Solving HWS

Yemen After the War

In the midst of the civil war in Yemen, which has developed into a regional conflict following the Yemeni revolution of 2011, the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW) hosted a workshop to explore the crisis, the prospects of peace and the post-conflict reconstruction. Joining international diplomats and NGO representatives, Associate Professor of Political Science and Yemen expert Stacey Philbrick Yadav was the sole academic to participate in the October workshop. The following evening, she attended the first fundraising dinner of the Yemen Peace Project (YPP), a non-profit formed in 2010 in response to the political, social and humanitarian issues facing the country.

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Covering Hurricane Matthew

As The Weather Channel’s producer for meteorologist Jim Cantore, Steve Petyerak ’93 spent nearly a week between Wednesday, Oct. 5 and Monday, Oct. 10 tracking Hurricane Matthew through Florida and North Carolina. The Category 5 storm caused upwards of $6.5 billion in damage and been linked to more than 1,000 fatalities. Here, Petyerak reflects on navigating the storm while keeping the crew safe and his role producing for one of the most prominent meteorologists on TV.

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International AIDS Conference 2016

Dr. Christopher C. Beyrer ’81 — an internationally renowned expert on AIDS and outgoing president of the world’s largest body of HIV professionals, the International AIDS Society (IAS) — chaired the 2016 conference, held this summer in Durban, South Africa, the site of the 2000 conference. Beyrer is the inaugural Desmond M. Tutu Professor in Public Health and Human Rights at Johns Hopkins University, with joint appointments in epidemiology, international health, health, behavior and society, and nursing. He is the founding director of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; associate director of the Center for Global Health; and the co-principal investigator for the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research.

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Harriet Tubman, Sarah Bradford and the New $20 Bill

In April, the U.S. Treasury announced a facelift of the $5, $10 and $20 bills*, the last of which will bear the portrait of abolitionist, activist and U.S. Army spy Harriet Tubman. Tubman's first biographer, Sarah Hopkins Bradford, was an internationally renowned writer and a Geneva resident, whose home at 629 S. Main Street now houses the Hobart and William Smith Colleges admissions office. Bradford's interviews with Tubman and the books resulting from those interviews - "Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman" and "Harriet Tubman, Moses of Her People" - provide the basis for much of what is currently known about Tubman's life.

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Cheap Oil

During February, crude oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange have hovered around $30 per barrel, with a $26.21 low-point of Feb. 11. USA Today noted in a Feb. 9 article, titled "Don't look now: $1 gas may be close," that average prices are lower than they have been in more than 12 years and may continue dropping. And in its most recent "Oil Market Report," the International Energy Agency projects that "the oil market faces the prospect of a third successive year when supply will exceed demand by 1.0 mb/d, [putting] enormous strain on the ability of the oil system to absorb it efficiently."

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A New Gov't In Yemen

This month marks the fourth anniversary of the Yemeni revolution -- part of the wider Arab Spring demonstrations and protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. Since then, two Yemeni presidents have resigned under pressure from protesters and political opposition, most recently in January 2015. The Houthis, the current group in charge of the country's capital, are currently in UN-mediated negotiations with other political parties, negotiations "regarded as crucial to reverse deepening political anarchy in Yemen, the Arab world's most impoverished country and an incubator of Qaeda militants who are a frequent target of American drone strikes," as the New York Times reported. Meanwhile, on Feb. 10, the United States announced the closing of its embassy in Yemen due to the "uncertain security situation in Sana," as Jen Psaki, a State Department spokesperson, said that day.

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Ferguson and Bureaucratic Change

In a recent article on the Washington Post blog, "Monkey Cage," Zachary Oberfield '98 -- noting the disparity between the population of Ferguson, Mo., nearly two-thirds black, and the police force, over 90 percent white -- asked: "Should such statistics make us uneasy? The answer depends on two questions. Does officer representativeness affect how communities perceive police? And do minority police understand their jobs and behave differently than white police? The answer to both questions is: yes."

Oberfield's recent book, "Becoming Bureaucrats: Socialization at the Front Lines of Government Service," takes on some of these questions to address how public servants, including police officers, develop. Oberfield, an assistant professor of political science at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, shares some of his research findings -- and what they suggest about Ferguson and the future of community/police relations.

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Economic Sanctions Against Russia

Months after the initial protests in Ukraine over now-deposed President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to side with Russia over the European Union, fighting continues in Ukraine's eastern provinces, where pro-Russian separatists prevented voting, the New York Times reported, as the country elected its new president, Petro Poroshenko.

With the U.S. and the E.U. imposing economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the events in Ukraine, Associate Professor of Economics Judith McKinnney helps make sense of the economic situation unfolding around the political strife. McKinney has done extensive research on the Russian economy, including her work during a Fulbright Scholar grant in 2012, studying the experiences of women who worked in the city of Yaroslavl in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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The Big Bang

In 1980, physicist Alan Guth proposed the theory of inflation, the faster-than-light expansion of the universe in the moments after the Big Bang. In March, as the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics reported, "researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration...announced the first direct evidence for this cosmic inflation. Their data also represent the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the ‘first tremors of the Big Bang.' Finally, the data confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity."

"These are exciting results that provide an image of the dynamics that occurred within the first tiny fraction of a second after our universe began," says Associate Professor of Physics Steven Penn, who, as a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration, is working to detect and observe the universe using gravitational waves.

