Political Science Students

From left to right: Babawande Afolabi, Maria Gobbi, Monica Simonin, and Erica Podrazik are several of the students going to Greece in May to present their research.

“The Disparity of Knowledge in a Global Context”

April 24, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Seven Illinois Wesleyan students will attend the annual International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS) Academic Conference & General Assembly in Greece from May 5 through May 11.

The IAPSS Conference is hosted by Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the University of Macedonia in Serres. During the conference, the group will present their research entitled, “The Disparity of Knowledge in the Global Context” and attend a series of workshops with students from around the world.

Students attending the conference are: Babawande Afolabi, a sophomore business and economics double major with a minor in political science from Nigeria; Arielle Cassiday, a sophomore international studies major from Spring Grove, Ill.; Andrew Clott, a sophomore political science and sociology double major from Chicago; Maria Gobbi, a first-year international studies major with a French minor from Evanston, Ill.; Charlie Sell, a sophomore political science major from Wauconda, Ill.; and Monica Simonin, a first-year anthropology major from Belleville, Ill.

Other students involved in the research, though not attending the conference, are Erica Podrazik, a sophomore political science major from Lombard, Ill.; Monica Shah, a sophomore international studies major from Downers Grove, Ill.; and Nathan Wheatley, a sophomore political science major with an economics minor from Glenn Ellyn, Ill.

The students’ conference presentation culminates work that began on the first day of a course taught by Juan Gabriel Gmez Albarello, visiting assistant professor of political science. In the syllabus for his class “The Politics of Developing Societies,” Gmez Albarello asked his students to work on a paper that they could eventually submit to a conference. Under their professor’s direction, the students began to collect data to construct a preliminary version of the paper, which investigated the inconsistency of sources that scholars cite in political science research articles.

Their research revealed that in political science articles, citations of scholars writing in Western nations vastly outweigh citations of scholars from developing countries.  After compiling their research into a formal report, the students discovered that, of the 53 articles included in the study, 86 percent of the cited sources were from the United States and the United Kingdom, rather than citing sources produced in developing nations. This vast source disparity between Western countries and developing nations in scholarly articles is “not just a bias,” said student Nathan Wheatley. “It’s a reflection of a neo-colonial relationship that mirrors the relationship between the former colonies and their former colonizers on every level— economic, social, political and now educational.”

Gmez Albarello encouraged the students to submit an application to present their paper at the annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference held in Chicago in April. “After their application got accepted, they realized that their initial work deserved to be expanded. At that moment, they started to fly on their own,” says Gmez Albarello, who continued to meet with the students and also encouraged them to interview other IWU political science professors as well as noted scholars in the field from around the world. The students additionally collected data involving educational systems, availability of publication resources, language and intellectual infrastructures in developed and developing nations.

While continuing their research, the students decided to apply to present at the IAPSS Academic Conference & General Assembly in Greece.  The IAPSS “is international, politically independent, non-profit and student-run, and aims to have global impact in the political science sphere,” according to the organization’s Web site. The trip to Greece is being funded principally by Mark L. McConaghy '63, who is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Other support came from the University administration and Student Senate.

Gmez Albarello is pleased that what began as a course assignment has grown into research that is garnering international attention. “My students have worked very hard. They have proven themselves to be up to the rigor of academic work. They have begun to fly on their own – the best accomplishment any mentor can expect from them.”

For more information on the group’s research, visit their report at http://www.iwu.edu/~nwheatle/mpsa.

Contact: Lauren Pietruszka, ’09 (309) 556-3181