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New Professor Combines Environmental Engineering with Political Science

Shiran Victoria ShenProfessor Shiran Victoria Shen joins the Department of Politics after receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her recent scholarly honors include the 2017 Paul A. Sabatier Award from the American Political Science Association for the best paper on science, technology, and environmental politics and the 2018 Malcolm Jewell Award from the Southern Political Science Association for the best graduate student paper. She is also the recipient of numerous highly competitive university, national, and international fellowships and grants.

Professor Shen’s research probes into how incentives shape environmental politics. Sheobserves that politics plays a significant role in the regulation of air pollution, which kills more people than AIDS and malaria combined and endangers the health of over 95 percent of humanity around the world. The high responsiveness of air pollution to regulation makes it an excellent case to fathom the effect of political incentives on policy implementation over time.

Her dissertation, The Political Pollution Cycle: An Inconvenient Truth and How to Break It, offers a new answer for the systematic variation in air quality over time, emphasizing the whenover the why. Using China as a natural experiment, Professor Shen finds that local agents in China catered to the policy prioritization of their political superiors, who decide their career advancement, and in the process fostered local political regulation cycles. These cycles resulted in regional patterns of air pollution over time. Towards the end of a local leader’s tenure in office, the leader would ease environmental regulation when the economy and stability were highly priced, leading to what she calls “political pollution cycles.” When the environment became significantly valued, the leader would order more environmental regulation near the end of tenure, giving rise to what she calls “political environmental protection cycles” in some regions. Both types of political regulation cycles incurred tremendous welfare losses and human costs. She also identifies preliminary supportive evidence for political pollution cycles in the United States and Mexico. She argues that electoral and career incentives of local politicians or leaders influence their prioritization of multiple policy goals over time, with systematic environmental consequences, and this may hold across regime types.

In her other works, Professor Shen employs survey experiments to understand the determinants of public support for green energy as well as integrated assessment models (IAMs) to illuminate the social dimensions of climate impacts. As many extant works have suggested, climate change affects the incidences of violence—on a large scale such as civil wars and at a smaller scale as in the case of interpersonal violence. A current paper integrates the costs of climate-induced violence in projecting optimal carbon prices for the next two centuries.

Practically Speaking

Professor Shen is very interested in the applied aspect of research. She asks, “how could policymakers use the research results to achieve desired policy outcomes better?”

Her dissertation suggests that the intensity of regulation towards the end of tenure was underpinned by the desire to (over)comply in the most critical policy area. Independent monitoring provides a promising solution for reformers.

Her work on public receptivity towards wind energy generators in China offers critical insights into the types of information that, if provided, would solicit urban support for the development of wind energy.

Her work on carbon pricing connects the climate-economy and the climate-violence systems by putting forth a new way of pricing carbon to help contain climate-induced violence. It may provide a reference point for climate negotiations.

Why UVA? Three New Research Initiatives

The University of Virginia is a magnet for researchers like Professor Shen. She is especially excited by two new pan-University initiatives.

She is naturally drawn to the new Environmental Resilience Institute, helmed by Professor Karen McGlathery of Environmental Sciences. The Institute pulls from broadly disparate disciplines including professors from Urban Planning and English Literature. Two other Politics professors participate in the Institute: Sonal Pandya, working on international political economies, and Paul Freedman in media and politics.

The Data Science Institute is a precise match to her expertise in machine learning and data-driven research. She indicates ML has a lot of future in political science research. She previously used machine learning to predict and map pollution burden scores at the census tract level in the U.S. Because there are missing data values she uses machine learning to determine what those values could be and then arrive at comprehensive pollution burden scores.

Her broad computing experience in statistical and spatial analysis (R, ArcGIS, ENVI, Google Earth Engine) and programming and modeling skills (Java, Python, GAMS, DICE, MATLAB, SimaPro, and even Fortran – some more developed than others) will be a strong match to the collaborative environment of DSI.

