Jaimie Bleck, Sebastian Elischer, Trevor Lwere, Paul Friesen and Rasheed Ibrahim

Trevor Lwere is a senior in the Kellogg International Scholars Program.

I attended the 2022 annual Conference of Western Political Science Association in Portland, Oregon between March 9th, and March 12th, 2022. The Conference brought together Political Scientists on the West Coast of the United States under the theme Lighting Up the New Dawn—Recover, Reconcile, and Rebuild @ 75. I went as part of a delegation from Notre Dame led by Prof. Jaimie Bleck who is also my faculty advisor in the Kellogg International Scholars Program (ISP). The other members of the delegation were Prof. Sebastian Elischer, Kellogg visiting fellow from University of Florida, Prof. Rachel Sweet, a Kellogg faculty fellow in the political science department, and Paul Friesen and Rasheed Ibrahim, both PhD students in the department of Political Science and Kellogg PhD Fellows.

At the conference, I was both a presenter and a panelist. As a presenter, I sat on The Politics of Governance and Accountability panel where I presented my partial thesis draft. My thesis is an appraisal of the modernization project in Africa. It analyzes the performance of the two dominant approaches to modernization on the continent: socialism and neoliberalism. I draw on the examples of Uganda and Tanzania to demonstrate the self-defeating course of modernization in Africa and the perverse social, political, and economic effects that modernization engenders as a paradigm of development. I am being advised by Prof. Amitava Dutt in the Department of Political Science. At the conference, I also sat on a feedback panel for The Politics of Conflict in the Sahel and DRC, where I offered feedback on the presentations made by Prof. Sweet and Prof. Elischer.

I had three important take-aways from this experience. First, I got experience in research presentation. Through preparing my own presentation and observing other presenters, I learnt about effective ways to structure one’s research presentation, the salient features of the research to highlight, and the general flow of a presentation. I also received constructive feedback on my thesis which led to improvements and renewed my motivation to continue working on my thesis. Secondly, as a panelist, listening to and offering feedback on the presentations of other scholars was a great experience in research interpretation and critique. Thirdly, this experience was also an opportunity to improve my research grant writing skills which will serve me well in my post-graduate studies.

Outside of my academic gains, I also met new people at the conference. For instance, I met the head of Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science for the first time at this conference. I also met and made acquaintances with the two PhD students, Paul and Rasheed, who were part of the Notre Dame delegation. I was able to identify overlaps in our research interests, particularly a focus on politics and development in Africa.