A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

START students embark on international opportunity


START students embark on international opportunity

Undergraduate Research Program students explore ISA conference

April 29, 2014Emily Smith

Students participating in START’s Undergraduate Research Program recently attended the annual convention of the International Studies Association, where they engaged with their mentors and other scholars to discuss interests and opportunities in international relations and policy.

Held in Toronto this year, the ISA convention, “Spaces and Places: Geopolitics in an Era of Globalization,” afforded students the opportunity to attend multiple panel discussions every day on the latest research in the social sciences. Based on personal research interests, the students selected specific discussion topics and engaged in discussions with panelists, scholars and their mentors.

We send our URP students to the ISA conference each year to further expose them to the vast amount of research out there related to terrorism studies and inspire them in their scholarly endeavors,” said Jacqueline DeVore, START education coordinator. “Many of our URP students have plans to pursue graduate education and will likely present at this conference one day.”

Students are guided through the ISA conference by START staff and researchers who help them plan their visit, establish contacts and explore the conference.

“As the URP program is founded upon mentorship, we think it’s important for our students to experience what may be their first academic conference in a guided way,” DeVore said. “Through this ‘academic vacation’ from the world of classes and exams, the students left inspired and engaged with the cutting-edge research.”

Current URP researchURP students Ashley Hahn and Suzanne Weedon

As URP students, Ashley Hahn, a political science and psychology major at Bryn Mawr College working with Dr. Clark McCauley, and Suzanne Weedon, a criminal justice and psychology major at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany working with Dr. Victor Asal, were awarded stipends to conduct original research on START-sponsored projects as well as to participate in professional development opportunities such as the ISA convention and other START meetings. 

Hahn’s project is an extension of McCauley and Roy Eidelson’s 2010 study U.S. Polls: Public Opinion and Extremism, which explored the relationship between mass opinion and right-wing terrorism by comparing trends from the American Election Survey (ANES) and General Social Survey (GSS) with right-wing terrorist events from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Hahn will use the results to write two separate theses for each of her academic majors: one that tests hypotheses about political radicalization and another that applies theories about protests, social movements and public opinion to her results. Hahn also hopes to publish an article based on the project.

Hahn was recently awarded a Thomas J. Watson fellowship, a one-year independent travel fellowship that will take her to the U.K., Australia, Brazil, Guatemala, Kenya and Ghana to explore how different cultures, societies and organizations help children suffering from trauma.

Weedon is investigating the importance of familial payoff as a causal factor in suicide bombing.

“Dr. Asal and I are running a survey that presents subjects with a hypothetical situation involving suicide terrorism and varying conditions,” Weedon said. “The Undergraduate Research Program has been a fantastic opportunity that has not only enabled me to work on a project of my own, but has also allowed me to meet some really great people and learn about the new developments in the field of terrorism research.”

Weedon works as a research assistant for the Big Allied and Dangerous (BAAD) project, which has proved beneficial to her survey design and research. Weedon plans to continue her education with a master’s degree in criminal justice.

Nominate your student

Each spring, START seeks nominations for URP students from current START investigators, asking for exemplary students pursuing degrees in the social and behavioral sciences (application deadline is May 1). The program seeks to engage these students in terrorism-related research to prepare them for future study and work in the areas of terrorism, counterterrorism and homeland security.

Mentors are required to involve the URP directly in his/her START research efforts; help the URP develop his/her research and analysis skills; provide advice on the URP's original research project (including advice on presenting the paper at professional conferences and/or submitting it for publication); and explore with the URP options for continuing work in the area of terrorism research.