Nejla Asimovic ’16

As a doctoral student whose research agenda was hobbled by the pandemic, the award was especially sweet: Nejla Asimovic ’16 recently received a prestigious grant from the American Political Science Association to expand the scope of her dissertation.

The grant will enable her to further her research and run more experiments that are critical to her work. A student in the political science department of New York University, she studies group dynamics in ethnically polarized areas with deep societal divisions.

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In particular, Asimovic examines the role of digital technologies and social media play in shaping group relations in these areas. She is a research associate at NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics.

“What I'm hoping to do with my dissertation is really identify and shed light, if you will, on the mechanisms and conditions that may allow for social media to bridge, rather than only widen, divisions within these spaces where there's too much division,” Asimovic explained.

She’s done experiments in Bosnia-Herzegovina, her home country; in Cyprus, and in Israel. Thanks to the 2020 Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant, her tentative plan is to conduct another experiment in Bosnia. Her work takes a quantitative approach.

At Hamilton, Asimovic majored in world politics and minored in math and Hispanic studies, and as she investigated graduate schools she was excited to find programs in which she could combine her interests in political science and quantitative research methods.

Conducting research remotely over the last year, rather than traveling as she’d planned, has been challenging. But she’s pushing on, cognizant that pretty much every country these days has societal divisions that are affected by social media. “I think it's very important, especially now, to think about what are the scalable strategies that would facilitate positive intergroup contact online. I hope that my dissertation also speaks to that a little bit,” she said.

The potential for making that sort of difference is what drew her to political science as a field.

“I think from an early age, I was curious about the questions of identity and group belonging, and wanted to study something that has an impact — and this is yet another question of how do we enhance the impact and accessibility of academic research?” Asimovic said. “But I was always interested in topics that affect everyday lives. And I think political science affects pretty much every aspect of our lives.”

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