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Twelve Global Studies master’s students produced and defended their MA capstone and thesis projects this spring. The capstone projects are multi-semester, original research projects that explore scholarly and/or policy debates on important global topics.  For students in the thematic concentrations, the capstone projects relate directly to their chosen concentrations: Global Politics, Global Economics, and Global Migration. The capstone project format is flexible to allow students the opportunity to develop mastery in a medium most appropriate to their future goals. Most of the thematic Global Studies MA student opted for an article-length paper, though one student also augmented his written work with a documentary film project. The students in the REEES concentration wrote and defended traditional academic theses. All capstone and thesis projects supervised by a primary faculty adviser and defended before a three-person faculty committee at the end of the spring 2016 semester.

Romi Brammer: “The Effectiveness of the International Criminal Court in Ensuring Accountability”

Romi BIn 2009 and 2010, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants against Omar Al Bashir, President of Sudan, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the region of Darfur, Sudan. In June 2015, Al Bashir travelled to South Africa to attend an African Union summit. Despite having been requested by the ICC to arrest Al Bashir, South African authorities aided in his escape, arguing that they had conflicting international obligations to guarantee Al Bashir’s immunity which outweighed their obligation to arrest him.

The ICC does not have an enforcement arm and thus relies on member states to enforce such arrest warrants. However, if states are precluded from carrying out arrests by international laws guaranteeing immunity the ICC is reduced to a so­called limbless giant. The case of Al Bashir thus highlights the legal complexities prevalent in relation to arresting sitting heads of state. In my paper, I seek to clarify the uncertainties between these two international obligations. After determining which of the two obligations should be observed, I will consider other factors that may have played a role in South Africa’s decision. I conclude with proposing recommendations on how to ensure greater state cooperation with the ICC and ultimately ensuring that accountability and the rule of law prevail.


Taylor Cayce: “Military Bases: Russia’s Main Objectives in Georgia, Crimea, and Syria”


My project is a written thesis analyzing Russia’s motivation and objectives in their three military conflicts of the last eight years. I theorize that physical military assets such as army bases and naval facilities are important to Russian decision making. I am trying to show this through finding the parallels between the conflicts with Georgia, Ukraine, and in Syria surrounding Russian assets in those states. I am also showing that these bases are of importance to Russia due to the large amount of military resources and hardware used in the conflicts with the theory being that the places where Russia uses the most expensive and advanced material and units is a place of utmost importance to the conflict. Ultimately I hope my project can help inform policy making and add to the voluminous literature concerning what drives Russian belligerence.


Kinsey Spencer Davis: “An Evaluation of the North Carolina Global Educator Digital Badge: A Strategy to Encourage Teachers to Prioritize Global Education”

Version 2My capstone project focuses primarily on the rationale and implementation of the North Carolina Global Educator Digital Badge. In 2011, the North Carolina State Board of Education developed a Task Force to devise a plan for the state to increasingly produce “globally competitive graduates ready to work, live, and contribute in an interconnected world.” One of the components that was recommended and implemented is the North Carolina Global Educator Digital Badge (NCGEDB). This initiative is an attempt for teachers to become better equipped through self­directed professional development to integrate global themes and skills into their classrooms. I discuss the motivation for the NC State Board of Education to propose and support such an initiative, as well as describing the process that teachers will go through to achieve the badge. As this is a new endeavor, I have conducted a brief, snapshot survey of NC teachers to collect initial thoughts on global education, the NCGEDB, and digital self­directed professional development. Using this information as support, I discuss potential obstacles that the NCGEDB initiative may endure during its early development and conclude with an attempt to propose possible strategies to overcome them.


Sarah Miller Frazer: “Evaluating Women’s Economic Empowerment Programs: A Need for Mixed Methods”

Sarah M FIn recent years in the field of economic development, there has been increased focus on women’s empowerment and the unique role of women in community development. My research explores evaluation instruments to measure the effects of women’s economic empowerment programs. I will develop a framework for incorporating qualitative measurements into existing quantitative methods to foster a greater understanding of the data and help practitioners and researchers understand why they are getting certain results, while emphasizing the need for both quantitative and qualitative measurements to assess impact.


