Many people will remember the November 2004 Ukrainian presidential election by images of the face of poisoned candidate Victor Yushcenko, which were flashed all over the news. Brendan O'Brien '07 (Stoneham, Mass.) will remember this election for a different reason. As a Levitt Fellow, the election is the focus of his summer. O'Brien is spending 10 weeks surrounded by academic journals and articles about the ethnic Ukraine, and how this has related to government and democracy in the past 15 years, and he is compiling his research into a report titled "Ethnicity and Democracy in the Ukraine."
"The last Ukrainian election had lots of protests and chaos, and this got me interested in democracy in the Ukraine after the Soviet Union fell," O'Brien explained. While this is his first summer researching at Hamilton, the history and government major says that he hopes to continue working on this project after the summer, and will turn it into a senior thesis.
O'Brien is working with Sharon Rivera, Assistant Professor of Government, and says he has taken classes on nationalism and Eastern Europe, and the Ukraine was of interest to him because of recent events. Once he heard about the Levitt Fellowship, he decided to pursue his academic interests in this summer research project.
Regarding his thoughts on living and working at Hamilton College this summer, O'Brien said, "I think it's an opportunity that I wouldn't have been able to do normally, because I wouldn't have been able to take a class on this during the school year."
After graduating from Hamilton, O'Brien plans to attend law school.
To enhance student research around issues of public affairs, the Levitt Center funds student-faculty research through its Levitt Research Fellows Program. The program is open to all students who wish to spend the summer working in collaboration with a faculty member on an issue related to public affairs. Students receive a summer stipend and some expense money, and spend 10 weeks in the summer working intensively with a faculty mentor. Those selected for the program are required to provide a written assessment of their work at the completion of the summer, and also give a public presentation of their research findings to the Hamilton community, or local high school classes through the Levitt Scholars program.
-- by Katherine Trainor