College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Political Science Term Paper Morphs into Unique Research Opportunity

Undergraduate research papers usually refer to academic research instead of inspiring it. But after political science professor Robert Albritton graded Jake Curtis’ paper on how the professionalization of state legislatures affects state spending, Albritton invited Curtis to dig deeper into the project.

“We spent an entire semester developing the research, and the work was an extremely beneficial experience,” said Curtis of Sikeston, Mo.

Together, Albritton and Curtis studied all 50 state legislatures from 1970 to 2000. Among their findings: States with higher legislative professionalization tend to increase state spending only marginally, if at all; and legislative reforms to increase professionalization, such as increasing staff and lengthening the legislative sessions, produce legislative bodies that are more fair, accountable, informed, independent and representative.

“For me, one of the most effective forms of teaching is to involve students in the generation of knowledge, which is what universities are about,” Albritton added. “Jake is one of those rare students who could contribute significantly to this process in his own right.”

In the process, Curtis found out what hands-on research is all about. “The one-on-one format allowed me to explore this topic in a way not possible in a traditional class setting,” he said.

Participating in a more in-depth research project and working closely with Albritton contributed to Curtis’ decision to enroll in the Department of Political Science’s Take Five Program, which allows undergraduates to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years.