Researching Civil Conflict and His Future

peacestudieslogo2Last summer undergraduate student Jose Santana had the pleasure of participating in a unique program that provides undergraduate students the opportunity to engage in graduate-level research. Held at the University of North Texas, The National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Management and Peace Science is an eight week in-residence program that incorporates workshops on theory building, geographic information systems (GIS), research design, analysis, and graduate school preparation. Students participating in the program receive a $4000 stipend, room and board, and paid travel expenses as well having the opportunity of presenting participant research results at local and national conferences at the end of the programs duration.

Mr. Santana had an exceptional time at UNT, and his research focused on what impact the relationships between pro-government militias, as well as state and regime type, have on civilian casualties during civil wars. The program required extensive amounts of time and effort with every day focusing on his research. Having returned, Jose has begun his next project, an Honor’s Thesis here at UCF. Mr. Santana states, “It was truly a wonderful experience and for any prospective students looking into applying, don’t doubt yourself.” He speaks on how the main focus of this program aims at conflict studies and nsfto be aware your interests should match up.

Mr. Santana shared more about his research, his experience and his time at the UNT Summer Research Program.

What made you decide to look into this program?

I was made aware of this program via Mr. Schenk’s e-mail and then was encouraged to put in an application by Dr. Dolan. Knowing that I wanted to go to graduate school this program offered a unique opportunity in order to get valuable research experience

What is your research about?

My research focuses on pro-government militia groups and the role they play in civil conflict. My research over the summer specifically focused on what impact both the relationship between PGMs (pro-government militias) and states and regime type have on civilian casualties during civil wars

Can you tell us briefly about your experience last summer at this program?

Honestly, my experience was nothing but positive last summer. It was a pleasure working with my faculty mentor, Dr. John Ishiyama, and working with all the graduate student mentors as well. It was extremely hard work and the program required hours and hours spent every day focused on researching and writing, but in the end I am proud of the product that I put out and am thankful for the program for giving me the opportunity to participate

Students present their research at UNT and at the national political science conference, what was the significance of your research?

If you are referring to the findings of my study, then it was that regime type was found to have a statistically significant relationship with civilian casualties while there was no statistical significance found between state-PGM relationship and civilian casualties. If you are referring to policy implications, this is important because both findings help narrow down possible factors that help explain civilian casualties in civil war. With these information policy makers are better to make better educated decisions when looking at conflicts and hopefully able to identify and prevent high-casualty conflicts.

Was this program in the field you see yourself doing in the future?

Yes, I have already accepted my admission into graduate school and I will continue pursuing Political Science.

What is one major thing you gained from this program?

I think for me the major thing I gained was experience. Before this program, I really did not know what I was getting myself into with graduate school. After completing the program I have a much better understanding both through my research experience and the workshops that the program provided. Being able to interact and communicate with the graduate students there also gave me a much better understanding and helped me solidify in my mind that graduate school was the right choice for me.



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