Name: Meredith Hull, '09
Leadership Studies, History
Art History
Bonner Scholar, ODK, Phi Alpha Theta, president of Mortar Board
Delta Gamma, Judicial Council 

The title of your senior honors thesis is "Political Socialization and the Youth Vote: A Study of Political Engagement During the 2008 Presidential Election." What made you choose this topic?

I have had a lot of internships in politics during my time here at UR. As a freshman, I worked on Capitol Hill. I also worked at the White House last summer. During those internships I noticed that there was a sense of apathy among young individuals. After my sophomore year, I worked in British Parliament and noticed that this apathy was part of a global trend in politics for my age group. I wanted to research why that is the case. This was also a particularly opportune time to select the topic because of the election.  

Describe your research. How did you approach the topic?

My first step in researching the literature was to understand how individuals learn about and become engaged in the political process. Then Dr. Al Goethals and I conducted a study of the senior class at UR to learn about their socialization toward politics and their behaviors during the election. We analyzed the data from that study, which told us how early in life and how frequently the participants were talking with their friends and parents about politics. We also interviewed 15 people who had worked on a presidential campaign. After combining the results of these two parts of the study, we created suggestions for ways that families, schools and the government can increase the potential for educated engagement in politics among young people. 

How does this topic relate to leadership?

The way we teach children to be engaged in their community and in politics shapes if they will wanted to be involved in leadership in their communities later on in life. Leadership doesn't start at age 25. The changes we can make in educating children about the political process can produce better leaders, and at the very least citizens who are well informed about their rights and about how to exercise them in a democratic society.

What did you gain personally from your research?

I discovered what my future career goals are. Working on my thesis informed me that I wanted to study public policy before I went to law school. Without the research I've done here I wouldn't have found that path. I've always felt very fortunate to attend a school that allowed me to pursue study in a variety of subjects and engage in undergraduate research.

You decided to take the honors route at Jepson. 

I wanted to dive in with my whole heart. And I wanted to be committed to a thesis that would allow me to explore more avenues than just politics or the arts. I majored in leadership studies because I wanted a place that would allow me to study the many facets that shape leaders and future leaders, and that's something I could do at Jepson. 

To graduate with honors, you had to give an oral defense of your thesis. Describe that experience.

I was nervous going in, but the experience was very rewarding. I don't think that my college experience would have been as full or as academically rich if I had not done it. Because of this experience, my education here at UR has been rounded out in a way that will make me a better person.

Summer 2009