Branwen Gallagher: “International Aid and Textbook Reform in Post-Soviet Armenia”

Branwen GIn my research, I explore the role of international organizations, national governments, and NGOs in post­Soviet education reform in Armenia through a study of the projects and programs launched by the United Nations (specifically the World Bank and UNICEF), the United States government (specifically USAID and the Peace Corps), and the Soros Network. My focus is on how these organizations have been involved in textbook reform. Currently, the quality of textbooks in Armenian primary and secondary schools is very poor. I examine what international efforts have been made to improve this situation. How do these efforts compare across different organizations? Across the region? Through this study, I seek a greater understanding of the challenges associated with international education development. Hopefully awareness of these issues will expedite the progress and development of the Armenian education system.


Rainier Jaarsma: “Conditionality, Compliance, and the Diverging Accession Paths of Macedonia and Serbia”

Rainier JMy project is an analysis of the European Union’s enlargement process that focuses on two states of the former Yugoslavia that are currently in the waiting room: Serbia and Macedonia. It highlights how over time, the enlargement process has become more political in nature, especially concerning conditionality. Because of the way the system is set up, member states play a tremendous role, even in the early stages of the accession process. Conditionality is undermined by asymmetric decision­making within the European Union, which has limited the organization’s leverage in pushing prospective member states to harmonize existing laws with the EU acquis. This has led to an uneven playing field in the Western Balkans, and has favored some prospective member states over others, even though the political environments we find in these states are very similar.

I have lived in both Serbia and Macedonia and have been able to follow the accession process from up close in both countries. It has become apparent for me that EU enlargement, especially since the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, has started to drift away from its technocratic nature. Benchmarks are still an important part of the process, but the European Commission (which releases the yearly progress reports on prospective member states) is just one actor in the entire process and can easily be overruled by member states. I believe there is an unjustness in allowing individual member states to have such an impact on a country’s development, but also hope to contribute to a better understanding of the complex enlargement process with this capstone project.


Jason Jones: “The Concept of ‘Toska’ in Chekhov’s Short Stories (Misery and The Student)”

Jason JFor my thesis, I examine the notion of toska within short works by Russian author Anton Chekhov. Toska is a complex, multi­faceted concept that defies a simple, straightforward definition. This Russian word can be translated as “melancholy” or “misery” in English but its full meaning is not accurately embodied in just these two nouns. By examining several short works by Chekhov, we can peel back the layers of complexity that toska presents and grasp a more nuanced understanding of this word. For example, in Chekhov’s story “Misery,” I argue that toska is a kind of external force that negatively affects the main character in a variety of ways. Rather than remain a purely verbal concept, it transcends the textual level and becomes an active, destructive force in the environment. Toska as a force grows and develops throughout the narrative and the reader can trace its appearance and witness its evolution from beginning to ending. In the other texts, I look at how toska is presented and in what form, as an external force or otherwise. I base my analysis of the texts on my reading of the Russian originals and incorporate input from various literary criticisms of the stories discussed. My adviser is Professor Radislav Lapushin and he has been gracious in helping me with many aspects of my thesis research and writing. I hope to be ready to defend my thesis in early April.


Carissa Landes: “Legitimacy and Islamic Symbols in Contemporary Tajikistan”

Carissa LLeader of the Nation, and likely soon to be president for life, Emomali Rahmon is the star of a growing personality cult in Tajikistan. After more than twenty years in power, Tajik politics have become structured almost entirely around this one man and his family. While the Tajik state is a secular state, in the late 2000s, the Rahmon regime began to incorporate Islamic references and symbols into the national narrative. In 2009, the government adopted Hanafi Islam as the official religion of Tajikistan. In the same year, Rahmon gave a series of speeches on Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanafi school of Sunni Islam, using the historical figure as a rhetorical device to promote “Tajik” Islam and garner support for his government. More recently, in 2016, Rahmon and his family made a highly publicized pilgrimage to Mecca. In my thesis I argue that the government integrated Islamic references into official rhetoric and made a significant effort to represent Rahmon as an important Islamic leader, in order to gain political legitimacy. It is crucial for the Tajik government to maintain legitimacy, as it takes steps to increasingly restrict the civil, religious, and political rights of citizens in the country. My thesis draws on Rahmon’s speeches and the press coverage from his 2016 trip to Mecca to explore how Tajik authorities use Islamic references and imagery to bolster Rahmon’s presidency.


Andreina Malki: “Territorial Sovereignty in International Investment Arbitration”

Andreina MMy research project confronts the oppositional narrative that posits that the international investment regime erodes state sovereignty, and asks: how is territorial sovereignty both challenged by, and implicated in, the international investment legal regime? How are the international investment regime and territorial sovereignty mutually constitutive? How does the international investment regime deterritorialize sovereignty? My project draws evidence from the clauses of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), specifically the most favored nation clause, and the consent to the controversial international arbitration at the World Bank’s International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). My project integrates theory, historical data, and empirical legal data, and cuts across the disciplines of political geography and critical legal studies. Many of my case studies and examples originate in Latin America, as this research project emerged from a summer internship experience with REDES, an environmental justice organization in Montevideo, Uruguay.


