The University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleThe Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy

2011-2012 Baker Scholar Projects

Baker Scholar Projects 2011-12


Elliot Bertasi


Major:   Political Science, 2013

Advisor: Dr. Tricia Hepner, Anthropology


U.S. Foreign Policy Response in Africa: Particularly the Great Lakes Region and Uganda

 (ongoing research)

 The Great Lakes region in Africa has recently become and is currently a concern to the United States Government and military.  Much of the region is experiencing some type of instability and some of the region is still engaged in conflict with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Uganda’s government, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), was engaged in a civil war with the LRA from 1986 to 2006.  The NRM, still currently in power with the same president, has been the governing party in Uganda since 1986.  Although Uganda is currently experiencing peace and some economic growth, the LRA is still a viable threat in the Great Lakes region as it is engaging in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. The United States, now a partner of the Ugandan government and military, sent one hundred military advisers to Uganda, in October 2011, to assist in the demobilization and disarmament of the LRA. During my travels to Uganda and studies of northern Uganda, I found that the key to solving the instability in the Great Lakes region is not as simplistic as disarming and disbanding the LRA; cultural understanding, post-conflict, reconstruction, and humanitarian aid is essential and could be used to enhance and change U.S. foreign policy in the future.  The research for my project is still ongoing and in its preliminary stages.  I will be returning to Uganda this summer and fall to perform the majority of my research.  My research explores the reasoning behind U.S. deployment of troops and intervention in the area and it assesses the success of the current U.S. foreign policy with Uganda.  It argues that the U.S. should be approaching the situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa differently, in order to enhance U.S. foreign policy to Uganda and make sustainable development in the region a realistic objective.


Madeline Brown

Major:  Journalism and Electronic Media, 2012

Advisors:  Dr. Bob Kronick, Educational Psychology & Counseling and Matt Shafer Powell, WUOT


Using Media to Educate and Explore Community Issues

 In the summer of 2010, I received a summer research grant from the UT Office of Research to produce a short documentary on Pond Gap Elementary School and the surrounding community, in Knoxville.  This school is unique in that 19 languages are spoken here, due to UT international students living nearby, thus fostering an ethnically diverse community. UT has a pilot project – University Assisted Community Schools – at the school as well.  My documentary included interviews with community leaders, businesses and school officials, to highlight the issues facing this community, such as the closing of UT graduate student housing.  The result is a two part video on YouTube.   I plan to add to this research with a feature about the school that I am developing as part of my internship at WUOT 91.9 FM.

Additionally, along with fellow Baker Scholar, Carrie Macon, I filmed a tour of the Baker Center museum for a record of its existence. We explained the purpose of the museum as an explanation of how government works and the importance of public service as seen through Senator Baker’s eyes. Plus there was a focus on Tennessee historical politics and the most important decisions in Baker’s career.


Chad Covert

BS in Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources and Business Administration, December 2011

Advisor: Dr. Bill Park

 Rethinking A Carbon Tax in an Era of Budget Deficits

My project was an economic analysis of a carbon tax in the US. I wanted to evaluate if a carbon tax could generate revenue for US budget deficit reduction. Given an Australian carbon tax model, I was able to estimate possible deficit reduction while accounting for equity transfers. In the end, a carbon tax has the potential to reduce the budget deficit so long as the tax is set at the appropriate level.



Ashton Davis (in Washington, DC)

Major:  Journalism and Political Science, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. John Scheb

Intern for Senator Bob Corker

I am a senior at the University of Tennessee, double-majoring in Journalism and Political Science. I had the honor of receiving a spring internship in Washington, D.C. with Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. I arrived on the Hill mid-January and have enjoyed each and every moment at our nation’s capital. During the course of the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet with the Senator and other elected officials, attend press conferences, work with the communications department, provide private Capital tours, work with constituents, and much more. Not to mention the task of exploring all that D.C. has to offer. I am truly enjoying my time here, and as someone who is an aspiring politician, there is nowhere else that I would rather be.


Jordan Davis

Major:  Political Science, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. Tricia McClam, Educational Psychology & Counseling

 Full Service Schools: Service–Learning at Inskip

I have had the privilege of serving at Inskip Elementary in three capacities: as a grief counselor, a tutor, and an after school program volunteer.  I gained much from the experience and would like to share it with others.  My account will serve as a resource for UT students in service learning courses.  Additionally, it may be published in counseling psychology journals. 


