Meet this year’s Public Affairs Scholars

Two UMaine undergraduates have been chosen to receive this year’s Margaret Chase Smith Public Affairs Scholarship. Each student will carry out a year-long research project with relevance to public policy in the state of Maine. The project culminates in a presentation at the UMaine Student Research Symposium, where each will display their findings to the public. This year’s scholars are seniors Katie Manzo and Julianna Ferguson.

Katie Manzo is a Computer Science major and has focused her research on making it easier for communities to tackle climate change. Katie believes that a community “being able to start new alternative energy projects, on a large scale, and being able to get more projects connected to each other, and to the public, is imperative to saving our planet.” Katie plans to expand an online database on energy projects into an interactive platform for the public to reference in planning their own projects. To make it more interactive she plans to incorporate social media into the website’s platform. Groups thinking of starting a particular project will be able to see where else it has been done, how it was funded, with how much capacity, and find contact information so they can learn from others’ experiences. She will be working with Dr. Sharon Klein of the School of Economics and Dr. Silvia Nittel of the School of Computing and Information Science. Katie is enthusiastic about being “able to aid people in starting their own alternative energy projects. This will allow me to apply many of the skills I have learned in my courses to an impactful project.”

Julianna Ferguson is a Sociology Major concentrating in Crime, Law, and Justice with Spanish, Legal Studies, and Political Science minors. Her research analyzes data regarding the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on violence, and she plans to use the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health survey to do so. Working with her advisor Dr. Steven Barkan, Julianna is “particularly interested in public policy related to gun control, immigration, and preventing juvenile delinquency.” One reason her focus is on juveniles is because violent behavior generally begins in late childhood through early adolescence and there is a “lack of research regarding the effects of mental illness and substance abuse on violence among adolescents.” Her research will help indicate the extent of the impact of mental illness and substance abuse on violence, giving policy makers a better understanding of why some forms of violence are committed by people who fall into this subgroup, and thus where to allocate resources.

This scholarship was established in recognition of Senator Margaret Chase Smith’s many years of dedicated public service to the citizens of Maine and to the nation from 1940 to 1973. Senator Smith’s abiding belief was that real progress will be attained only through the education of Maine’s young voters. The scholarship program is administered by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, and applications are taken in the spring for the following academic year.