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CPAC 2014

At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- which draws conservative politicians, activists and constituents from across the U.S. for three days of panels and speeches -- a straw poll of approximately 2,500 CPAC attendees was conducted in collaboration with the Washington Times. Thestraw poll shows participants' preferences on a range of issues, from the National Security Agency's data-collection techniques, to potential GOP presidential nominees, to the role of the U.S. in the world.

Iva Deutchman, professor of political science and resident expert on contemporary conservative U.S. politics, helps us make sense of what this means for the political outlook of the GOP, the Tea Party and the 2016 election.

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Central African Republic

For more than a year, the Central African Republic (CAR) has been embroiled in an increasingly factious civil war. For months, the government battled a loose coalition of predominantly Muslim rebel groups called Seleka, which succeeded in ousting former president Francois Bozize, who fled the country in March 2013. However, the conflict has only grown since. Although Seleka was officially disbanded under Michel Djotodia -- a rebel leader who named himself successor to Bozize -- factions of Seleka are still armed and prowling the country. News and human rights organizations have reported widely on ex-Seleka fighters participating in looting, torture, executions, rapes, beheadings, and the use of child soldiers. The U.N. Refugee Agency reported that more than 935,000 people have been internally displaced, almost a quarter of the CAR's population. With attacks by ex-Seleka fighters mounting, local residents, many of whom are Christian, have formed their own militias in reaction. In January, Djotodia resigned and Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet was appointed acting president. Meanwhile, recent statements from the U.N. and others note the potential for the CAR's instability and violence to degenerate into genocide.

With expertise in the politics and development in central and southern Africa, Associate Professor of Political Science Kevin Dunn provides a nuanced look at the CAR's current conflict and possible future.

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Extreme Winter Weather

As the Northeast recovers from another blast of snow and frigid air on the heels of the "polar vortex," Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nick Metz talks winter weather, climate change and the progress of the National Science Foundation-funded meteorological studyundertaken by HWS science faculty and students in coordination with eight other institutions. Metz, who joined the faculty in 2011, has expertise in the effects of high-impact weather on climate and polar cold surges in the Southern Hemisphere, not unlike those sweeping across North America.


What are the major meteorological features of the "polar vortex"? What's unique about the cold snaps we've seen this winter?

The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure in the upper atmosphere; it's a continuous feature of the poles, as the term "polar" implies, but what happens from time to time is that a piece of the vortex breaks off, and that's when we have our coldest outbreaks. Undoubtedly the weather we had was the coldest in many places in two decades, but in some respects, the "polar vortex" is the latest product of the media. It's a term that has been used in meteorology for decades; as meteorologists we talk about this quite often, but it's been stretched a little, sensationalized. A few years ago, Europe and Russia experienced this type of weather. Sometimes, a piece of the vortex breaks off from the poles and affects us as atypical.

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Millennial Views

The Atlantic and the National Journal recently reported that President Obama's approval ratings are down among the country's youngest voting demographic, Millennials. According to the results of a Harvard University Institute of Policy (IOP) survey, the President's decrease in popularity is due to a variety of causes: the confusion and false-starts of the Affordable Care Act (and concerns about higher costs for poorer care); Edward Snowden's revelations about governmental surveillance (and concerns over personal information security); the struggling economy and student debt; and the perceived ineptitude of governmental leadership in general. As the IOP's poll analysis reported, "Young Americans hold the president, Congress and the federal government in less esteem almost by the day, and the level of engagement they are having in politics [is] also on the decline. Millennials are losing touch with government and its programs because they believe government is losing touch with them."

For a nuanced look at this polling data, we turned to Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Dean of Faculty DeWayne Lucas.

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Ukraine Protests

When Ukraine's President, Viktor Yanukovych, refused an association with the European Union (EU) in November, protests erupted in the Kiev, Ukraine's capital city of roughly 2.75 million. As theNew Yorker reported in December, the deal Yanukovych rejected was "essentially a free-trade contract with the multi-national bloc to Ukraine's west-right over the border, but a million psychic miles away. The result of years of negotiation, the agreement represented a confirmation, especially for Ukraine's educated youth, that theirs was a normal country-part of Europe, not some ‘Little Russia' appendage of the hegemon to the north." Protesters, numbering 200,000 at the height of the demonstrations, have congregated in Kiev's Independence Square, known as the Maidan, since late November, even after they were met with riot police and beatings. They toppled a statue of Lenin, a remnant of life under Soviet rule, and have been supported by visits from U.S. Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy. Meanwhile, as Reuters reported, Yanukovych met with Russia's President Vladimir Putin and came away with $15 billion "economic help Ukraine stave off economic crisis though Moscow will hope it keeps Kiev in its political and economic orbit."

As tension runs high in Ukraine and Yanukovych faces demands to resign, David Ost, professor of political science with expertise in Eastern European politics and labor relations, lends his insight.

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As events develop around the globe, Hobart and William Smith Colleges will share the insight of faculty experts through a series of interviews conducted by Andrew Wickenden '09.

Faculty Index

Linda Robertson
Professor of Media & Society

Thomas Drennen
Professor of Economics

Stacey Philbrick Yadav
Associate Professor of Political Science

Judith McKinnney
Associate Professor of Economics

Steven Penn
Associate Professor of Physics

Iva Deutchman
Professor of Political Science

Kevin Dunn
Associate Professor of Political Science

Nicholas Metz
Assistant Professor

DeWayne Lucas
Associate Professor of Political Science

David Ost
Professor of Political Science


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.