Diego B. Del-Castillo-Negrete  

Major:  Finance, Global Leadership Scholar, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. Larry Fauver, Finance


An Analysis of the Lead-lag Relationship between

Sovereign Credit Default Swaps and Currency Markets (ongoing research)

 The goal of this study is to observe the lead-lag relationship between sovereign credit default swaps (CDS) and their respective currencies. The study uses daily data of six currencies, the Australian Dollar (AUD), Brazilian Real (BRL), British Pound (GBP), Euro (EUR), Japanese Yen (JPY), and Mexican Peso (MXN) in terms of the US Dollar (USD), as well as each countries’ 5-year CDS contracts for the time period beginning at the start of 2007 and ending at the start of 2012. For the Euro, we will analyze the CDS levels of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain (PIIGS).  By performing a Vector Auto-regressive (VAR) analysis, we hope to find results demonstrating that fluctuations in sovereign CDS can in fact give light to currency movements. This study will add to the small but existing literature (Carr and Wu 2007; Zhang, 2010) of the effect of CDS on currency markets, in three distinct ways. First, it will incorporate sovereign CDS spreads rather than corporate CDS spreads (Zhang, 2010). Secondly, it will include a larger set (6) of sovereigns and their respective currencies. Lastly, given the dynamic nature of the sovereign credit markets as of late, it will re-test the conclusions of the existing literature for the most recent time period. Through our analysis, we hope to arrive at results that will further support the existing literature in that sovereign CDS levels can be used to predict currency movements.



Matthew Dillon  (studying Abroad)

Major:  College Scholar, 2014

Advisor:  Dr. Brandon Prins, Political Science

Global and Nuclear Security – US and Russian Relations (ongoing research)

For my Baker Scholar project I will conduct theoretical research in order to produce a written thesis under the guidance of Dr. Brandon Prins, professor of political science. The thesis will address the policy issues of global and nuclear security as well as U.S. foreign policy, particularly diplomacy. In the thesis, I will investigate the effects of the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) project on diplomatic relations between the US and Russia by analyzing current and Cold War era nuclear negotiations. Ideally, I will extend my Baker Scholar term to include research conducted during my planned State Department internship at the Embassy in Moscow and academic year of study in Russia, culminating in a work of scholarship that illuminates Russia-US relations in the context of nuclear power issues.


Danielle Jones

Major: Political Science, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. Will Jennings, Political Science


United States Counterterrorism Model in Yemen (ongoing research)

 Yemen has a long and rich history dating back to the Queen of Sheba and beyond.  In more modern history, and even parts of ancient history, the region has been dominated by one empire after another.  The 20th century began with British control of Southern Yemen until it became the Marxist People’s Democratic Republic (PDRY) in 1967.  The PDRY then alternately competed and cooperated with Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) of North Yemen until unification occurred in 1990.  Since then a series of civil wars, rebellions, secessionist movements, economic and agricultural failure and other conflicts have dominated the country’s identity.

 The United States only gave Yemen cursory attention, mostly regarding its interactions with other US allies, until terrorist attacks on US citizens began occurring in the early 1990s.  Since then attention has consistently increased to 2011, where economic and military aid to Yemen’s government increased drastically in order to aid in the US’s fight against the growing al-Qaeda presence in Yemen.  Yemen is now a regular on CNN headlines and on the map of American sensibilities.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stated that the Obama administration is placing new emphasis on economic development in international diplomacy.  It is the prevailing theory now that a stable country is a safer and more cooperative one.  How has the United States used its political and financial might to improve government stability in Yemen and other nations in order to fight terrorism?  My research involves exploring the agencies of U.S. policy and the success of these policies two-fold: through their stabilization of the targeted government and the weakening of the targeted terrorist organization.  The main focus is the efforts ongoing in the Republic of Yemen, however Afghanistan and Pakistan will serve as comparisons to establish a trend in U.S. behavior.


Blair West Kuykendall

Major:  Haslam Scholar; College Scholar; Editor in Chief, The Daily Beacon, 2013

Advisor:  Dr. John Scheb, Political Science

 Is there a link between government oversight and an increased capacity to guarantee their citizens

“the right to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work” (ICESCR Article III)?

