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Dissertation and Thesis Presentations

Candidates who are in the process of defending their doctoral dissertation or master's thesis may submit their information to the Office of Graduate Studies for posting to this page. Submissions intended for this page should be sent at least two weeks before the date of the defense.

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Student Name: Kenneth Merrill
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Economics
Committee Chair: Dr. Laura DeNardis
Date of Presentation: 04/13/2018
Presentation Location: MCK 102
Time of Presentation: 1:00 pm
Title of Dissertation: Domains of Convenience: Open Country Code Top-Level Domains and the Geopolitics of Internet Governance
Abstract:This project draws on multiple case studies to investigate the ways in which so-called "open" country code top-level domain names (ccTLDs) (ccTLDs with no local presence requirements) mediate global debates over Internet governance. Specifically, it focuses on three cases in which open ccTLDs became implicated in cross-border controversies over (1) political censorship (, (2) intellectual property rights enforcement (, and (3) cybercrime (the redelegation of .TK). Drawing on an interpretive comparative approach, the project uses interviews with ccTLD technical operators, regulators, civil society groups, and users, as well as analysis of relevant documents (e.g. registry and registrar policies, court documents, media reports, and minutes from various governance fora) to examine the outsized role that open ccTLDs play in the networked information economy. Identifying the "commodification of sovereignty" as a key component in the co-production of open ccTLDs, the project draws on a sociotechnical approach to examine the ways in which these country-specific identifiers simultaneously reinforce and undermine notions of sovereignty in cyberspace and the consequences this poses for Internet governance.

Student Name: Ganbaatar Jambal
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Economics
Committee Chair: Prof. Amos Golan
Date of Presentation: 04/19/2018
Presentation Location: East Quad Building 209
Time of Presentation: 1:30 pm
Title of Dissertation: Information Theoretic approach to Statistics of Extremes with applications in risk, insurance and environment
Abstract:Extreme Value Theory enjoys fruitful applications in various fields of science: economics, finance, material science, meteorology, earth sciences, aerodynamics, oceanography, water resources management, environmental analysis, telecommunications, to name just a few. However, empirical applications of this theory, especially its estimation methods, tend to encounter several challenges. This dissertation demonstrates how a subset of these challenges can be addressed by tools provided by the Infometrics. This dissertation presents sampling experiments and empirical exercises to provide support for its claim. As of the empirical exercises, they intend to address practical problems encountered in risk management, insurance, and environmental analysis. 

Student Name: Louisa Imperiale
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Political Communication
Committee Chair: Aram Sinnreich
Date of Presentation: 04/24/2018
Presentation Location: McKinley Room 303
Time of Presentation: 10:00 am
Title of Dissertation: Democracy for Sale: A Critical Examination of the Political-Media Complex at work in Campaign Finance and Political Broadcast Regulation in U.S. Presidential Elections from 1976 to 2016
Abstract:This dissertation is a critical examination of the political-media complex (PMC) in the United States, as observed along three currents: philosophical, historical, and political. The development of this symbiotic ecosystem is charted longitudinally, with an emphasis on the forty years of reform, regulation, and deregulation of campaign finance and political broadcasting that followed the Watergate scandal. Attention is focused on this network of media and political actors, and their synergistic architecture of power, as observed through the eleven presidential elections that followed the post-Watergate reform movement, from 1976 to 2016. Situating this problem as a crisis of political communication rather than political science, the conventional voter-centric "rational choice" model is rejected; instead, the perspectives found in critical media studies, political economy of media, and science and technology studies are employed for a more holistic view of the landscape and outlook of this industrial knowledge-power structure. This work culminates with a multifaceted mandate for actionable intervention, and normative recommendations for reform at the regulatory level are put forth. The contemporary debate about the issue of "money in politics" writ large hinges on whether or not money – specifically, the spending of it for purposes of political persuasion – should be considered speech, and therefore left largely unregulated lest it impinge on First Amendment rights. This debate strikes at the core of a dialectical tension within our democracy: liberty versus equality. Throughout this work, the empirical reality is held in contrast to normative democratic theory. The ever-increasing costs of federal political campaigns in the U.S. have created a troubling culture of "permanent campaigning" and tipped the balance of power in the White House and in Congress away from elected leaders, and their constituents, toward the wealthy donors – individual, corporations, and special interest groups – who fund their electoral victories. How do we fix this inappropriate and destructive power dynamic? If we take a step back to investigate why the cost of political campaigning has skyrocketed over the past forty years, we land at the doorstep of a clear culprit: the astronomical cost of political advertising on broadcast television. This dissertation seeks to examine how and why the broadcast networks have been allowed to subvert their public interest obligation and profit off of American elections, and what legislative and advocacy attempts have been made to rein in their influence. For this investigation, archival data, secondary sources, running records and recollections are all employed to present as accurate a portrayal as possible of the political-media complex at work in each of the eleven presidential elections since 1976. Particular attention is given to the myriad policy interventions – regulatory, legislative, and judicial – and their often unexpected outcomes. In conclusion, this study explores the need for a new theoretical paradigm by which to understand the role of broadcast media as a powerful political entity in its own right, and its dominant, nonpareil role in American politics. Finally, normative recommendations will be put forth on what can be done to mitigate the powerful gatekeeping role of the broadcast media within our political system, thereby dramatically reducing the amount of money needed to campaign. By chipping away at the exorbitant cost of campaigning for the presidency and advocating multiple new channels for transparency, hopefully the power, influence, and leverage of campaign funders can be diminished, returning political power to elected officials and, ultimately restoring the political voice of the American voter. Acknowledging that money will never be completely eradicated from the political process, these recommendation are offered in the spirit of restoring a sense of equilibrium currently lacking in U.S. politics.