Meredith C. Sparks: “Gender and Development in Albania”

Meredith SMy capstone project examines the role of faith­based organizations in development, specifically the experience of the United Nations Development Program partnering with faith-based organizations in developing countries. I want to know if and how religion matters in development as well as how development impacts can be amplified through partnerships with faith­based organizations. I argue that the UNDP should engage in capacity­building partnerships with faith­based organizations in developing countries because of the overlap in values and missions between sustainable human development and faith­based organizations. Partnerships between the UNDP and faith­based organizations are also beneficial because they provide a channel for expanded outreach, increased impact, and greater social accountability of all actors involved in development efforts.  I highlight the potential benefits of partnership by analyzing the development scene in Albania, a developing country located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula.  Religious institutions were dismantled and religious practice deemed illegal in Albania for almost twenty­five years under the Communist regime. Albania’s transition to democracy beginning in 1990 along with its history of religious repression and location in a conflict zone are just a number of reasons why it provides an illuminating look at the potential role of religion and faith­based organizations in development.


Anna Katharina Reussner: “The Correlation between Physical Education Models and Undergraduate Student Activity Levels”

Anna K RMy capstone project, is focused on recent global health trends, particularly issues resulting from non-communicable diseases such as obesity and diabetes. These diseases have been affecting an increasing number of people in all parts of the world and although treatments are becoming more accessible, our foremost priority should be their prevention. A crucial factor that is both part of the globalized western lifestyle and a significant contribution to the increasing number of non-communicable diseases is physical inactivity. My research aims to inform the existing discourse on measures that can be taken to encourage physical activity in young adults. More specifically, I am exploring the correlation between required high school physical education classes and attitudes toward physical activity in undergraduate students. I am surveying a sample of UNC International Students and former LFIT course (Lifetime Fitness) participants to draw conclusions on attitudes of young adults on a global level. Data collection will provide insights on students’ physical education experiences in high school and their current attitudes and reasons for being physically active. I am aiming to answer the following research questions:

  1. In what way did physical education as experienced by current undergraduate students in high school shape those students’ attitudes towards or levels of physical activity?
  2. How do these experiences and consequent attitudes toward physical activity differ between US states and countries on a global scale?


Mattie Webb: “Economic Sanctions, Mixed Regimes, and the Case of South Africa”

In my capstone, I use quantitative and qualitative methodologies to answer a two­part question—when and how are economic sanctions imposed and what factors contribute to an episode’s effectiveness. To tackle the first question, I use one of the most­cited case studies of economic sanction imposition, sanctions against apartheid South Africa, to reveal the causes of a sanction episode. Specifically, I ask what factors accounted for the eventual enforcement of sanctions via the Comprehensive Anti­Apartheid Act in 1986?

This case study aims to reveal the internal dynamics of the economic sanctions policy­making process, showing why and how economic sanctions are imposed and what specific factors, global and domestic, are at odds.

While comprehensive and damaging economic sanctions were eventually imposed, I show the importance of both sides of the debate. While some parties favored comprehensive sanctions, others were adamantly opposed, fearing the damage such measures would inflict on the South African society. US and British diplomats debated both the need for and the strength of economic sanctions, many hoping to lessen the economic damage on South Africa while an opposing vein favored full divestment. The US ultimately imposed sanctions mainly because of an increase in pressure from the shaming of civil society and diverse activist groups, such as TransAfrica and the Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) but was sluggish to respond given the Cold War dimension.

The second part to my capstone analyzes the effectiveness of economic sanctions once imposed, using the causes highlighted in the case study to test sanction data in a systematic way. Are sanctions more effective if they are more costly for the target state? Or, rather, are “smart sanctions” (targeted sanctions that avoid damage to the population) a viable alternative? Using the Threat and Imposition of Economic Sanctions dataset, I argue that target economic costs significantly contribute to the success of economic sanctions. Economic sanctions are most likely to be successful if the costs imposed on the target state are high, which contrasts with the argument in favor of smart, targeted sanctions. My holistic approach to the study of economic sanctions effectively compiles current literature, builds a theory, and tests it using both a case analysis and a broader quantitative analysis. The South Africa case illuminates important causes of sanction imposition that is both discussed in sanction literature and woven within sanction data.