First Annual Graduate Student Research Conference

Today, GMU’s School of Public Policy held its First Annual Graduate Student Research Conference. What a day! Students at the Masters and PhD levels from George Mason University, Catholic University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Webster Worldwide made presentations. I took the day off work to attend and I’m glad I did. The agenda was packed – from 9:00 AM to 5:45 PM. In all, there were 33 presentations and I made it to 11 of them.

Dean Rhodes kicked the morning off with an introduction and welcome to the day’s festivities. He spoke of the three great events of this academic year: the dedication of Founders Hall earlier in the year, this conference, and the upcoming graduation events in May.

After Dean Rhodes’ remarks, we broke out into our first two rounds of breakout sessions. Each round of sessions focused on different tracks; some rounds had three sessions, while others had two sessions. Each of the sessions had multiple presentations grouped together by a common theme. For the morning rounds, I chose the sessions on Regional Policy Issues and Government & The Presidency. The presentations were as follows:

Regional Policy Issues
– Highway Underfunding and User-pays Systems: A Case for Raising the Federal Gasoline Excise Tax
– The Human Dimensions of Contemporary Renewable Energy Actions in the Washington D.C. Region: Policy, Political Economy and Culture
– Trust and Police Legitimacy

Government & The Presidency
– Congressional Caucuses – The Invisible Committees
– Politics and Transparency Policy: Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama
– Modeling the Effect of Photo Identification Laws on Voter Turnout

After the morning sessions were over, it was time for lunch and the keynote address by Dr. Pfiffner, the Director of the Doctoral Program. Dr. Pfiffner is an exceptional scholar and I really enjoy hearing him speak. Today was no different. He recounted the origins of public policy as a discipline (the practical application of political science and law together) and then the genesis of independent schools of public policy within universities.

After lunch, there were two more rounds. This time, I chose the sessions that focused on International Trade & Financial Policy and International Affairs & Security Policy. These sessions covered:

International Trade & Financial Policy
– International Currency Competition: Are there Alternatives to the US Dollar?
– Does Free Trade Agreement Increase Trade Flows? Bilateral Free Trade Agreements and Trade Volume in Services
– Overcoming the Adverse Effects of Geography: A Cross-Country Analysis of Information, and Communication Technology (ICT) Diffusion on Economic Development

International Affairs & Security Policy
– The Social Construction of President Bush’s 2006 Visit and India’s Nuclear Separation Plan
– The Durand Line’s Role in the Afghan Taliban Insurgency

Following the final round of sessions, we all got back together for the closing reception – a fitting end to the day. As I said, I’m glad I took the day off work to attend. There was an awful lot of information shared in what seemed like very little time. I’m not sure I’d change anything – the presentation lengths (about 15 minutes each plus 10 minutes for Q&A) seemed about right and all the topics were interesting. The food was good, and the conference was run very well. In the end, it was definitely a worthwhile endeavor, and I’m looking forward to next year’s conference!


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