Minerva at West Point Incorporates Social Science Expertise Through Cadet Learning and Collaboration Efforts
Cadet involvement through Minerva research is essential. Cadets have the opportunity to participate in West Point’s Minerva research through course work, projects, study aboard internships and direct field work. This will support the cadet’s academic interests, while mentoring their research endeavors and applying their skills to solve real problems.
Minerva Fellows Bring Experience to the Classroom
Dr. Luke M. Gerdes, the Minerva Fellow housed in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, engages cadets at West Point through a number of different activities. Alongside co-instructors Dr. Chris Arney and Dr. Kate Coronges, he currently teaches an interdisciplinary course that integrates aspects of math, sociology, and public policy. The course, which is titled Social Network Analysis for Public Policy, not only teaches students how to calculate centrality and other network measurements, but also discusses how to utilize these concepts in diverse policy settings, including public health, the allocation of natural resources, international trade, cyber security, and the political decision-making process that underlies national-level policy choices.
Dr. Makame Muhajir, Minerva Fellow housed in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, taught a fall 2012 course to fourth year cadets. Topics in African Development Geography covered 40 lessons on various African development topics with four guest lectures and five internal resources invited to share their knowledge and experiences with the students enrolled. He collaborates with several Department of Geography faculty and staff and with the Center for the Study of Civil - Military Operations (CSCMO) at USMA.
Academic Individual Advanced Development and Research Opportunities
Research activities at the Academy are encouraged in order to enhance the quality of the cadet educational experience, promote the professional development of the faculty, provide support to the Army, and to enhance the reputation of the Academic Program. Enhancing the interdisciplinary culture of the Academy is an important goal of this research effort at USMA. The Minerva Research Initiative at West Point connects departments and research centers in order to bridge critical research agendas together to achieve multi-dimensional outcomes and help promote an enriched environment for cadets as they move into leadership roles.
Singapore AIAD: From left to right
CDTs Cross and Arguello, Straits of Malaca
Gardens by the Bay CDT Arguello,
Dr. Gerdes and CDT Cross at Palau Ubin Docks
Dr. Gerdes advises several cadets through individual research projects; CDT Vince Schuele on a project that assesses young Muslims' attitudes on Islam and CDTs Shane Arguello and Triada Cross (both firsties in Sociology) on a project that assesses the efficacy of Singapore's state-run programs on multi-culturalism in preventing extremism. Shane and Tri also accompanied Dr. Gerdes on an Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD) to Singapore over the summer of 2012. The AIAD was conducted in partnership with the Raffles Institute.
Faculty Collaboration and Lecture Series
Dr. Gerdes collaborates with faculty, researchers, and cadet clubs at USMA. Currently, he and Math Professor, Dr. Chris Arney are working on assessing the COIN strategy in Afghanistan via network analysis along with CDT Teddy Fong. Gerdes routinely works with researchers at the Network Science Center (NSC) and provides seminars to the cadet led Social Network Analysis Club (SNAC).
Dr. Muhajir invited internal faculty and staff to highlight Africa related topics and Minerva specific research during fall semester of 2012. Robert Rasmussen, former Africa Project Intern talked about “Sino-African Relations and Impacts.” CPT Dylan Malcomb, talked about his MSC research experience on “Foreign Aid and Development in Malawi, Southern Africa,” and Kristine Ringler invited cadet participation into the Minerva Africa project during her talk on media analysis of Tanzania’s 2012 Housing and Population Census.
Speakers engaged cadets in Dr. Muhajir’s African Geography class. They include; Mr. William Gaverlink, former US Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo talked about “Violence, Civil Wars, and Diplomacy in the Africa’s Great Lakes Region” (September 13, 2012), Dr. Elizabeth Ross, founder of the Kasiisi School Project in Uganda discussed “Educational and Conservation Efforts in East African Region” - one of the world's biodiversity hotspots (November 14, 2012), Ms. Karen Walsh, CEO of Blue Glass Development spoke about "West African Economic Development: From Subsistence to Global Markets” (November 16, 2012), and Dr. Garth Myers, Distinguished Professor at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut presented "How African Cities Matters” (December 4, 2012).
Field Research and Conference Opportunities
On January 29 to February 13, 2013, Dr. Makame Muhajir visited Tanzania to conduct fieldwork for on-going research. Dr. Muhajir talked to Tanzanians about the highly politicized 2012 national population census, and both religious and political security issues in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar. Respondents also included prominent politicians, diplomats, and government officials, clergymen, Muslim clerics, and street people who had formed their opinions from everyday interactions.
On this particular trip, Dr. Muhajir wanted to learn why an increasing number of Tanzanians have dramatically changed their personal, religious, political and race-related feelings. Among key observations, he saw people still bogged down by old-fashioned state-controlled political attitudes when executing multi-party democratic politics – which were implemented over the last 20 years with involuntary popular support. He also noticed that the socio-cultural environment has deteriorated in religious tolerance. Much of the motivated anger he took note of, correspond with an increased level of religious violence and political riots recorded in the country. The fieldwork will be incorporated into the classroom and give cadets the opportunity to engage in the research in the coming year.
On April 13th, 2013 he presented the findings from his recent trip to Tanzania at the annual Association of American Geographers (AAG) Conference in Los Angeles, CA. The fieldwork will be incorporated into the classroom and give cadets the opportunity to engage in the research in the coming year.