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Report of the 1997 Ralph Bunche Summer Institute

Woodrow Wilson Dept. of Government and Foreign Affairs
University of Virginia
June 7 to July 8, 1998

National Science Foundation Grant No. SBR-9619675
Paula D. McClain, Principal Investigator
Submitted to: Political Science Program and the Research Experience for Undergraduates Programs, National Science Foundation

We structured the components of the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI) to expose students to the discipline of political science overall, but more specifically to the research methods and statistical analysis appropriate for quantitative political analysis. The educational activities ranged from formal classroom settings to informal dinners and lunches with prominent political scientists and University of Virginia faculty. The following is a description of the components of the program and the structure and activities of the 1998 RBSI session. The intent was to expose the undergraduates to the various facets of research in political science, and highlight the potential for them to make contributions to this tradition as university faculty.

A. Participants. Participants in the RBSI are drawn from a national applicant pool. Approximately thirty-five African American juniors applied for the 1998 Institute. Professors Paula D. McClain, Steven Finkel, Director of the RBSI, and Maurice Woodard, of the American Political Science Association reviewed applications and selected participants. Fifteen students were selected. We tried to strike a balance between historically black and predominantly white universities, between public and private, and large and small universities, and gender, to the extent possible given the proportion of female to male applicants.

A. Orientation and Opening Reception. The students arrived at the University on Sunday, June 5, the day before the beginning of the Institute. The teaching assistants and/or other Institute staff met participants at the airport and checked them into Bice Hall. (Bice Hall is an apartment style dormitory just off the University’s main grounds and Jefferson’s Academical Village and is centrally located.) Sunday afternoon, we gave students a formal orientation to the University of Virginia, the Institute, its staff and other departmental faculty and staff. We also gave students a tour of the computer lab and classrooms, and gave them their textbooks, meal cards, activity cards, and bus passes. In the evening, we held an opening reception with the students, departmental faculty, and university administrators.

B. Courses. RBSI participants took two for-credit graduate level courses designed to introduce them to the intellectual demands of graduate school plus introduce them to the methods of political analysis. (The credits were transferred back to their undergraduate institutions.) One class was Monday and Wednesday 9:30 to 11:30, and 2:00 to 4:00, and the other was Tuesday and Thursday at the same time, although the schedule was varied to provide for longer blocks on time on one course while giving a breather from the other. We link the two courses, Political Analysis and Race and American Politics, and the teaching faculty coordinate their classroom activities. The students design and execute their own research projects, producing a major paper as the product of both courses. We discuss the contents of the courses below.

Professor Steven Finkel of the Department Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia taught GFAD 709 Political Analysis during the 1998 session. This course introduced students to the basic methods for conducting original empirical research in political science. Students learned the scientific approach to political analysis and a wide range of statistical methods appropriate for the analysis of political data. Students also learned the SPSS statistical package for microcomputers in laboratory sessions supervised by Professor Finkel, three graduate assistants, Jeff Gulati, Stacy Nyikos, and Stan Humphries, from the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs. The course takes place in the Department of Government’s computer lab two days a week, with lectures in the mornings and labs in the afternoon.

This course is an essential component of the RBSI as it gives the students an understanding of what it means to conduct research in political science, introduce them to terms and techniques that they will encounter in graduate school, and gave them the ability to read and better understand the discipline’s scholarly journals. The 1998 RBSI participants produced, what for many, was their first empirical or quantitative research paper. For many, the research project stimulates an interest in continuing their studies in political science in the future.

Professor Paula D. McClain taught GFAP 550 Race and American Politics this past session. The course focuses on the salience of race in American politics in general, and the interaction of race and black political attitudes and behavior in specifically. It provides a broad overview of the salience of race in the American political fabric and how race structures attitudes of not only blacks but whites as well. This course also met two days a week with lectures and discussion in the morning, and afternoon. James Alan Kendrick, a graduate student in the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, was the teaching assistant for this course.

This course gave students an excellent introduction to the vibrant subfield of race and politics in contemporary political science. The course had intrinsic interest for the students and gave them the substantive background they need to develop a research design and construct interesting research questions and hypotheses for their summer research project. Students read current and classic works on black voting behavior, and the racial resentment that fueled some Republican party gains among white voters in the 1980s. They then extend these works in their own analyses of the National Black Election Study, 1984-1988, the National Black Politics Survey 1993 and the National Election Studies, 1992 and 1996.