Next Up

In the coming semesters, she hopes to teach a graduate seminar to students from across grounds who are interested in environmental resilience, particularly air pollution. She envisions a course filled with scholars from environmental science, urban planning, computer science, and of course, students in the Department of Politics. Scheduled classes in Fall 2018 include The Politics of Air Pollutionand Environmental Politics in China, and in Spring 2019, Approaches to Environmental Politics.

Professor Shen will continue research based on her dissertation, turning it into a book manuscript (working title The Political Regulation Cycle).

Professor Shen will be co-director, with Todd Sechser, of the Lansing B. Lee, Jr./Bankard Seminar in Global Politics. She hopes to bring climate scientists in as speakers and more broadly, comparative political scientists who are focused on quantitative methods using “fairly fancy techniques to study comparative topics of general interest.”

More Information on Professor Shiran Victoria Shen:
Academic Website

comprehensive pollution burden scores map
Comprehensive Pollution Burden Scores map

FYRE – First Year Research Experience

It’s actually FYRE – First Year Research Experience (they are all rising 2nd years). The program aims to increase the number of underrepresented students pursuing graduate education and careers in the humanities and social sciences. The four students are Emily Laurore (Spelman College); Myles Whitmore (Morehouse College); Renato Sepulveda (Heritage University); Gabby Gladney (Spelman College).FYRE – First Year Research Experience is a program offered to rising 2nd years. The program aims to increase the number of underrepresented students pursuing graduate education and careers in the humanities and social sciences.

This year’s visitors include four students, Emily Laurore (Spelman College), Myles Whitmore (Morehouse College), Renato Sepulveda (Heritage University), and Gabby Gladney (Spelman College).

2018 Quandt Award Winners

A new set of scholars to receive the 2018 Quandt Awards has been chosen to pursue research overseas. The Quandt International Research Fund was started by the Department of Politics in honor of William Quandt, a distinguished faculty member and well-known expert on Middle Eastern politics. The Fund assists students and faculty in the Department to pursue studies and research abroad by making travel grants to defray the cost of international travel. The awards are administered annually by a faculty committee.

Project descriptions below are taken from their proposals and are subject to change based on their research and findings.

Mariana BrazaoMariana BrazaoThe Aestheticization of Politics: The Role of Indigenous Benches in Brazil’s Political Representation

Brazao will seek to examine how the general aestheticization of every-day, indigenous goods in Brazil impacts the indigenous populations’ political representation and presence in the country. She will visit São Paulo and Brasília, conducting research for two weeks including face-to-face interviews with government officials from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI), the Ministry of Culture, employees of BEI Editora, and employees of the Institute for Socio-Environmental Issues (Instituto Socio Ambiental – ISA). She will also conduct one-on-one interviews with indigenous tribe members, specifically the individuals who created the benches showcased in The Indigenous Benches of Brazil.

Danilo MedeirosDanilo MedeirosHow Policy Preferences Interact with Income Inequality: Political Polarization in Democratic Brazil

Medeiros’ research will investigate how income inequality is associated with political polarization in Brazil. His research targets the policy agenda of the executive and the relationship between the president and the legislature – features that are often ignored by the extant scholarship. His project also adds to the research agenda that takes economic inequality as an independent variable by including a case outside the advanced industrial world. His final goal is a framework to study the relationship between inequality and political polarization in any democracy with available data.

Nicole DemitryThe NGO Effect: A Bisection of Private Interests and Foreign Perceptions of American Public Policy

Over the last year, Demitry has developed a working hypothesis on perceptual disconnect in Haiti: many Haitians see NGO presence as an extension of US foreign policy, not as neutral non- governmental organizations. Perceptions of the recipients of foreign aid do not seem to be a static factor in the policy and implementation decisions of aid organizations. If this is correct, there are massive political implications not just in Haiti, but in many other underdeveloped countries with a large American NGO presence. Without accurately considering the perceptions of those receiving aid, or addressing potential self-referential truths within Western aid evaluative frameworks, NGOs will continue to fail in successful implementation of humanitarian aid. She will research how unsuccessful NGO activities contribute to this perceptual disconnect and how these effects can be mitigated.

