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Thursday, April 17, 2014 - Students shine at national political science conference

Jane Dixon and Alyssa Clark presented their co-authored project “Is Integration Key in Defeating Europe’s Far-Right?”
For the second straight year, Oakland University was well-represented at the annual Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago. A total of five OU students presented original research at the conference and fielded questions from scholars and audience members.

Three of the students – Robert Larsen, Ellen Hainey and Marc DuBuis – presented work that originated in a capstone course taught by Dr. Matthew Fails, assistant professor of political science. The course, “Blood Diamonds and Petro-Politics,” focused on “a growing area in comparative politics that argues that an abundance of natural resource wealth, and oil in particular, prevents countries from experiencing democratic transitions, stabilizes authoritarian regimes, leads to more civil wars, and facilitates aggressive foreign policies, among other harmful outcomes,” Dr. Fails explained.

Larsen’s paper, “Argentina and Foreign Investment: Does Resource Wealth Permit Recklessness,” examined whether an abundance of shale gas reserves enabled the Argentine government to behave more recklessly toward investors and markets. Hainey’s work “Natural Resource Wealth and Human Development,” developed and tested an argument about the extent to which resource wealth enabled regimes to improve overall levels of well-being for their citizens.

DuBuis, who also attended last year’s MPSA conference, presented his research as part of a panel with other presenters from distinguished schools including Columbia University, New York University and UCLA. His paper, which he co-authored with Dr. Fails, argued that having multiple sources of resource wealth enables autocratic leaders to strengthen their political power. He had the distinction of being the only undergraduate student to present on a panel, which made the experience unique from past forums he has attended. 

“Few undergraduate students have such an opportunity, and presenting and discussing this paper alongside the work of more experienced scholars was a great way to improve my own research and presentation skills in preparation for graduate school,” DuBuis said. “I hope that current and future OU students will continue to pursue and take advantage of these valuable experiences in the years to come.”

Dr. Fails noted that all three of his students received funding to attend the conference from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Student Success initiative, a new program that supports enhanced learning opportunities for students. He was exceedingly pleased with both the quality of their work and their performance at the conference.

“Their presentations were extremely professional, and they deftly handled discussion of their results with very engaged audiences. I personally received notes of congratulations from the discussants for each student, attesting to the high quality of their work,” said Dr. Fails. “Each of these projects makes an important contribution to this exciting area of research in political science, but even more important, the students' participation in the conference provided a great opportunity for the students to become practicing social scientists and show off the great training they have received here at OU.”

In addition, students Jane Dixon and Alyssa Clark presented their co-authored project “Is Integration Key in Defeating Europe’s Far-Right?” They collected and analyzed data, and performed two case studies on far-right regimes in Spain and Greece to determine whether the quality of integration programs affects the success of far-right parties in European countries. Integration refers to social, political and legal ties brought about through international bodies like the European Union. Their faculty mentor, Dr. Nicole Asmussen, said the project “showed both a deep knowledge of European politics and a careful concern for research design.”

For more information on programs and opportunities in OU’s Department of Political Science, visit  

  Robert Larsen, Ellen Hainey and Marc DuBuis presented work that originated in a capstone course taught by Dr. Matthew Fails, assistant professor of political science.  

Pictured from top left, clockwise: Dr. Matthew Falls, Robert Larsen, Ellen Hainey and Marc DuBuis.