Political science major receives prestigious fellowship

April 10 2008

TERRE HAUTE • A graduating Indiana State University senior has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which will support her and her research while she pursues a doctoral degree in political science.

Petra Hendrickson of Xenia, Ohio, said she felt disbelief and shock, but also performed a happy dance when she found out that she was selected to receive the fellowship, which will pay $10,500 a year for three years of tuition costs and $30,000 a year for three years to allow her to pursue independent research.

“I had stopped checking the Web site,” she said. “I thought ‘I’m not going to get this.’ Then a friend posted on my Facebook wall congratulations.”

Nine political science students were selected for the fellowship, and Hendrickson said she saw her name and Indiana State next to students from University of California at Berkeley, Yale and the College of William and Mary.

Michael Chambers, political science department chair, was one of the professors who encouraged Hendrickson to apply for the fellowship.

“This is the first time that an ISU political science student has ever been awarded such a prestigious and competitive fellowship for graduate study,” he said. “This award is a testament to her academic efforts over the past four years.”

Those efforts have included research into ethnic conflict and genocide and presentations of her findings at undergraduate research conferences and political science associations’ regional conferences.

“Petra is an outstanding student, and she is going to go places in the world of political science,” Chambers said. “This fellowship ensures that she will be well placed for the next steps in that journey.”

Hendrickson, who chose to attend ISU after participating in the university’s Summer Honors program for talented high school students, said originally she wanted to be a diplomat, so she decided to study political science. That plan changed slightly soon after she began studying at ISU.

“One of the professors took me under her wing,” she said. “Then graduate school is all that I could imagine doing.”

Through her studies and other activities on campus, Hendrickson said she found the entire environment to be supportive.

“Everyone wants you to succeed, if you care,” she said.

In the political science department, Hendrickson said she received research opportunities from professors through encouragement to work as a research assistant and to take part in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Research Experience for Undergraduates.

“I had eight weeks to develop my own research project and conduct it from start to finish,” she said.

She presented her research into “U.S. Rhetorical Response to Genocide in the Media” at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research.

“It was terrifying, but really exciting,” she said about the experience. “I was the best expert on the subject because I was the one to do the project.”

Another research project led Hendrickson to study whether a country’s leader is overthrown or assassinated affects the severity of the conflict.

“It doesn’t,” she said about her findings.

After she presented those findings at the Midwest Political Science Association’s annual conference, she submitted her research to Pi Sigma Alpha, where it was selected as a national runner-up for best undergraduate class paper.

Hendrickson plans to begin work on her doctoral degree in political science at Michigan State University in the fall, with an ultimate goal of becoming a political science professor. On her way to that, she hopes to do field research into the ethnic conflicts and genocide.

“I really want to come up with an interesting question, executing the research project and sharing my findings with the scholarly community,” she said. “It would be good if my work could be used to stop the ethnic conflicts. The more we understand about ethnic conflicts and genocide, the more we’ll be able to do to stop it.”

This year’s Summer Honors program at Indiana State includes a course in which students will examine the connection between politics and global warming. Students in the course will engage in a diplomatic simulation exercise that will attempt to negotiate an update to the Kyoto Protocol.

Global Politics and Global Warming is just one of 16 courses scheduled for July 20-26 at Indiana State as part of the most ambitious Summer Honors program in its 40-year history. More information about Summer Honors is available at www.indstate.edu/experience or by calling 1-800-GO-TO-ISU.

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For more information about Summer Honors, contact Jennifer Mullen, assistant director of admissions, Indiana State University, 812-237-2121 or jennifer.mullen@indistate.edu

Contact: Petra Hendrickson, Indiana State University senior, at hendricksonpetra@gmail.com

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, at 812-237-7972 or jsicking@isugw.indstate.edu

Photo: http://ISUphoto.smugmug.com/photos/277570046_TzLSe-D-0.jpg

Cutline: Petra Hendrickson

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Story Highlights

A graduating Indiana State University senior has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which will support her and her research while she pursues a doctoral degree in political science.

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