with research projects that advance social and political change.

We will first address some very broad questions: How do activists use research in their work? How can social scientists develop projects that promote social justice? What are some of the political and ethical dilemmas of activist research? How can we create research that amplifies voices that are not always heard in the university?

We will answer these questions by looking at the examples of research projects in the Bay Area, Detroit, Toronto, New Haven, New York City, and other locations.

After we address these questions, we will put our learning into practice by developing a collaborative research project on the politics of poverty and homelessness in Willimantic. We will broadly investigate the experience of people who are struggling to survive in Willimantic.

As part of our research we will, among other tasks, meet with local residents; visit the Covenant Soup Kitchen, the No Freeze Shelter, and other local organizations; interview police officers and town officials; map out the availability of affordable housing; and visit the Windham Mill Museum to develop an understanding of the longer history of homelessness and poverty in Willimantic.

The final product of this class will be a collaborative research project that documents the struggles of people facing poverty and homelessness in Willimantic and exposes the laws, institutions, structures, and people who create obstacles in their daily lives.

The inspiration for this class is geographer William Bunge’s Detroit Geographical Expedition. Over the course of several years in the 1960s and ‘70s, Bunge worked with residents to document the ongoing struggle for survival in the poor and predominantly African American neighborhood of Fitzgerald. His team included artists, cartographers, anthropologists, historians, photographers, writers, and most importantly the residents themselves. The goal of the Activist Research Lab is to follow the example Bunge and his co-researchers set in Fitzgerald.

Please feel free to contact Professor Vitale if you have any questions about this class: vitalep@easternct.edu

 

Professor Ana Funes at the 50th anniversary of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy in Poland

Professor Ana Funes speaking at the conference in Cracow Poland about her work on the Indian philosophical concept of prāṇa (vital breath),

The Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy held its 50th anniversary in Poland on early June when more than one hundred philosophers from all around the world came together to discuss topics related to Asian and Non-Western traditions from a cross-cultural philosophical perspective.
One of our professors at Eastern, Assistant Professor Ana Funes, participated in one of the panels with a talk on the role of prāṇa (vital breath) in Indian Philosophy and its use by French feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray.
     Dr. Funes’ current research focuses on the feminist readings of notions related to bodily self-awareness in the Indian tradition. Prāṇa is a notion related to the act of breathing. Each action, each thought is accompanied by one’s own breathing. To breathe is always thought as an individual act. It is one’s own breath that keeps us alive and it is one’s own breathing that leaves at the moment of death. However, it is uncommon to talk about breathing as a shared act, as a relational moment that is created with someone else. Yet, Luce Irigaray’s work calls for the cultivation of breathing to enable our ethical coexistence with the other and the 8th c. commentary on the Sāṃkhyakārikā, the Yuktidīpikā, relates the vital breath of samāna to the function of sharing. In her paper, Ana Funes explores this relational aspect of breathing as capable of creating community and elucidates the meaning given to the term samāna within the classical Sāṃkhya tradition, unique in the Indian theory of the bodily winds.
     Dr. Funes is specialist in Indian Philosophy and French Feminist Phenomenology and teaches the courses on Ethics, Philosophical Perspectives, Asian Philosophies, and Feminist Philosophies in the Philosophy program at Eastern. She will be offering a new course on Buddhist Philosophies during Fall 2018.