C. Dinners with prominent political scientists. Each Thursday evening, with the exception of the final week, the RBSI students had dinner with prominent political scientists (black and white, male and female) who talked about their research, interests, or their career path. We held these dinners in the dinning room of one of the University’s pavilions providing an Oxford high table environment. The speakers for the 1998 session were:

  1. Dianne Pinderhughes, University of Illinois;
  2. Lynn M. Sanders, University of Chicago;
  3. Lorenzo Morris, Howard University; and
  4. Major Coleman, Syracuse University

D. Lunches with University of Virginia Faculty. On two occasions, the RBSI participants share a boxed lunch with a faculty person from the Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs. The luncheon speakers for the 1998 session were:

  1. Matthew Holden, Department of Government, University of Virginia, "Political Science and Career Development," June 9.
  2. Debra Morris, Department of Government, University of Virginia, "Political Theory," June 15.

E. Graduate Record Examination Preparation (GRE). An important criterion for admission to graduate school is respectable scores on the GRE exam. Yet many students, particularly some black students, feel intimidated by the exam. As part of the process of making graduate study in political science more attractive, we demystify the GRE exam. The Stanley Kaplan Company administered a Mock GRE exam on Friday, June 19 and returned on Friday, July 3 to give the students their scores and discuss the exam process with them. The students found that the study session, mock exam, and feedback process increased their confidence levels and scores on the exam.

F. Ethics Sessions. Professor Michael Smith conducted an afternoon session (Tuesday, June 30) on "Ethics and International Relations." Another ethics session was conducted by Professor Thomas Guterbock, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia, and Professor Scott Keeter, Department of Political Science, Virginia Commonwealth University (Monday, June 22). Their session concerned ethics in survey research and ethical issues associated with "push polling" in political campaigns.

G. Bunche Alumni. This year we decided to drop the Faculty Mentors and to use the money to bring three Bunche alums to talk to the students. We brought three Bunche alums to talk to the students about their Bunche experience, the importance of the Institute in their decision to attend graduate school, and their experiences in graduate school. The three were: Professor Yvette Alex-Assenoh, a member of the first Bunche class in 1986 and now an assistant professor of political science at Indiana University; Heather Dash, a member of the University of Virginia’s first Bunche group in 1996 who is currently a graduate student at Emory University; and Khalilah Brown, a member of the 1997 Bunche class who started graduate school at Ohio State University in fall 1998. This session was held on Friday afternoon, June 26. It was a hit with the students!

H. Additional academic, historical and social activities. Fridays are set aside for other academic, historical, and social activities. Weekends were also used for these activities. Based on student comments from 1996 and 1997, we scaled back the social activities in order to allow more time for work on the final paper. Thus, we had only two planned field trips. As in past years, the RBSI participants went on a specially arranged guided tour of Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. We also had an optional Saturday trip to Washington, D.C. We added a barbeque with graduate students in the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, which both the Bunche and UVA students enjoyed. (We found that this formal introduction resulted in conversation and discussion when they encountered each other in the computer lab, on Grounds, or around Charlottesville.) RBSI students received activity passes to all of the University’s sports and athletic facilities.

I. Recruitment Fair. Early in the spring semester the program staff sent letters to all Ph.D.-granting political science departments informing them of the recruitment fair and inviting them to send a representative to talk to the RBSI participants. The fair was held on Friday, July 3. Fifteen institutions sent representatives, at their own expense: Ohio State University, Texas A & M University, Emory University, Syracuse University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Indiana University, American University, University of Maryland, Carnegie Mellon University, Washington University, Harvard University, Georgetown University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Virginia. A room in the McIntire School of Commerce was set up like a recruitment fair with tables for each school, and the RBSI participants visited with the recruiters, ate lunch with them and, in general, spent the day familiarizing themselves with the various graduate programs. We also had a reception in the evening for the recruiters and the students.

I. Closing Banquet. The RBSI ended with a formal banquet on Wednesday, July 8 and presentation of certificates to the participants by Catherine Rudder, Executive Director of the American Political Science Association and M. Kent Jennings, University of California, Santa Barbara, President of the American Political Science Association. The President of the association was the keynote speaker for the event. This year the students presented the Institute staff with funny and serious gifts of appreciation. In addition to the officers and staff of the APSA, the closing banquet was attended by Professor Alex Johnson, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Virginia, and Gene Block, Vice President for Research, University of Virginia.

