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CAB 2018 Graduate Poster Session

Amanda D'Urso

Strategic Failure? The Impact of Failed Legislation on enacted legislation

Tell us about yourself: How did you get into academic research?

I am a rising second-year student in the Political Science department at Northwestern. I have always been exceedingly nerdy, so post-secondary education seemed only natural. (Plus, my family is full of medical doctors, but I have been known to have a 'rebellious' streak--hence PhD instead).

Tell us about your poster: How did you arrive at this research project and what are your findings?

The idea for my poster came to me after hours upon hours of coding state-level immigration-related legislation for a project with Dr. Alexandra Filindra (University of Illinois at Chicago) and Dr. Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz (University of Rhode Island). After I coded a few thousand, I realized that certain legislators, session after session, would sponsor the same bills that would always die upon introduction. It was a joke to me at first: "Oh come on 'Bob' from Hawaii, you know this isn't going to pass". That's when I thought, "Wait, then why are they doing this?" Thus, this project seeks to understand the role repeatedly failed legislation has on existing legislation. Some legislators talk of repeatedly sponsoring failed legislation as 'pushing the legislative agenda' to eventually get the policy passed. Using text analysis to trace repeatedly failed state-level immigration policy suggests this almost never happens. 

What’s one surprising thing you learned over the course of your project, either in terms of behavioral methodology or as a result of your experiment?

Although machine learning was completely new to me, I was surprised by how long it took me to clean the massive dataset in order to get it in a usable format. It was something I did not anticipate would take so long, and after speaking with Sarah Bouchat, I learned that my experience is not uncommon. (Aspects of research to look forward too, I suppose...) I still have additional analyses to complete on this project. With the help of both professors Bouchat and Laurel Harbridge Yong, I hope to use this project as my second-year paper. 

What was your overall impression of CAB 2018 (the presentations, mentorship & networking sessions, presenting your work, etc.)?  

durso-v3.jpgCAB is one of my favorite events of the year. I love that in recent years, graduate students have been able to present their posters. It comes at a great time for graduate students to prepare and practice for conferences that occur in the summer. For instance, one of the conferences I love attending, the State Politics and Policy Conference, occurs in June. Last year I was lucky enough to present a different poster at CAB and SPPC a month later. The feedback I received at CAB helped me clearly and confidently present my work at SPPC, winning me the best poster award! I encourage all graduate students to present their posters, especially if they are not fully completed projects. The feedback from CAB attendees is incredibly helpful and talking through ones project with others forces one to think clearly about the theories and methods involved, aiding in overall better research.