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Past Nelson Institute Conferences

The purpose of the conference is to recognize and share high-quality undergraduate research related to international and global topics.

2017 Conference Highlights

Wednesday, April 5:  Keynote Address by Ambassador Stephen Rapp: Bringing War Crimes Perpetrators to Justice

Steven J. Rapp served as U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice from 2009 to 2015 prosecuting persons charged with genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. He arranged for the United Nations Commission of Inquiry and other prosecutorial authorities to access to a cache of 55,000 photos documenting torture by the Assad regime.  From 2007 to 2009, Ambassador Rapp served as prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and led the prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. His office achieved the first convictions in history on crimes against humanity charges for sexual slavery and forced marriage and for attacks on peacekeepers and recruitment and use of child soldiers as violations of international humanitarian law. From 2001 to 2007, he led a team that achieved the first convictions in history against leaders of the mass media for the crime of direct and public incitement to commit genocide in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. He received a BA from Harvard College and a JD from Drake University Law School.

Thursday, April 6: Fulbright Scholars Celebration and Recognition of Professor Eleanor Zeff

Friday, April 7: Global Data Hub Launch Party
including a Global Data Hub Presentation and talk by Ambassador Darci Vetter: From Iowa to the World - Economic Nationalism and Global Trade

 Darci Vetter was Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative and served as Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. She was an International Trade Advisor on the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. Prior to working in the Senate, Ms. Vetter held numerous roles at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, including Director for Agricultural Affairs and Director for Sustainable Development. Prior to that, she was Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Management at the U.S. Department of State. Ambassador Vetter received a BA from Drake University and an MPA and Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Saturday, April 8:
  Student research panels and other presentations
Please click on the student's name to see a video of the presentation.  Please click on the paper title to see a pdf of the paper.

The Status of Refugees

Mollie Clark, Human Rights Priority: Human Rights in Palestine: Reproductive Rights for Women

Heather Livingood, The Struggles of a Refugee in a Camp

Zoe Zuidema, Perceptions of and Obstacles to Success and Integration at the Moroccan-Algerian border

Historical Perspectives on Global Issues

Blake CenterThe Marshall Plan as Analyzed with National Values Theory and Defensive Realism

John Wingert, "The Cheapest Atom Bomb" The East German Uprising of 1953...

Paul Strey, Rule of Law in Law’s Absence: Examining the Legal Politics of Sudan

Global Pressing Issue Grant Project: Assessing, Collaborating, and Empowering to Improve Water Quality in Rural Uganda

Professor Cassity Gutierrez, Karli Kisch, Hayley LeBlanc, Megan Lindmark and Augusta Weide

Science, Health and Environment

Megan Lindmark, Seasonal Variation of Fish Assemblage and Catch Per Unit Effort in the Prek Toal Core Area

Ryan Wealther, Abigail Cowan, Sara Donovan, Carl Johannson, Study of Incidence and Socio-Biological Factors Associated with Low Birth Weight Babies Born at Pravara Rural Hospital, Ahmednagar District of Maharashtra, India

Jennifer Vickers, Dry Season Demography of African Elephants in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Lauren Blum, Kacie Deavers, Joe Herba, A Socio-Epidemiological Study of HIV Patients at a Tertiary Care Hospital in the Ahmednagar District of Rural India

Perspectives on Human Rights

Elena Hildebrandt, Human Rights Crisis of Persons with Disabilities

Russell White, Helping the Damned, Displaced and Forgotten: An Analysis of the Evolution of Refugee Rights

Whitney Hanson, How Does Immigration Relate to Different Measures of Crime in the United States?

Drake Simulation League

Mollie Clark, Rachel Gray, Isabelle Barrett, Ryan Wiskerchen

Closing Remarks by Kosovo Consul General Xhavit Gashi

Consul General Xhavit Gashi serves at the Consulate of the Republic of Kosovo in Des Moines, Iowa.  He served as the first ever Kosovo Security Force Attaché to the United States. He retired from the military as a Brigadier General after completing almost 20 years of service. He was Senior Officer in the Kosovo Security Force (KSF), with a proven academic record and more than 10 years of experience in security sector reform. 