Olyvia ChristleyOlyvia ChristleyNativism, Gender, and the Rise of the Radical Right

Much excellent work has already been done concerning radical right politics, but important gaps still remain, particularly when it comes to our understanding of how the radical right operates in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the United States. The bulk of the research and theorizing on the radical right has arisen from Western European party politics. The historical legacies and political institutions of CEE and the United States are not entirely analogous to those in Western Europe, so it stands to reason that the presence and implications of the radical right movement across these regions might vary in ways that have not yet been properly explored.

Hungary, Poland, and the United States—these three countries share some striking similarities, perhaps most importantly the fact that each one has elected an authoritarian head of state and/or government that is sympathetic to the radical right in the last decade. Christley plans to conduct the first cross-country study in political science that systematically compares the individual belief systems of radical right supporters within CEE to those in the United States. She will also use experimental studies and interviews to disentangle nativist and gendered attitudes among radical right supporters and voters, and examine the conditions that prompt individuals who hold both nativist and pro- (or anti-) gender equality views to support radical right ideologies, policies, and candidates.

Elana GrissomElena GrissomCross-Group Alliances in Ethnically Polarized Societies: The evolution of Arab-Jewish relations in Israeli municipal elections

Up until recently, local elections have been an under-researched area in the study of ethnic politics. Grissom will use municipal elections in Israel as a lens through which to analyze the political identity of the Arab minority. Specifically, she is interested in the factors that cause Arab parties and candidates to ally with Jewish parties, even when it is seemingly contrary to their in-group interests. She has also been granted a visiting research fellowship at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which will provide access to libraries, professors, and overall academic support.

Eric XuEric XuBrexit and International Students: A Chinese Case Study

Xu will travel to the United Kingdom to interview international students in the following prestigious London universities: London School of Economics (LSE), Imperial College, London (Imperial), and University College, London (UCL).

His project will target both post-graduate and undergraduate students at those institutions, in order to analyze the following factors relevant to higher-education migration: Why did they select the U.K., and London more specifically, as a destination for higher education migration? How did the U.K. post-visa process influence their decision, and how do they expect to remain in the U.K. after graduation? Has Brexit altered their perception of the U.K. and London’s openness to international students? What alternatives would they have considered in more detail had they had the chance to go back?

He will also speak with international student recruiting offices at the three schools in order to investigate their responses to the Brexit referendum and how they plan on recruiting Chinese students going forward. This project will allow him to collect responses from one of the centers of international student activity in the world, and analyze how push and pull migration factors are qualitatively changed by an exogenous political shock.

More Information about the Quandt Fund

Politics also at Midwest Political Science Association

ChicagoStudents and professors will also travel to Chicago for the 76th Annual MPSA Conference, April 5-8, 2018.

More info

Participants this year include:

Checks, Balances, and Federalism
Connor Maxwell Ewing
The Judicial Construction of Federalism
Thu, April 5, 9:45–11:15am

Courts, Transitional Justice, and Human Rights
Dana Katherine Moyer
Understanding the Decision–Implement Transitional Justice After Violent Conflict
Fri, April 6, 11:30am–1:00pm

Crime and Political Behavior
Daniel Willard Gingerich
Co-author Carlos G. Scartascini
A Heavy Hand or a Helping Hand?: Information Provision and Citizen Preferences for Anti-Crime Policy in Panama
Fri, April 6, 3:00–4:30pm

Distributive Politics in Africa
Brenton Peterson
Co-author Sarah Andrews, Principia College
The Electoral Effects of Credit Attribution for Local Development Projects
Fri, April 6, 4:45–6:15pm

Election Technology, Fraud, and Violence in Developing Countries
Brenton Peterson
Agents of the Regime: Polling Station Officials and Electoral Manipulation in Kenya’s 2017 Election
Fri, April 6, 3:00–4:30pm

Explaining Terrorist Violence II
Jihye Yang
Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo: The Logic Behind Target Selection by Terrorist Organizations
Sat, April 7, 11:30am–1:00pm

Firm Lobbying and Influence
Robert Kubinec
Tell It Like It Is: A Text Analysis of Firm Rationales for Political Participation in the Middle East
Fri, April 6, 4:45–6:15pm

