2016 MURF Symposium

In 15 years at the World Bank, we would always only hire graduate student research assistants.... but from what I’ve seen today, you guys would blow away easily most of them. In terms of the succinctness in which you crystallized the literature, absorbed and understood them, to the data presentation -  you’ve beat world bankers in the quality of your PowerPoints. This is going to help you for many years to come.

- Joel Hellman, Dean, Walsh School of Foreign Service

The Mortara Center hosted its third annual Mortara Undergraduate Research Fellows (MURF) Symposium on Wednesday evening, March 2, 2016. Each sophomore and senior MURF gave a presentation on the research he or she has completed thus far in the four-year research intensive program. Labor markets were explored by students from different angles and regions: India (household surveys), South America (labor migration), Spain and Italy (comparison of labor market reforms). Additionally, students investigated migration issues (environmental impact and an ethnographic study) and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on gender equity in UN actions. To learn more about the student research, please check out their brief presentations below. 


With support from her mentor Professor Eric Voeten, Erin Sielaff (’16) has explored the consequences of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which attempted to bring gender equality to UN actions. However, Erin has found that it “failed to live up to its transformational potential.” After hand-coding 1200 UN resolutions, Erin used a structural topic model to discern how the UN has talked about men and women since the passing of Resolution 1325. Her research reveals inconsistencies in the implementation of UN language and policy.  

Erin Sielaff MURFs Symposium 2016 from Mortara Center on Vimeo.


Emma Murphy (’16), who has worked with Professor Rochelle Davis on refugee resettlement in Jordan, seeks to “bring [the refugees’] voice into the discussion.” She shared her perspective on the unequal and somewhat arbitrary aid hierarchies in refugee populations of different national and ethnic origins. Presenting findings from her team’s ethnographic study, Emma compared Jordan’s refugees from Somalia and Sudan to those from Syria, and advocated for aid responses based on need rather than nationality.  

Emma Murphy MURFs Symposium 2016 from Mortara Center on Vimeo.


Rahul Kaul (’16) has gained a “stress-free approach to research” from his time working with Professor Abraham Newman. Rahul presented his recent research on comparative labor market reforms in Spain and Italy, challenging the perception that southern European countries are less engaged in labor market reforms. He finds that Spain has conducted more pro-outsider reforms than Italy because business insiders in Spain have less bargaining power than they do in Italy. 

Rahul Kaul MURFs Symposium 2016 from Mortara Center on Vimeo.


For her faculty mentor, Professor Mark Giordano, Mariana Juredo Guedez (’18) is researching the long-term effects of refugee camps on the environment. According to her review of the literature, Mariana said short-term survival needs often result in the overuse of natural resources around refugee camps. However, Professor Giordano’s recent site research in Ethiopia revealed an interesting anomaly: refugee camps had a positive affect on the environment. 

Mariana Jurado Guedez MURFs Symposium 2016 from Mortara Center on Vimeo.


Bessie Zavidow (’18) has worked on two projects for Professor Raj Desai. First she researched youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa regarding the question, “Why is it difficult to implement labor market reforms?” She then turned to grassroots development projects in India. She collaborated with Professor Desai’s team on a household survey for women in Rajasthan, and explored ways in which field researchers conduct happiness surveys. The team used several questions to measure the women’s happiness levels, including one about climbing the social ladder.

Bessie from Mortara Center on Vimeo.


Through his research with Professor Fida Adely, Eric Menna (’18) has learned to “make the [research] box bigger,” rather than stuffing information into a smaller box. Eric presented a case study of inter-regional migration in South America, and showed how it has become increasingly feminized. Eric provided some explanations for this feminization of migration, including job aspirations among women with more education, the false promise of less discrimination abroad, and future migration prospects for their children.

Eric Menna MURFs Symposium 2016 from Mortara Center on Vimeo.