Best Presentation Prize awarded to Megan Lindmark and Lauren Blum

Megan Lindmark, Best Presenter   NI Conf. Best Presenter Photo-Lauren Blum and D. Skidmore


2016 Conference Highlights

April 8-9, 2016, activities included:
- crisis simulation supervised by former U.S. Ambassador Ken Yalowitz and former White House Director of Global Engagement Brett Bruen,
- dinner social featuring international appetizers,
- keynote "National Security and Women's Insecurity" by Valerie Hudson, University of Texas A&M,
- panels featuring presentations of student research on global affairs (see below),
- closing luncheon address by visiting Global Practitioner Peiqin Zhou, Nanjing University.

Panels: Problems and Cases in Political and Economic Development

  • Haley Barbour, “Societal Implications of Bare Branches: China and India”
  • Greg Gonzalez, “Mexican Economic Policies and the Underlying Forces of Corruption”
  • Cecilia Panella, “When the Statesman Surpasses the State: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Realism, Liberalism, and the Evolution of the Significance of Pan-Arab Sentiment, 1952-1970”

Issues in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa

Facets of Globalization

  • Morgan Daves-Gehrls, “The International Court of Justice, Globalization and the Evolution of International Law
  • Cody Frost, “Zainichi Koreans within Japan

The 2016 Best Presentation Award was given to Haley Barbour, Drake University.

2015 Conference Highlights

April 10-11, 2015, activities included a group simulation in U.S. foreign policy facilitated by Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli, a keynote address "Political Islam: What the West Can Learn from Its Own History" by noted scholar John Owen (bio:, student panels and a closing luncheon with Iowa Representative Zachary Nunn, formerly Director of Cybersecurity Policy at the National Security Council, White House.  Nunn's topic was "Inside the National Security Council."  Student research panels included the following:

External Intervention and Political Change:

Michelle Avrutin (George Washington University), “The EU and Ukraine: Possibilities for Accession”

Allison Smith (Beloit University), “International Actors in Ukraine’s Revolution to Democracy from 2004 to 2014”

Adam Smith (Drake University), “Children of the Caliphate: The Threat Posed by the Islamic State School System”

Corruption, Political Institutions and Civic Identity:

John Wingert (Drake University), “Corrupting Emerging Democracies: A Review of the Literature”

William Heaston (Drake University), “Agency and Inertia: Organizational Theoretic Perspectives on Procurement Corruption in the United Nations”

Nathan Leys (George Mason University), “Profitability Through Superior Firepower: Defense Industry Election Spending After Citizens United”

Cecelia Panella (Drake University), “How Much Will This Arm Go for on the Black Market? An Expansion on Snowden and the Mass Production of the Modern Citizen”

Transnational Flows of People and Ideas:

Michael Hoyt (Drake University), “The Humanitarian Crisis of 2014: Realist and Constructivist Views of International Migration”

Taylor Donaldson (Drake University), “Sex Trafficking in the Balkans”

Madeline Geobel (Drake University), “From the Eyes of the Little Guys; Exploring Family Farming in Cameroon”

The 2015 Best Presentation Awards were given to Allison Smith, Beloit University, and William Heaston, Drake University.

2014 Conference Highlights

The First Annual Nelson Institute Undergraduate Conference on Global Affairs was held on April 11-12, 2014, at Drake University.  The 2014 Friday Night Keynote speaker was Todd Sechser, University of Virginia, on "Crisis Bargaining and Nuclear Blackmail: Should We Be Afraid of an Iranian Bomb?"

2014 Student Panel on Globalism, Nationalism and Identity‌:

  • Joshua Duden, Drake University, The Changing Citizen in a Globalized World

2014 Student Panel on International Political Economy:                                                     

  • William R. Heaston, Drake University, Towards an Institutional Model of Organizational Corruption Controls: The Case of FIFA

2014 Student Panel on Nation, Gender and Human Rights:

2014 Saturday Luncheon Keynote Speaker: Jerry Gallucci, Diplomat-in-Residence, Former Foreign Service Officer and UN Peacekeeper, spoke on "U.S. Policy on Russia and Ukraine."