PA researchers follow their passions and interests in exciting projects

Roanoke College prides itself in academic excellence and rewards hardworking students through various avenues such as scholarships, internships and recognition. This week the Public Affairs Newsletter team recognizes three of these remarkable students and would like to shine the light on them.

  • Vicki Daguerre who is a freshman and POLI SCI major is conducting research on the differences between small scale philanthropies based in foreign countries and the effects they have on the local populations and the work done in the same countries by larger scale NGO’s and government organizations.
  • Lydia Delamatta, a junior and IR major, seeks to enhance the academic field’s understanding of the effects of education on achieving gender and political equality across democratic nations around the world.
  • Last but not least is Katie Holland, an IR major who is on the verge of graduating.  Katie is conducting a qualitative research project on climate change and the impending Eco migration crisis.

Vicki and Lydia work with Prof. Andreea Mihalache-O’Keef, while Katie’s mentor is Dr. Joshua Rubongoya.  Here are some of the things they’ve shared with us concerning their projects and research interests.


Why the interest in this particular field?

Katie PictureKatie refers to the climate change and eco migration as “two major problems facing the world this century.” She finds it imperative to conduct researches on such issues in an attempt to find sustainable solutions. In addition she says, “I have had wonderful advisors and professors that have always encouraged me to pursue challenging work within my major. Also, as a member of the Honors Program at Roanoke College I have to complete an honors project, which allowed me the opportunity to pursue honors in my major in conjunction with my honors project.”

Vicki is interested in gauging the effectiveness of aid in rural regions and the differences between small and large scale organizations. Furthermore, she says, “Professor O’Keef interviewed me when I came to campus for the Scholars Competition and during the interview she told me about the research program that she would be offering for my freshman year. It sounded like a very unique opportunity and I felt that it was too good to pass up.”

Lydia grew up in France for 12 years, thus, the love for cross-cultural studies. In addition to that, her thorough interest in gender roles stemmed from a week spent in Guatemala. Among other things Lydia noticed while there, she says, “I became aware of the intense disparities between women and men, and how essential it is to be aware of the women’s valuable role, raising awareness, and creating a societal change in the way women are viewed and underappreciated.”

Involvement on campus and advice for peers

While being involved on campus with various activities such as cheerleading, Greek life, and the Red Cross Club, these 3 students say the reason for being thoroughly engaged in their academics is simply because they found their respective fields of interest.  They enjoy their research topics and the research process itself.  The passion makes the difference. Lydia also added that one had to stay committed and gives vital advice that any student could use. “Show up to class! Do the work! Participate, and ask questions! It’s really not that hard, and teachers will not only notice you, but will reward your incredible work ethic and passion. Always  be prepared, do your best, ask professors to help—if they can’t help you, they will find someone who will, and since you came forward and showed interest, they will  think of you and recommend you! This is why this school and our department are great!”

But wait, how do you get to do RESEARCH?

At Roanoke in general, and in the Public Affairs Department in particular, there are many opportunities to get involved in research.  Lydia, Vicki, and Katie took different paths.

In Fall 2013, Lydia attended a professional development panel organized by the Public Affairs Society, where she heard from several speakers that doing independent research is a great experience.  She then approached Prof. O’Keef and her advisor, Dr. Warshawsky, to find out more about research opportunities in the department.  Given her interest in women’s rights and gender equality, she eventually decided to pursue an independent study on that topic.  She is completing half of the IS credit this semester, learning the literature and developing an argument; she will continue her research while in the Washington Semester Program, by making field observations at the organization where she will intern; and she will conduct quantitative analysis and finish her paper in Spring 2015, just in time to enter the Fowler Paper Competition and the Breithaupt Challenge.

Katie is a veteran researcher, already winner of a Fowler Paper Prize and of the Breithaupt Challenge, in 2013.  Her first independent research project was a continuation of the paper she drafted in her Research Methods class.  Now she is working on something even bigger, her Honors in the Major thesis, on a topic much closer to her heart.  She has been thinking about ecomigration for a couple of years now and she developed the plan for the thesis through multiple conversations with Dr. Rubongoya, throughout the summer and Fall of 2013.  Now, she is close to finishing and is excited for her oral defense on April 9.

Lydia and Vicki hard at work
Lydia and Vicki hard at work

Vicki came to Roanoke knowing that she would enjoy getting involved in research.  She applied for URAP (the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program) and was invited to join Dr. O’Keef’s research team. Hers is a paid position, through RC Research.  However, Vicki didn’t know what she wanted to research from the very beginning.  She started out helping on one of Dr. O’Keef’s food security projects and, gradually, as her worked progressed, her focus shifted to the activity of small NGOs in the rural areas of developing countries.  One of the perks of this project is that she will eventually get to write about her grandfather, who is a citizen philanthropist active in Cambodia and the Philippines.

Aspirations after college

With Katie being a senior she says her immediate goals will be to go to graduate school and later on pursue a career as a Foreign Service officer within the State Department.

Vicki says “I would like to work for the government in some capacity that involves traveling and learning more about other cultures and how our government interacts with the governments of countries around the world.”  As a first year student, she has a bit of time to narrow down her interest and enhance the skills that will get her dream job.  Her research project is one important step along the way.

Lydia says, “I would like to work for a women’s rights non-profit organization. However, depending on location, sometimes these organizations are not the only ones dedicated to advancing women’s rights.  There are churches and other groups that still do much humanitarian work to augment the lives of people in the US and the world, without seeking profits. Thus, if I can still be an agent for social change, I would not mind working with any and all work dealing with humanitarian work.”  Her research project allows her to dive into both the scholarly and the policy debates surrounding women’s advancement and, to further prepare herself for her career, Lydia will attend the Washington Semester Program in the coming Fall semester.

The newsletter team wishes all the best to these three ladies in their respective endeavors and, hoping that their stories have inspired you, we look forward to highlighting your achievements as well!