2015 IAC Graduate Essay Awards

Students who had submitted abstracts for the IAC graduate conference submitted 10-15 page papers to be evaluated by Ivan Allen College faculty judges. Authors of the three top papers each received $1500 in travel funds. Below are biographies and abstracts of prize winners in 2015.

First Prize

Amanda Meng (International Affairs)

Amanda Meng defended her doctoral dissertation in October of 2016, completing the PhD in International Affairs, Science, and Technology in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. Amandaís research interest lies in the intersect of democracy and technology, data and justice. For her dissertation research, Amanda investigated how social movements make use of open government data to make claims on government. A native to Atlanta, she also works locally to use data and networked technologies for participatory projects at the city and neighborhood level. Throughout her career as a practitioner and academic she has spent time in the Dominican Republic, India, Ghana, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Argentina, and Atlanta studying or implementing projects to improve development or democracy outcomes using Information Communication Technologies.

Investigating the Roots of Open Data’s Social Impact

Abstract: It is a challenging and urgent task to innovate democracy. Open government data and Information Communication Technologies offer promising tools to enhance participation in democratic procedures. To better understand this expected outcome, the Open Data Barometer provides a cross-national study measuring readiness, implementation, and impact of open data. The barometer reveals puzzling inconsistencies. Countries scoring high in readiness and implementation do not consistently demonstrate high scores of impact. Furthermore, impact is elusive in most countries. Investigating what preconditions allow societies to realize impact can help inform policy makers, technologists, and civil society leaders on best practices to implement open data tools and policy. This paper looks specifically at the social impact of open data, described as marginalized groups having greater access and participation in government decision making. This research design that implements most similar systems and fuzzy logic, will evaluate the relationship between civil society and open dataís social impact in eight Latin American countries. Results indicate that societies rich in political capital experience greater social impact from open data.

Second Prize

img_5393Christopher Zakroff (History and Sociology)

Chris Zakroff is a PhD student in the History and Sociology of Technology and Science at Georgia Tech. He studies the social history of aerospace technology. His approach relies on his background in Russian Studies to create transnational narratives that clarify the complex realm of Soviet technological development and place it in a global context.

Born in Tampa, Florida, Chris earned a B.A. in History from Florida Gulf Coast University and an M.A. in Russian Studies from Florida State University before coming to Tech. He serves as a representative of the School of History and Sociology on the IAC Graduate Student Advisory Board.

A Flattering Coincidence? Technological Espionage and the SST Race

Abstract: In the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union declared its intention to construct the world’s first supersonic passenger airliner, the Tupolev Tu-144. With their recent successes in space flight, the Soviet leadership was confident that they could cement the U.S.S.R.’s position as a world leader in aerospace, beating the Anglo-French Concorde team into the sky. However, this odd contest for civil aviation supremacy presented a massive challenge to the Soviet aviation industry. How could the Soviet Union complete the massive research and development process that such a complex aircraft required before the Concorde’s first flight? Soviet aviation turned to the intelligence services (the KGB and GRU), which soon made the Concorde a primary target of their espionage operations. The data collected by Soviet intelligence allowed the Tupolev team to complete their aircraft three months ahead of the Concorde. While some claim the outward similarities of both aircraft rendered the Soviet SST little more than a copy of the Anglo-French design, by examining the relationship between espionage and aeronautical design in the Soviet Union, this study shows how the intelligence services acted as a rough approximation of the normal channels of technology transfer that were present in Western aerospace. Once attained, this technical knowledge had to be adapted to the limits of Soviet industry. Thus, the Tu-144 project illustrates the role of technology transfer in aerospace developments.

Third Prize (tie)

Rebecca Watts HullRebecca Watts Hull (History and Sociology)

Rebecca Watts Hull is a doctoral student interested in the role of colleges and universities in sustainability leadership and social change. Before returning to academia to pursue a PhD she served as Executive Director of Mothers & Others for Clean Air, a nonprofit partnership advocating clean air policies and smog safety in Georgia. Earlier in her career Rebecca worked as a science and environmental education curriculum consultant, as Curriculum Director for an independent school in Atlanta, and as an environmental project manager in East Africa with the U.S. Peace Corps and with several U.S. environmental organizations. She has earned Master of Science degrees from Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan and a BA from Bucknell University.

Pathways to Change: Explaining Campus Sustainability Movements at Three Georgia Universities

Abstract: In August 2008, a Professor of Public Relations at the University of Georgia (UGA) welcomed a new group of students to her class in campaigns. A few semesters later her students had helped build a campaign that persuaded a (reluctant) President Adams to create UGA’s first Office of Sustainability. How did a public relations class come to play such an important role in a campus sustainability movement, and how does this process compare to that of other leading Georgia universities? How do disparate campus environmental initiatives and campaigns grow and build momentum, eventually resulting in formal Offices of Sustainability? What explains the variation between institutions? This paper describes the results of a qualitative study of sustainability movements at Emory, Georgia Tech and UGA between 1988 and 2010. Data from 28 interviews conducted between June and September, 2014, along with primary sources from university archives, are used to explain the different kinds of change agents, their roles and strategies, and how sometimes seemingly unconnected efforts interacted to produce significant institutional commitments to sustainability practices. While there are some common themes, the extent to which students, faculty, staff and administrators led the charge varied significantly, as did some of the strategies employed. Both social movement theory and organization theory are used in the analysis of these three campus sustainability campaigns. The results suggest that differences in a number of institutional characteristics contributed to the differences observed in leading change agents and their strategies and tactics.

van-holm-headshot-aysps-2016Eric Van Holm (Public Policy)

Eric Van Holm studies urban and economic development in small-to-midsized American cities. His dissertation researches the effect of minor league baseball stadiums on the immediately surrounding neighborhoods. He is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the joint doctoral program in Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Georgia State University. Eric grew up in California and earned his degree in Politics from the University of California at Santa Cruz and Masters of Public Policy and Administration from Sacramento State.

Is the World of Crowdfunding Flat?

Abstract: Crowdfunding is an emerging technology with the potential to alter the geography of innovation and entrepreneurship, allowing individuals to seek early-stage funding for new ventures without personal access to venture capitalists. My analysis tests that claim using data on technology projects listed on Kickstarter in order to understand the distribution and geography of projects. Specifically, I test whether crowdfunding ventures follow the same geographic patterns as traditional measures of innovation. Kickstarter projects are found to follow a similar distribution as patents and to not have penetrated many smaller metropolitan statistical areas. These findings indicate that Kickstarter and crowdfuding should be considered as a component of traditional entrepreneurial ecosystems rather than a disruptive technology.