College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Political Science Students Win Top Honors at Undergraduate Research Conference

Group competed against representatives from USM and JSU at Pi Sigma Alpha event


UM political science professor Sue Ann Skipworth and students Connor Somgynari, Christine Sim and Katie Reid show off their Grand Champion trophy at the Pi Sigma Alpha Conference.

UM political science professor Sue Ann Skipworth and students Connor Somgynari, Christine Sim and Katie Reid show off their Grand Champion trophy at the Pi Sigma Alpha Conference.

Three University of Mississippi students earned the title of Grand Champions recently at the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Southern Mississippi.

In its second year, the conference for the national political science honor society was held April 16. Students from UM, USM and Jackson State University presented original research they had conducted or are in the process of conducting.

“Participation in conferences such as these provides excellent opportunities for students to network with students from other schools in the state and hear what type of research they are conducting,” said Sue Ann Skipworth, UM assistant professor of political science. “Students are able to receive feedback from discussants on how to improve their research and hopefully move forward in their research to the publishing phase.”

Katie Reid, a junior from Eaton Rapids, Michigan, presented her research on why Afghanistan was never able to build a successful state, using European failed state frameworks. Reid, who is pursuing a double major in political science and economics, is hoping to show that building a state in the Middle East is not much different from building one in the western world.

“It was an amazing learning experience for me to be able to partake in this research conference,” Reid said. “I hope it will be my first of many.”

Christine Sim, a senior from Metairie, Louisiana, presented her research on voter identification laws and their effect on voter turnout.

“It is an absolute honor to be recognized for my hard work and research I have spent over a year intensely studying vote identification laws,” said Sim, a political science major on track to graduate in May. “It’s a great joy to be able to share that research within the field of political science.”

Connor Somgynari, a senior international studies major from Lindenhurst, Illinois, presented his research on ethnic ties that influence rebel diplomacy.

“My work focuses on whom, how and when armed groups seek to lobby states and other parties for support or recognition,” Somgynari said. “Since I’m starting my Ph.D. in political science this fall at Penn State, early recognition of my research is very encouraging as I go forward into my future academic career.”

This type of recognition for research validates the hard work and effort students put forth in conducting their research projects, Skipworth said.

“As the faculty adviser for the Pi Sigma Alpha organization at Ole Miss, I was extremely proud of Christine, Connor and Katie as they not only demonstrated their exceptional capacity for research but also served as a great representation of the students at our university,” she said.

The students’ accomplishments reflects well on the entire department, said John Bruce, chair and associate professor of political science.

“We have an outstanding group of students active in our chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, and the work they presented in Hattiesburg speaks to that,” he said. “We have students that can easily compete on any regional or national stage and represent the university in an outstanding way.”