Social Science Students Receive Awards at the 2015 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum

Congratulations to 2015 UURAF award winners Sara Hughes, Madeline MacLean, Andrew Martin, and Tara Schulz!

All four students (two of which are members of the Social Science Scholars Program) conducted original research projects while being mentored by Criminal Justice faculty. Approximately 750 students participated in the Forum, and we are very proud of our students’ success.


Sara Hughes

Drug Treatment and Recidivism Rates
Mentored by: Dr. Merry Morash Awarded: First prize in the Social Science: General-Section 1 category

Abstract: More than male offenders, a high proportion of women who are criminal offenders suffer from a drug addiction or dependence. Research studies have found that the lack of adequate drug treatment programs are correlated to recidivism rates among offenders. For a sample of 400 women on probation and parole, the present study will examine arrests related to drugs, probation or parole violations related to drugs, and the offender’s current use in relation to recidivism. The variable indicating whether or not drug treatment was a requirement of probation or parole will also be examined as a possible predictor of 162 recidivism. Criminal history will serve as the control variable, since it is the best predictor of outcomes between other variables. The results of this study will help us to better understand the success of drug treatment programs, the context in which they are attended by offenders, and subsequent recidivism rates.

Pictured (left to right): April Zeoli, Andrew Martin, Tara Shulz

Pictured (left to right): April Zeoli, Andrew Martin, Madeline MacLean

Madeline MacLean and Andrew Martin

Mass Shootings in the Media: What Makes a Story Newsworthy
Mentored by: Dr. April Zeoli Awarded: First prize in the Social Science: General-Section 3 category

Abstract: From January 2009 through September 2014, 112 mass shootings (defined as a shooting that results in four or more deaths) occurred in the United States, yet only a handful have made it into the public discourse. In this research, we propose that one reason many of these mass shootings are not well known is because they have not received national news coverage. We attempt to uncover the factors that make some mass shootings worthy of national television news coverage whereas most—64 shootings, or 57% of the cases we researched—have no stories to their name at all. Using a search of broadcast transcripts discussing the crime, its perpetrator, and the victims, we compiled the number of reports on national television news shows that each mass shooting received and the average number of words spent conversing about mass shootings from Newtown, Connecticut, to Newton Falls, Ohio. Possible factors into the extent to which the shooting is reported include mental health, who was targeted, where the shooting took place, how many people were killed or injured, whether or not the shooter acquired the firearm legally, race of the shooter, and interesting or shocking details of the shooting. We investigate the extent to which the mass shootings considered newsworthy are representative of all mass shootings, as the media presentation of only some mass shootings as newsworthy may result in the American public having a skewed view of the problem of mass shootings in society.

Tara Schulz

Political Discourse and Immigration: Studying Immigration Through the Lens of Genocide
Mentored by: Dr. Christina DeJong Awarded: First prize in Social Science: General-Section 2

In 2010, legislators in Arizona introduced the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” (Arizona SB 1070), which empowered police officers and government officials to stop individuals suspected of immigrating illegally into the United States and request proof of citizenship. As private discourse over this act commenced in the Senate Chamber of the Arizona State House, public discourse over this act exploded. The language used by politicians to present and debate the issue in the public sector was thought by some to be driven by anti-Latino racism, especially towards Mexicans and people of Mexican descent living in Arizona. Political discourse on Arizona SB 1070 quickly shifted from a technical debate of a political immigration policy towards an illogical public system of attribution, linking the presence of illegal drugs in Arizona and increasing crime rates to Mexican immigrants present in the state. The discourse used in these public debates mirrors language used during the early stages of genocide, in which a minority group is typically defined as the “other” and blamed (i.e. scapegoated) for the problems and ills of society. In this paper, we attempt to explain the public discourse of politicians surrounding Arizona SB 1070 using a framework developed to study genocide. Our hypotheses will test whether this “pre-genocidal” language exists in political discourse, the frequency at which it exists, and whether there are differences in the use of pre-genocidal language based on politicians’ age, gender, race/ethnicity, political party, and region of country.

A complete list of award winners can be found here.