Ideology and Policy Preferences
Gerard Alexander
Co-author Hovannes Abramyan, Reason Foundation
Challenging the Role of Personality as a Motivator of Political Ideology
Fri, April 6, 4:45–6:15pm

Immigration Politics in Europe
Hannah Alarian
Naturalization in the aftermath of the Eurozone crisis: Evidence from the EU-15
Thu, April 5, 3:00–4:30pm

Institutional and Ideological Innovation in Autocracies
Geoffrey Landor Gordon
The Guardian's Dilemma: Institutional Choice During Transitions from Military Rule
Fri, April 6, 11:30am–1:00pm

Institutional Persistence in Competitive Authoritarian Regimes
Anne Meng
Institutional Persistence in Authoritarian Regimes
Thu, April 5, 1:15–2:45pm

Institutions in Autocracies
Carolyn Coberly, Discussant
Sat, April 7, 11:30am–1:00pm

International Influences on Democratization
Anne Meng, Chair
Fri, April 6, 8:00–9:30am

JSS Session 17/The Study of Emotions
B. Kal Munis
Joseph Phillips, Pennsylvania State University
Steven Morgan, Pennsylvania State University
Moral-Affective Dimensions of Extremist Discourse
Sun, April 8, 11:30am–1:00pm

Latin America and the Politics of Migration
Benjamin Clay Helms
Remittances and the Decline of Dominant Parties: Democratization in Mexico
Thu, April 5, 9:45–11:15am

Legislative Accountability and Public Opinion
Daniel Folsom, University of Virginia
Boris Heersink, Fordham University
Emily Sydnor, Southwestern University
What's your excuse? Effects of Personal and Political Justifications for Flip-Flopping
Sat, April 7, 11:30am–1:00pm

Nativism, Public Opinion, and Political Participation
Hannah Alarian, Discussant
Thu, April 5, 1:15–2:45pm

New Perspectives on Political Development
Connor Maxwell Ewing
From Predicate–Object: Constitutionalizing Sovereignty in the American Political Order
Fri, April 6, 9:45–11:15am

Outsourcing and Procurement in Public Sector
Rachel Augustine Potter
The Political Economy of Government Outsourcing in the U.S. States
Sat, April 7, 3:00–4:30pm

Overcoming Opposition: Women's Organizations and Policy Change across the Developing World
Paromita Sen
Diana Catalina Pedraza Vallejo
Denise M. Walsh
Opposition–Women’s Civic and Political Participation in the Global South: Building a Research Agenda
Fri, April 6, 1:15–2:45pm

Parties and Party Systems
Carolyn Coberly
Authoritarian Party Systems and State Capacity
Sun, April 8, 11:30am–1:00pm

Parties, Campaigns, and Elections in APD
Anthony Sparacino
Republican Governors and the Nationalization of American Party Politics
Fri, April 6, 3:00–4:30pm

Politicians in Developing Countries
Carol A. Mershon, Discussant
Sat, April 7, 9:45–11:15am

Politics and Development in Africa
Carol A. Mershon
Co-author Olga Shvetsova, SUNY at Binghamton
Traditional Leaders and their Bargaining for Legitimacy in Dual Legitimacy Constitutional Systems
Sat, April 7, 1:15–2:45pm

Poster Session 3/Trajectories of Democratization in the 21st Century
Geoffrey Landor Gordon, Discussant
Thu, April 5, 1:15–2:45pm

Presidential Power and the Constitution
Connor Maxwell Ewing, Discussant
Sun, April 8, 9:45–11:15am

Gendered Challenges–Democratic Legitimacy
Paromita Sen
Straight From the Politician’s Mouth: Official Talk on Rape
Sat, April 7, 3:00–4:30pm

The International Dimensions of Terrorist Violence
Chen Wang
The U.S. Allies Under Fire: A Centre-Periphery Theory of Terrorists' Target Selection
Thu, April 5, 4:45–6:15pm

The Political Economy of U.S.-China Relations
Aycan Katitaş
Foreign Direct Investment and Economic Threat Perceptions: Evidence from Chinese Investment in the U.S.
Sun, April 8, 11:30am–1:00pm

