Security Studies Ph.D. Students Win Research Awards

Davide Dell’Isola and Sara Belligoni, Security Studies Ph.D. students in UCF’s Department of Political Science, were recognized with awards for their research presented at the recent Florida Political Science Association’s (FPSA) conference in Tampa.

Dell’Isola won first prize in the graduate student best paper competition for his paper on “Immigration and the Demise of Social-democratic Parties in Western Europe: Italy, UK, France, Germany.” The paper analyzes the reasons behind the decline in electoral support for social-democratic parties in Western Europe, using Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom as case studies.

Davide Dell’Isola

Dell’Isola’s research explains poor electoral performance with the contradictory approach and policies of social-democratic parties towards recent migratory issues in Western Europe. Dell’Isola examines those parties’ strategies of renouncing openness and multiculturalism, two key aspects of moderate progressive ideology, and shows that these restrictive policies towards immigration caused many former party supporters to either abstain or vote for other parties. At the same time, former voters in favor of hardline policies towards immigrants voted the already available anti-immigrant parties. These findings are in contrast to existing research that focuses on the challenges of globalization and the economic crisis of 2008.

Dell’Isola is a second-year doctoral student and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a Master’s in International Relations, both from the University of Roma Tre in Rome, Italy.

“This paper would not have been possible without the valuable suggestions and feedback of Dr. Nikola Mirilovic. I also thank Dr. Barbara Kinsey for her continued mentorship and support with my research on Western Europe. Special thanks to all my fellow Ph.D. students in the program for their support, feedback and discussions, but most of all for the support during the participation in this program. A diverse Ph.D. student body is crucial to understand different points of view and engage in fruitful exchanges, and I am glad to have this opportunity on a daily basis,” he says.

Belligoni was selected as runner-up for her paper entitled “Rethinking the Leadership: Women Commanders, Rebel Groups, and Sexual Violence Against Civilians: The cases of Colombia and Sierra Leone.”

Sara Belligoni

Her paper analyzes the variation in the number of episodes of sexual violence perpetrated against civilians by rebel groups when women hold positions of command and when they do not. Her research compares the cases of Colombia and Sierra Leone, specifically by looking at the acts of sexual violence perpetrated outside of — respectively — the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The analysis shows that when women hold high-rank positions, they tend to avoid using sexual violence as a strategy of war, while also avoiding to participate in such acts within the rebel group, discouraging the use of violence among rebel group’s members.

Instead, when women are treated as sexual slaves and camp followers, or are enlisted as soldiers in rebel groups, the acts of sexual violence perpetrated against civilians tend to increase and they also tend to engage in violent acts among the members of the group. As the data-set observation highlights, FARC allowed the enlistment of women in the mid of 1980s and registered a decreasing number of acts of sexual violence against civilians; the same is not observed within RUF, which has never allowed women to hold positions of command.

Belligoni is a first-year Ph.D. student, and was a trainee under the Exchange Visitor Program of the U.S. Department of State. She was also appointed as an ambassador of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce because of her commitment to supporting minorities and women-owned businesses. Additionally, she worked as a GIS Analyst for the Water Resource Research and Documentation Center in Italy and she has served as a volunteer for the United Nations. She holds a certificate in Global Affairs from New York University, a Master’s in International Relations – Peace, War, and Security, and a Bachelor’s in Political Science for Cooperation and Development, both from the Università degli Studi Roma Tre in Rome, Italy.


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