Student Name: Dorian Hunter Davis
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Communication
Committee Chair: Aram Sinnreich
Date of Presentation: 04/26/2018
Presentation Location: MCK 102
Time of Presentation: 11:00 am
Title of Dissertation: The Twitter Election? New Perspectives on Agenda-Building during the 2016 Campaign
Abstract:This dissertation examines agenda-building relationships during the 2016 U.S. general election campaign. Drawing on more than 11,000 news stories and presidential campaign tweets, it reveals the directions and valence of influence among news media, candidates' tweets, and public opinion across seven issues on the campaign agenda. Filling gaps in the literature around political communication via social media, it offers a holistic view of the agenda-building process in the "Age of Twitter," and a sober look at Twitter's contribution to the substantive issue agenda.

Student Name: Beth A. Hawks
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Public Administration
Committee Chair: Anna Amirkhanyan
Date of Presentation: 07/09/2018
Presentation Location: Kerwin Hall Room 300
Time of Presentation:11:00 am
Title of Dissertation: The Regulation of U.S. Nursing Homes: An Examination of State and Federal Tools and Their Impact on Providers' Performance
Abstract: Intergovernmental (IG) management regimes require significant coordination by public managers within an intricate network of interrelationships (Shafritz, Borick, & Russell, 2013). The context of this dissertation is the IG partnership of states and the federal government in regulating nursing home (NH) care in the U.S. The Medicaid program is the largest purchaser of NH care, accounting for approximately 35% of states’ Medicaid spending (Kaiser-Family-Foundation, 2017). While federal and state regulations set minimum standards of care and safety, the quality of care in NHs remains problematic in this sector (Harrington, Olney, Carrillo, & Kang, 2012).
This dissertation uses a mixed-methods approach to investigate both how IG relationships influence collaboration between regulators and to what extent their regulatory tools affect NH regulatory violations. Chapter 1 examines the impact of the five-star quality rating system, and competition on NH violations. Chapter 2 explores IG relationships and behaviors among state and federal regulators and whether they facilitate collaborative actions. Chapter 3 evaluates the impact of two different tools of the government and their relationship to regulatory compliance at the NH level. Overall, the findings suggest that the five-star quality rating system may have influenced NH providers’ compliance with regulations, while communication among regulators appears to be the key to successful collaboration, and the current structure of the regulatory regime may be inhibiting collaboration. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the direct government tool led to improvements in subsequent regulatory compliance as compared to the indirect tool.
These three essays on the IG management of NH regulations and their regulatory tools contribute to future policy prescription that affects the well-being of approximately 1.4 million individuals residing in NHs, primarily funded by the public (Harris-Kojetin, 2016; Kaiser-Family-Foundation, 2017).

Student Name: Adam Ackerman
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Economics
Committee Chair: Dr. Amos Golan
Date of Presentation: 07/10/2018
Presentation Location: Kreeger 100
Time of Presentation: 10:00 am
Title of Dissertation: The Impact of Combat on Veteran Well-being
Abstract: This dissertation estimates the impacts of (i) service in war environments and (ii) exposure to traumatic events on three well-being aspects – sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), financial problems (such as bankruptcy), and homelessness – in surviving deployed veterans.

Student Name: Rubena Sukaj
Graduate Level: PhD
Field of Study/Major: Economics
Committee Chair: Xuguang Sheng
Date of Presentation: 08/06/2018
Presentation Location: Kreeger 100
Time of Presentation: 10:00 am
Title of Dissertation: Three essays on external debt of low- and middle-income countries
Abstract: This dissertation aims to increase the understanding of external debt sustainability and to support policymakers’ responses by providing tools for timely identification of external debt shocks and their effect on the economy. It is composed of three essays.
Chapter one begins by using a novel but very rich database to design two original instruments constructed as the change in one year and five year ahead predicted disbursements, to account for the short- and medium-term effect of government expenditures on output.
Chapter two presents the first calculations of the interest rate growth differential (IRGD), a key concept in assessing the external debt sustainability of an economy, using a loan level database in the framework of external debt dynamics and is also the first one to extend the analysis through the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis in developing economies.
Chapter three, co-authored with Xuguang Sheng, presents a new constructed measure of external debt shocks, identified by first calculating the difference between actual and predicted net disbursements on external debt loans and then taking the aggregation at the country-year level.