Recent St. Mary’s Projects


Most of the St. Mary’s Projects I have mentored developed from discussions I have with students.  These discussions sometimes emerge from classes that I teach or independent studies I have with students.  I have listed most of the St. Mary’s Projects I have mentored in the past five years. 

More information about St. Mary’s Projects.

Download the SMP Action Plan, Proposal, and Budget forms.


A Study of Foreign Assistance in Central America

Robert Chance, 2004

The objective of this paper is to assess the importance of United States foreign assistance in Central America over the past forty years. Three periods of significance stand out due to their importance in policy making for the region and funding levels given to reflect those policies. A trend emerges where at the beginning of each period, a policy objective is promoted, but then neglected afterward by following administrations. Foreign assistance in Central America suffers from a lack of long-term consistent policy enactment.


Perspectives on Poverty Reduction Policies and Faith-Based Initiatives

Michael Hollingsworth, 2004


This project examines the efforts made by lawmakers since 1980 to reform social welfare policy and eliminate poverty in the United States with a special emphasis on new republican initiatives to poverty reduction.  The paper reviews poverty measurement and the character of poverty in the United States and considers conservative approaches to poverty alleviation.  The majority of the analysis, however, focuses on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, the bill that reshaped welfare in the United States. The paper also includes an in-depth look at the most recent conservative anti-poverty approach, President Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative, and its role as a unique response to previous social policy.


Grading Effectiveness: An Empirical Study of Approaches to Education in Maryland’s High Schools

Richard Romer, 2004


This purpose of this project is to assess the inputs to high school education in Maryland and evaluate their importance.  After collecting data from a sample of high schools in Maryland, we investigated how different types of schools, per capita spending, and student teacher ratios influenced the SAT scores of high school seniors in the state.  It was found that while the location of a school seemed to have little effect on standardized student achievement, the type of school did seem to make a difference, specifically whether the school is public or private, and per student spending.



A Defect of the Confederation: the Crisis of Virginia’s Western Cession

Eric Brennan, 2003


The purpose of this project is to examine the nature of the conflict between various political forces over large, unsettled tracts of Virginia back-lands between 1778 and 1784, and outline how this conflict was solved through landmark legislation.  The unlikely solution involved the seemingly selfless cession of New York and Virginia’s western lands.  How did a problem that caused such luminaries as James Madison to predict the end of the union result in legislation that is cited as the most far-reaching and beneficial that the Continental Congress ever passed?  Why did two states give up western possessions that were worth immense amounts of money?  Why did Congress, in the face of such largesse, initially turn down the Virginia cession?  To find the answer to these questions, this paper examines documents such as the Virginia Remonstrance, Maryland’s Declaration and Instructions to the Delegates on the issue of back-lands, and the flurry of personal correspondence that followed the Virginia cession as it made its way through Congress.  Finally, the paper discusses the eventual acceptance of the Virginia cession through the actions of Thomas Jefferson, and the resulting Western Territory Ordinance of 1784.



Other St. Mary’s Projects


Despues de Fidel: The Potential for Democratization in Cuba

J. Gregory Lennon, 2002


In Cuba over the past hundred years, drastic regime change has been prevalent.  Political leadership has been characterized through evolution from a colonial holding to dictatorial power to communist authoritarianism.  As communism has failed worldwide, democratic fervor has erupted in many nations such as Cuba.  Regime change in Cuba, however, will only occur after Castro’s death.  This project attempts to posit the path that transition in Cuba may take, most likely in favor of a democratic regime.  Frameworks that elucidate the path to democracy will provide a lens through which to examine the potential for Cuban democratic transition after Fidel, based on domestic factors.  The study is not intended as an exact prediction of the events that will occur, but rather a tool that may provide policymakers with useful ways of formulating U.S. policies toward Cuba. 


Limited Democracies: De-communization, Lustration and the Inevitability of History

Shawn Owens, 2002


Although communism met its official demise in 1989, a more insidious incarnation of the system has become increasingly pervasive in the region: this is what analysts commonly refer to as the “legacy” of communism. The “legacy” of communism differs between countries as the system generally embodied characteristics of the regime (i.e. the “ personal” dictatorships of Ceausescu and Stalin, Kadarist Hungary, Honnecker’s conservative state security regime).  Thus, the present effort to deal with communist legacies has taken on an increasingly nation-specific tone. The aim of this study is to determine why some countries have viewed “lustration” (literally, “to bring into the light”) as a fundamental phase of transition.  Every nation of Central-Eastern Europe has pursued de-communization, however it is the specific history of communism in each country that has determined the measure and benefit of such policies.  Moreover, it was the immediate politics of the communist collapse that established the precise form of lustration implemented at the national level. Ultimately, the issue of lustration and the concept of “dealing with the past” have been overshadowed by more important, tangible issues, such as economic reconstruction and stabilizing democracy.  To pursue lustration any further would be counterproductive and, in the sense that it seeks to limit the political arena, antithetical to the very system of democracy it claims to support.


Rival Civil Societies: Central Europe’s Case Against Robert Putnam

Troy Agnew, 2002





Last Modified: 09/06/04
© Michael J. G. Cain, 1999
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