The Politics of Immigration in Canada
Hannah Alarian, Chair
Fri, April 6, 1:15–2:45pm

The Politics of Investment and Financial Stability
David Andrew Leblang
Fri, April 6, 3:00–4:30pm

The Politics of Policy-Making
Danilo Buscatto Medeiros
How Policy Preferences Interact with Income Inequality: Legislative Polarization in Brazil
Sun, April 8, 8:00–9:30am

What Makes a Good Lawmaker?
Craig Volden
Co-author Andrew James Clarke, Lafayette College
The Legislative Effectiveness of American Party Factions
Sun, April 8, 8:00–9:30am

White Racial Attitudes
Gerard Alexander
Is "Modern Racism" Actually Racism?
Sat, April 7, 4:45–6:15pm

Politics at 2018 International Studies Association Conference

San FranciscoThe Department of Politics will have a wide range of speakers at this year’s ISA Conference in San Francisco. The conference will be tagged on social media as #ISA2018. It will run from April 4–7, 2018.

The New Financial Geopolitics: Whither American Power?
Mark Schwartz
Banks, Bonds, and Balance Sheets: Can American Financial Geo-Power Persist?
Wednesday, April 4, 8:15–10:00

Panel: (Re)Writing the Rules of International Tax
International Political Economy
Chair Herman Mark Schwartz
Wednesday, April 4, 10:30–12:15

Panel: Of Militias, Insurgent Groups, and Border Zones: The Syrian War in Comparative Perspective Peace Studies International Security Studies
Chair Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl
Wednesday, April 4, 10:30–12:15

Panel: Of Militias, Insurgent Groups, and Border Zones: The Syrian War in Comparative Perspective Peace Studies International Security Studies
Fighting for Dominance: How the Insurgent Balance of Power Drives Conflict in Civil Wars
Samuel Plapinger
Wednesday, April 4, 10:30–12:15

JSS Group Conflict: The Politics and Tactics of Counterterrorism Junior Scholar Symposia
Do Democratic Regime Types Make a Difference in Terrorist Incidents?
Hsuan-Yu Lin
Thursday, April 5, 8:15–10:00

Interrogating the Formal and Informal Rules of Access II: Governing Surplus Populations Global Development
Chair Herman Mark Schwartz
Thursday, April 5, 8:15–10:00

Roundtable International Political Theory and “Real Politics” II: Issues, Problems, and Policies
Part. Denise Walsh
Thursday, April 5, 8:15–10:00

Illiberal Democracy and Human Rights: Thematic Approaches
The Liberal Origins of “Illiberal” Democracies Panel
Robert Fatton
Thursday, April 5, 8:15–10:00

After Victory: Reconsidering a Breakthrough Work in IR
Part. John M. Owen
Thursday, April 5, 10:30–12:15

State Capacity in Asia
Discussant John E. Echeverri-Gent
Thursday, April 5, 10:30–12:15

Panel: The Politics of Big Infrastructure: Asia, North America, and South America
Discussant Herman Mark Schwartz
Friday, April 6, 10:30–12:15

Adapting Liberalism to the 21st Century
Part. John M. Owen
Friday, April 6, 10:30–12:15

Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy
Part. Todd S. Sechser
Friday, April 6, 1:45–3:30

Panel: Network Analysis, Complex Interdependence, and Structural Power in the Global Political Economy
Discussant Herman Mark Schwartz
Friday, April 6, 1:45–3:30

Rules of Power and Rising Powers: The Case of India
India and the Institutions of Global Finance: A Reformer More Interested in Distribution Than Restructuring
John E. Echeverri-Gent
Friday, April 6, 1:45–3:30

Border and Territorial Disputes
The Dog that Barks: State-Led Propaganda Campaigns on Territorial Disputes
Yaping Wang
Saturday, April 7, 8:15–10:00

Panel Media and Conflict
Discussant Yaping Wang
Saturday, April 7, 10:30–12:15

Illiberal Democracy and Human Rights: Case Studies I
Chair Robert Fatton
Saturday, April 7, 1:45–3:30