 Only in recent times has the international economic community turned its attention to the necessity of respecting human dignity in the pursuit of capitalistic success. Measures like the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights have been upheld as standards to which all nations should aspire:

“Recognizing that, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his civil and political rights…Considering the obligation of States under the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and freedoms…” (ICESCR Preamble, 1976)

This covenant reflects the intention that nations of the world have displayed in upholding certain undisputable rights of the modern worker. Most members of the OECD have signed and ratified this covenant; the notable exception is the lack of U.S. ratification. The universal worker rights spelled out in the document are largely held as standardized goals around the world. Developed countries are often the loudest voices for increased worker rights, and have implemented economic regulation to enforce them. A large part of the regulation carried out by state actors around the world is designed to promote the very standards the United Nations has put forth. The OECD nations attempt to fulfill their “obligation of States” with service industry regulation, enforced through their respective governments. These nations would be quick to assert their intentions in upholding human dignity in economic practice, but are their measures effective? Does more industry regulation actually translate into better employment standards for the citizens of these nations?


The goal of my research is to evaluate possible correlations between the amount of industry regulation implemented by OECD nations and their respective compliance with the provisions of Article 7 of  ICESCR. Using statistical surveys supported by the OECD and the United Nations, I will endeavor to find a link between government oversight and an increased capacity to guarantee their citizens “the right to the enjoyment of just and favorable conditions of work” (ICESCR Article III).


Sarah Lucas

Major:  Deaf Education, 2013

Advisor:  Paul Erwin, Community Health

My project this year focused on the “Youth Can” program implemented at rural 3rd grade classrooms in 1992. Now, 10 years later, we are going back and interviewing students to determine its effectiveness. In addition, several changes have been made in response to a changing culture both in terms of how Americans view food and the governmental policies put into place in the last ten years and the program is being re-implemented. This is really just a beginning for this Baker Project, though the paper I have produced compares the modern program to the one of 1991-1992 and makes recommendations to keep up with trends in education and food policy, such as the increase of the Federal Government in education and the seeming end of No Child Left Behind.


Richard “RJ” Lusk (abroad in China)

Major:  Logistics and International Business, 2012

Advisor:  Howard Hall, Nuclear Engineering

RJ had the opportunity to travel to China for two semesters through the David Boren Scholarship Program, a national security scholarship sponsored by the Institute of International Education. RJ is spending his time in China not only with the purpose of understanding the Mandarin language, but also gaining a deep knowledge of Chinese culture.  He has carried many of his experiences from the Baker Center with him to China.

“I had an opportunity to travel to rural Tibet for a few days in October. While there, I witnessed the manifestations of absolute poverty. While I was trying to get an idea of how deeply rooted these inequalities are, I drew on knowledge that I had gained while involved in the Baker Center.  After seeing how some of the most economically disadvantaged have few opportunities to better themselves, it refortified my desire to go into a career of public service.”

At the culmination of his trip, RJ plans to share his experiences back home in Knoxville as well as integrate his trip into his Baker Scholar thesis project. He is currently conducting research on the rare-earth supply chain between China and the United States. As China and the US continue to forge the largest economic relationship in history, it is vitally important that they maintain good relations on key issues such as rare-earth trading.


William C. McLean

Major: Economics and Political Science, 2012

Advisor: Dr. John Scheb, Political Science

U.S. Foreign Policy and the Iranian Bomb: A Three-Pronged Recommendation (ongoing research)

With heightened Israel-Iran tensions and the evaluation of the situation highly contended, I sought with this research project to get beyond the popular rhetoric and put forward a basic analysis derived from readily available open-source information. Although it is unclear if an Israeli preemptive attack may be prevented, it is imperative that the United States attempt to diffuse the multifaceted state of affairs through diplomatic, economic, and, if necessary, military action – covert or otherwise. The focus of my posited course of action to President Obama’s administration addresses the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) allegations of Iran’s disregard of the Additional Protocol, the possible militarization of their nuclear program, and the potential response to that of other state actors. The political stakes are high with upcoming presidential elections in both the U.S. and Iran, but nuclear proliferation in the world’s most volatile region should be avoided at nearly any cost.


