Honors Research Symposium

Highlighting our honors students and their honors thesis research

The completion of an honors thesis is the cornerstone of the O’Neill Undergraduate Honors Program experience. Each student, with a faculty advisor,  has conducted in-depth research on a topic of interest and relevance to public and environmental affairs. The Symposium celebrates their work resulting in research useful to both practitioners and academic scholarship.

Fall 2022 O'Neill Honors Symposium

Friday, December 2, 10 AM to noon, SPEA A335 or via Zoom

  • Welcome and refreshments from 9:45-10 AM.
  • Five minutes are set aside at the end of each presentation for questions and answers.


R.J. Woodring

  • Associate Dean for Educational Programs
  • Director, Undergraduate Programs Office


Alexandra Klemme

  • Faculty Advisor: Sameeksha Desai

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the lives of almost every individual in the United States and abroad. The economic effects of this historically significant event have been noted as negative but are still not completely understood. This research will identify how the pandemic has affected mothers by performing an analysis of job mobility rates between mothers and non-mothers. Through this analysis it is found that mothers demonstrated higher labor force mobility rates than non-mothers. The gap in mobility rates between the two groups only slightly increased between March of 2020 and March of 2022.

10:30-10:35 AM: Questions & Answers

Kendyl Smith

  • Faculty Advisor: Diane Henshel

Hurricane Katrina contributed to public perception of inequality in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid. There is evidence to show that historically FEMA has been inclined to provide aid to certain demographics over others. The goal of this study is to determine if white communities receive greater financial recovery resources following a hurricane event. Using data from the distribution of FEMA public assistance funded projects and demographics from the U.S. Census, this research conducts an analysis to determine if there is a relationship between the percentage of non-white residents within a county and the amount of FEMA aid a county receives. This study focuses on hurricane events occurring in the years 2000-2020, which is unique compared to prior research that focused on disaster aid following a single hurricane.

10:50-10:55 AM: Questions & Answers

Madelyn Mustaine

  • Faculty Advisor: Kosali Simon

The Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion prohibits Medicaid from paying for services delivered to non-elderly adults in mental health treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. In 2018, states were given the option to apply for a waiver that reverses the IMD Exclusion. Ten states have received the waiver, but the waiver’s effect on mental health treatment facilities is unclear. Using a difference-in-differences model and data from the National Mental Health Services Survey, this research assesses the waiver’s effect on the percent of mental health treatment facilities accepting Medicaid. This research finds that, surprisingly, states with waivers experience smaller increases in the percent of facilities accepting Medicaid compared to states without waivers. This research also finds that states with waivers experience larger increases in the percent of facilities accepting Medicaid compared to states with high rates of Medicaid acceptance and states with pending waivers. However, existing differences in states may be more important than waivers in determining Medicaid acceptance in facilities.

11:10-11:15 AM: Questions & Answers

Elizabeth Algeri

  • Faculty Advisor: Ashlyn Nelson

This paper takes a comparative-historical approach and employs the use of a simple times-series analysis to evaluate gaps in literature concerning the “wave of neoliberalism” in the United States. Because the principles of neoliberalism seemingly align with current conservative ideology, it is often purported that Republican ideology opened the door for, and nurtured, neoliberalism. However, the findings of this paper indicate that the neoliberalization of economic policy from 1970-2000 was perpetuated by both the Democratic and Republican parties. Further, the potency of financialization in 21st century politics is often cited as a residual of 20th century neoliberalism. The findings of this paper, however, suggest that it is inappropriate to view modern financialization as the neoliberalism of today as it is the crux of the economic transformations observed since the 1970s. The findings of this analysis open the door for evaluating the wave of neoliberalism and the current state of economic policy making in a more constructive lens.

11:30-11:35 AM: Questions & Answers

Joelle Cox

  • Faculty Advisor: Paul Helmke

Trust in government is particularly important for the federal government because it is the farthest removed administration from everyday life. At the end of 2021, governmental trust in the United States was at an all-time low, at 39% (Brenan 2021). Events in that year were enough to shake even the strongest foundations of trust in government. How will these events shape the newest generation of voters, who are the subject of relatively little research? After analyzing data from the American National Election Studies from 1958-2020, this study found that Generation Z has entered the political arena with the lowest amount of trust in government. It has also found that levels of trust across multiple generations have been slowly decreasing.

11:50-11:55 AM: Questions & Answers

Amanda Rutherford

  • Director, O’Neill Undergraduate Honors Program
  • Associate Professor

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