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Department of Political Science

Faculty Research & Activities

Faculty Spotlight:


A URI political science professor in London


In a recent invited post for the London School of Economics and Politics, University of Rhode Island Professor Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz and University of Maryland, Baltimore Professor Laura S. Hussey discuss their research which finds that while Republicans tend to be against social welfare programs regardless of the recipients, Democrats' support for such programs depends on their feelings about the groups that will benefit. They find that Democrats with the most unfavorable feelings toward undocumented immigrants are 20 percent more likely to oppose implementing welfare policies such as a national health insurance program, than are pro-immigrant Democrats.


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URI political science professor wins Fulbright to study in Ukraine


Nicolai N. Petro, a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island, has received a Fulbright research grant to study the role of the Russian Orthodox Church while living abroad in Ukraine.



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A Transformative Class Experience


For nearly two weeks this past January, ten Political Science students and twelve nursing students joined URI Professor Maureen Moakley on the annual class-trip to the Dominican Republic. The primary focus of the group was participant observation of the political and social environment in the Dominican. From working at camps with displaced Haitians, to attending lectures by local scholars, to watching the delivery of vaccines to children who often receive no medical attention, the trip inspired many students to call it a life changing experience.


Some of the activities differed to suit the special interests of the Nursing and Political Science majors and the students benefitted from hearing about the alternate experiences of their peers. For example, the Nursing students visited a rural prenatal clinic in Las Mantas to observe clinical work. The Political Science students went to a Bateau, a place for displaced Haitians now living in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Moakley best put it, 'many Haitians preserve their culture in areas that are within the Dominican Republic.'


The Political Science student spent time doing service work at a literacy center, helping teach subjects such as math, writing, and reading. Near the literacy center the students were taught how to plant essential crops that would provide a staple food sources. Students also participated in many interactive classes with people that live in the Bateau Libertinage, a community right on the boarder of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. One student described her experience as transformative, 'we learned more from them than they could have possibly learned from us.' She further revealed that experiencing conditions with 'no running water and no electricity' was an irreplaceable 'culture shock.'


When the students ventured back to the U.S., many reflected on the different lens through which they now could see the world. One student was struck by the community oriented culture; people had incredibly strong connections to others that lived in the local area. 'In the U.S. we often can go a whole year without having a real conversation with our next-door-neighbor.' Considering the cultural differences another student offered the motto of an elder, 'once you can walk you can carry yourself in life...this is a far cry from the lifestyle of your average American.'

Story Written by Anthony Davidson, Political Science undergraduate







Gerry Tyler

Gerry Tyler

In June 2010 Department Chair Professor Gerry Tyler travelled to China to participate in an International Faculty Development Seminar sponsored by the Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE).

The seminar was based in Shanghai, a city that has served as the forefront of China’s double digit economic growth that has occurred over the past two decades. Shanghai provided the ideal setting for examining the intersections of economic growth, social change, and urban development. Ten faculty members from all over the US participated in the seminar which included speakers from public policy institutes, universities, and the private sector.

Topics discussed included the economic and political relations between the United States and China as well as the domestic challenges of migration and displacement, cultural preservation, and social transformation of urban planning for sustainability.

Kerry Joyce interviewed Professor Tyler to find out more about her experience in Shanghai.

Q: Had you travelled to China prior to this trip?

Yes, I spent a month in China in 2007 and during this visit I was asked to spend time at URI’s partner university, Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. Several of our political science students were studying Chinese there as part of URI’s Flagship program.

Q: What surprised you during your trip?

The fact that so much of Shanghai now has new sky scrapers in areas that were just fields less than 20 years ago.

Q: What other experiences were particularly significant?

It was reassuring to discover that the issues I had been discussing in my Politics of China class were the same issues emphasized by the Chinese scholars who spoke in the seminar—the huge gap between the rich and poor in China, the problems caused by the large influx of migrant workers from the countryside into the cities, etc.

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