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Laura Savage'18

Sanger Summer Research Scholar

Major(s)/Minor(s): International Relations/French
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Program Mentor: Dr. Rachel Ellet, Associate Professor of Political Science

Share a little bit about your summer as a Sanger Research Scholar.

Professor Ellett is a political science professor who has an extensive background in African politics, particularly as it relates to the judicial systems. She came into contact with Tom Keck, a professor at Syracuse University, who received a grant to create a Freedom of Speech Repository. Keck reached out for help with conducting research on freedom of speech cases in sub-Saharan Africa. Subsequently, she accepted the opportunity to be a part of the research and reached out to me as a potential Sanger Scholar.

The repository that we’ve been working towards will be a database of cases from sub-Saharan Africa involving freedom of speech and expression claimants. My research for this past summer has involved finding judicial cases for Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Tanzania and putting together an Excel with the country, case name, citation, constitutional clause, speech claimant, content of speech, plaintiff and defendant name, outcome, and a URL to the cases listed. I collected and organized the cases we found so we could include these cases in the future database when we continue the research in the fall.

What was the biggest takeaway from your experience?

For me, the biggest part of the research program was the mentorship aspect. It was a really rewarding experience to be able to work one-on-one with a professor. I got a peek into research work, publishing, and academia. In the process, I learned much more about international affairs, African politics, modern democracy, and judicial systems. I may even work with these topics or in these fields after graduation.

What sparked your interest in this topic?

I’d taken a class with Rachel before – contemporary African politics – so I was familiar with the topic already. I was also interested in gaining more experience with legal texts as that was something that I was considering pursuing at the time.

How did your mentor impact your experience?

It was great to work with Rachel over the summer. Not only did I learn about topics I’m interested in, as I mentioned above, but Rachel has also inspired to me to apply for opportunities outside of Beloit.

After completing your program, what are you looking forward to most?

Well, I’m a senior and I’m returning from being abroad the whole year and I’m looking forward to being back at Beloit. I plan on organizing a few events for students of international relations, political science, or those with a background in human rights, and continue my involvement on and off campus. I also hope to begin writing or at least doing research for my honors thesis this coming fall and in the spring graduate with honors.