J. Presentation of research and participation in professional meeting. To complete the research experience, nine RBSI participants were selected to attend the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in Boston, MA, September 2 - 6, 1998. (The teaching faculty and teaching assistants selected the students to attend based on their performance in the program, the quality of their research project, and their interest in pursuing graduate study in political science). The students presented their papers in the American Politics Poster Session. This was the second year that the RBSI students have participated in the meetings as presenters. The students’ had prepared graphs and charts to illustrate their papers, and they were clustered in a section that clearly identified them as RBSI participants. This special designation attracted a lot of attention and the students were discussing their projects actively with many professional political scientists. Many of the recruiters and their colleagues came to talk to students, as did several former APSA presidents. The students did a terrific job and enjoyed the experience.

In addition to the poster session, the RBSI students had a special orientation to the purposes of the APSA annual meetings and the various fora for presentation of research, i.e., traditional panels, round table discussions, and poster sessions, important lectures, and ceremonies that they should attend. The APSA included them in the receptions for graduate students and the special sessions for graduate students with senior prominent political scientists. They are also special guests at the nightcap reception of the Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession, and many received invitations to attend the receptions of the departments who sent representatives to the RBSI Recruitment Fair. For several students, attendance at the annual meeting sealed their decision to attend graduate school.

In the fall, three students–Elizabeth Green, Aisha Raj, and Katrina Gamble–had their Bunche papers accepted for presentation at an Undergraduate Research Conference sponsored by the Department of Political Science at Rice University. Rice covered all expenses from their participation in the January 1999 conference. The students reported that they received extremely helpful comments on their papers and enjoyed the conference immensely. Elizabeth Green told me that presenting the paper in a poster session at the APSA annual meeting in Boston prepared her for presenting her paper at the Rice conference.

K. Ralph Bunche Summer Institute Staff, 1998. Staff for 1998 were: Professor Steven E. Finkel, Director, Jay Shaylor, Assistant Director and Fiscal Technician, Professor Paula McClain (NSF Principal Investigator), and Graduate Assistants, James Alan Kendrick, Jeff Gulati, Stan Humphries, and Stacy Nyikos. (Michael Cairo, a graduate student in the Department of Government, helped out again this summer serving as organizer of the graduate student barbeque and van driver for airport pickups/drop offs, and field trips.)

The 1998 summer was Professor Finkel’s last summer as Director of the Institute and instructor in GFAD 709. He served as Director for three summers (1996 to 1998) and brought the RBSI to new heights. The Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession of the American Political Science Association honored Dr. Finkel for his service at a reception at the annual meeting in Boston. Professor McClain assumes the Director’s position and Professor Paul Freedman will teach GFAD 709 for the summer 1999 session.

L. Additional Financial Support. In addition to funding from the National Science Foundation, the 1998 RBSI was supported by funds from the Offices of the President and the Provost, University of Virginia, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia, the Department of Government and Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia, and the American Political Science Association.

M. Preliminary results. By far, the 1998 summer was our most successful in convincing students to forego law school and attend graduate school in political science. Seven of the fifteen students applied to and are planning to attend graduate school– Gloria Anglón, Ray Block, Katrina Gamble, Andra Gillespie, Monique Lyle (Michigan State University, Aisha Raj, and Melvin Rogers. These students have been accepted into many of the top political science graduate programs in the country with stunning packages. While all of the acceptances have not been reported yet, the following are those thus far.

  1. Gloria Anglón (Providence College) has been accepted at the University of Michigan, the University of Virginia, SUNY, Stony Brook, and the University of Florida (no information on her financial packages yet);
  2. Katrina Gamble (Smith College) has been accepted at the University of Virginia with a major university fellowship;
  3. Andra Gillespie (University of Virginia) has been accepted at Yale University, the University of Chicago, Duke University, and Stanford University thus far, all with very generous funding packages;
  4. Monique Lyle (Michigan State University) has been accepted at the University of Michigan, Duke University, and Emory University thus far, all with very generous funding packages;
  5. Melvin Rogers (Amherst College) has been accepted at the University of Chicago, Duke University, Princeton University, and Yale University thus far, all with very generous funding packages. (Melvin received the prestigious Keasbey Fellowship and will spend two years at Cambridge University receiving a masters degree. He will defer admission into one of these programs.)
We have yet to hear from Ray Block or Aisha Raj on their acceptances. All seven will be entering graduate school in fall 1999. We are thrilled with this year’s success and are looking forward to repeating it with the Bunche Class of 1999!

Submitted by:

Paula D. McClain, Principal Investigator
Professor of Government, University of Virginia