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MPP students Bridget Marchesi & Rebecca Olson share 2012 Freeman-Stassen Award

There are two co-recipients for the 2012 Freeman-Stassen Award for Achievements in the Field of Global Affairs:

Bridget E. Marchesi has written an exemplary professional paper entitled "Is Lower Fertility a Path to Human Rights?" The findings in the paper are fascinating, and potentially path-breaking. In the paper, Bridget responds to the work of quantitative scholars in political science who have analyzed the relationship between gender inequality and violence. Bridget examines the relationship between human rights violations and fertility rates, and finds that, controlling for numerous other factors, lower fertility rates are an important predictor of decreased human rights violations. Perhaps most importantly, she finds that fertility rates are a stronger predictor than other, previously tested gender inequality variables, and when fertility is included in the same model as some of the previously tested gender inequality variables, those other variables are rendered statistically insignificant. Bridget develops a creative theoretical story for this relationship, drawing on literature from feminist economics, political science and sociology; she argues that when fertility rates are reduced, women experience improved health outcomes and consequentially increased human and social capital, which allows women to pressure states into decreasing violence. Thus, Bridget overturns some of the major findings in the published work in this field; a feat that makes the paper highly publishable, and of great interest to other scholars in the discipline.

In addition to her professional paper, for two years, Bridget has been an indispensable leader of a team of research assistants on Prof. Dara Cohen's National Science Foundation-funded project to collect a large cross-national dataset on sexual violence. In addition, she received the 2011 Upper Midwest Human Rights Fellowship, during which she partnered with American Public Media on a international public media initiative called "Women and Girls Lead," where she worked to provide key stakeholders with relevant and timely research.

Next year, Bridget will enter the PhD program in political science at the University of Minnesota.
Rebecca Olson's professional paper, "Forced to Flee, Forced to Fight: Refugee Child-Soldiers in Chad, Thailand and Jordan" is an outstanding paper on a topic that is timely and of substantial policy relevance. The coercive practice of "recruiting" children to participate in insurgent militias has, Rebecca argues, taken place under circumstances that are predictable - and thus susceptible to policy change. She systematically reviews the literature to find conditions under which children are more likely to be recruited, then applies the resulting hypotheses to case study data that she put together. The topic is innovative, and the results are clear and important.

In addition to her professional paper, Rebecca has excelled in international affairs in several other realms. As part of Prof. Greta Friedemann-Sánchez' international development class, Rebecca conducted an important study that affected the functioning of a Brazilian non-profit aimed at improving the health and educational performance for beneficiaries of the Bolsa Família program (targeted at children in poor families). Through research undertaken for her final paper, Rebecca found that program funds had the unintended consequence of reducing female labor force participation. This finding allowed the non-profit to make programmatic changes to include more income-generating activities for mothers.

Rebecca has also volunteered with the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC), and worked at Project for Pride in Living (PPL), where she assisted immigrant and refugee families in Minnesota find housing, employment, and schools.

Finally, Rebecca has worked as a Research Assistant for Professor Dara Cohen for a year and a half. Rebecca conducted extensive qualitative research on the recruitment and training strategies of rebel groups in civil wars worldwide.

Rebecca will leave in June for Mozambique, where she is undertaking a 3-month internship with CARE International. Her fluency in Portuguese will come in handy as she conducts HIV/AIDS program monitoring for a four-district prevention and treatment program.

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