Abigail McKamey

Major:  College Scholar, 2014

Advisor:  Dr. Bob Kronick, Educational Psychology and Counseling

Education Policy in the State of Tennessee (ongoing research)

In my research, I have begun to look at the current Teacher Evaluation System across the state of Tennessee.  Governor Haslam has recently called for The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) to conduct a series of roundtable discussions across the state to gather information on the changes that need to be made in the evaluation system.  I have been present for a number of these roundtable discussions.  It seems that many teachers are frustrated with the system in its entirety and frustrated with ongoing requirements and changes in education policy.

In addition to this research, I have spent some time looking at education policy from a national perspective.  Through this research I am trying to pinpoint the main areas for concern and see how they collaborate with the needs in the Tennessee Education System.  During the upcoming summer semester, I will begin more thorough research on education policy on a local level, looking at the Knox County School System for further information on the state of education for Tennessee.


 Rachel McKane

 Major:  Global Studies, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. Jon Shefner, Sociology

The Globalization of Social Movements: Exploring Collective Actions Against Neoliberalism from Latin America to Occupy Wall Street

As neoliberal globalization continues to produce deeply felt hardships and grievances across borders, a vast array of social movements have emerged to challenge the neoliberal system. This paper synthesizes the emergence of anti-neoliberal movements, focusing on movements across Latin America and the Occupy movement in the United States. It also explore the globalization of rituals, symbols, goals, and strategies within these movements, and how these movements fit within or contradict major social movement theories. The purpose of this paper is to show the importance of recognizing the cohesion of global solidarity networks while making distinctions of specific groups involved. Although the Occupy Movement originated in the US, it has many ties to social movements in Latin America.


Leah Oldham

Major:  American Studies, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. Bill Park, Agriculture and Resource Economics


The Role of Nonprofit Micro Finance Institutions in Alleviating Poverty: From Theory to Practice

My project is an effort to increase awareness of nonprofit micro finance institutions and their effort to aid people in impoverished or struggling conditions. I will explore what micro finance institutions are, why they are needed, and what can happen as a result. Specifically, I plan to raise funds with TASC Force (a new student organization on campus), and send those funds to lend to and support a person that needs funds to start a business through the micro lending organization KIVA. I hope to bring this initiative to the attention of the UT community.



Spenser Powell

Major: Political Science and Philosophy, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. John Scheb, Political Science

Equality of Participation: A Rawlsian Critique of United States Federal Campaign Finance

This project was aimed at a critique of the current state of campaign finance for U.S. federal elections from the perspective of the political philosophy of John Rawls. I developed an interpretation of Rawls’ theory of distributive justice, as informed by Rawls’ own writing and relevant secondary literature, to serve as a model for this critique. Specifically, I focused on Rawls’ first principle of justice and the notion of the ‘fair value’ of political liberties described therein. From this framework, I produced a textual critique of relevant Supreme Court cases and federal statutory law in which I sought to determine the extent to which these texts reflect Rawls’ central notion of justice as fairness. In sum, current U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence and federal law in the realm of campaign finance fail to satisfy the conditions of justice as fairness, as these decisions and enactments do not appropriately guarantee the fair value of the liberty of political participation. From this, I have attempted to set forth the parameters of what campaign finance reform measures would be required in order to produce a political system congruent with justice as fairness.



Ryan Roberts

Major: College Scholars, 2012

Advisor : Dr. Paul Erwin, Department of Public Health

Oral Health Initiatives: Improving Access to Oral Health Care

Finding:  Economically and medically speaking, oral health initiatives focused on prevention, help to eliminate oral health disparities among vulnerable and underserved populations, more effectively than standardizing a basic level of care, that can be attained by the general populace via a national dental (and or medical) insurance program.

Dr. Erwin and I have met several times over this academic year to discuss the increasing disparities of access to dental care among vulnerable and underserved populations and to research what actions our

government could take (via oral health initiatives and policy) to improve access to oral health care. Oral health care in general is poorly funded in the U.S. and taxpayers are beginning to pay for the long-term

effects that result from a treatment oriented dental society. We believe that the system should shift its focus to prevention – a shift requiring expanded dental infection awareness and education rather than simply perpetuating a treatment-minded society by socializing dental health insurance coverage. This awareness and education would propose a unique relationship be formed between primary care providers and pediatric dental specialists, it would allow dental hygienists be able to perform to their maximum training capabilities as well as call for a standard dental competency requirement be issued to those in medical training (physicians and nurses). In addition to this research, I have created a power point in collaboration with a general dentist that illustrates the application of fluoride varnish that is used to prevent plaque and Carie build-up on the surface of tooth enamel; this power point has been completed and presented in association with the UT Dental Residency Program at UT Medical Center to standing physicians in internal medicine and primary care.



Hadil Senno

 Major:  Spanish/International Business, 2012

Advisor: Carl Pierce, Law School, Director Emeritus – Howard Baker Center

U.S. Foreign Public Policy: Learning from Former Senator Howard Baker Jr.’s

Example during the Panama Canal Treaties Ratification

 I am looking at the ratification process of the Panama Canal Treaties during the late 1970s. As minority leader of the Senate, former Senator Baker was in an interesting position to contribute to the process and was looked upon as the deciding vote. His decision to amend the treaties that would eventually give Panama control over the canal in 2000 was seen as controversial, against his party, and risky. His effort to do what he thought was best for the nation as a whole concerning this hot foreign policy topic eventually lost him the presidential nomination. What can we learn today about making foreign policy decisions when faced with a split-party, slow-moving Senate?


Jordan Smith

Major:  Philosophy and Political Science, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. John Scheb, Political Science

Equal Protection Under the Law? Examining the Tennessee Drug Free School Zone Act

I examined the Tennessee Drug Free School Zone Act (DFSZA), which allows prosecutors to increase penalties when prosecuting drug related activities in designated school zones (usually, 1000 feet from any school, daycare, or similar institution). I gathered data on drug arrests in Knoxville for the past two years, a total of 2,031 cases, and performed a regression analysis of the potential factors that might determine whether a defendant is charged under the DFSZA. Several categories yielded a statistically significant result, including: race, type of drug, and class of felony.


Jayanni Webster

Major:  College Scholars, 2012

Advisor:  Dr. Rosalind Hackett, Religious Studies

Youth at the Intersection of Agency and Structure: Reshaping Education through Community-based Initiatives in Peace & Conflict Resolution in Knoxville Tennessee and Northern Uganda

This research study focuses on peace and conflict resolution efforts taking place in Northern Uganda and Knoxville, Tennessee designed to promote sustainable peace, mediation, and empowerment in addition to intervention strategies for “at-risk” youth. Although not a comparative study, I focus on how different societies respond to the needs of their youth through the medium of education. I evaluate how agency is promoted against the more ambiguous reality of structural inequality and violence. My fieldwork focuses on several different programs in each region and this paper explores the coexistence of resiliency and vulnerability among youth as well as the obstacles to operationalizing the success of this type of education. With application issues surrounding practices and policies, I argue that these programs create rather a “culture of complacency” in the face of a harsh economic and sociopolitical reality that youth living in both environments will have to navigate through. Although there have been recorded positive outcomes, there remains serious oversights in curriculum and facilitation that require further analysis and investment.


Elizabeth Williams

Major:  College Scholar, 2012

Advisor: Dr. Bob Kronick, Educational Psychology and Counseling

Education Policy and Segregation in the US and South Africa

This study explores the ties between segregated education policy in the pre-Civil Rights US and apartheid South Africa.  I will examine how each of these countries dismantled their systems of de jure segregation in public schools and their current progress in achieving racial equality in education.  The contrasting


work of Paulo Freire and Noam Chomsky will provide different perspectives under which to examine these systems with a lens of critical sociological theory and education’s broader capacity to enact social change.  Current findings suggest that policy shifts are often used in place of critical systems of examination and dialogue to keep de facto segregation in place today.


Akshitha Yarrabothula

Major:  Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, 2013

Advisor:  Dr. Cong Trinh, Chemical Engineering

For my Baker Scholars Project, I will be focusing on the scientific research and development of second-generation biofuels as a form of renewable energy and analyzing the feasibility and applicability of this technology when it comes to developing sound environmental policies.

This project takes a closer look at current policies on renewable energy, mainly the harvesting of second generation biofuels, and addresses not only some of the stigmas associated with the production of bioenergy but also the factors halting the incorporation of bioenergy into our nation’s energy policies. Furthermore, this project also examines other renewable energy technologies currently in consideration in Washington, DC, and compares these technologies to bioenergy production in terms of product yield, ease of commercialization, and relative safety and environmental cleanliness.





Download a list of the 2010-2011 Baker Scholars (PDF).    

Download a list of the 2009-2010 Baker Scholars and Alumni (PDF).