Katie Kinsey ’18 with Dr. Scott Cole, associate professor of political science
Katie Kinsey ’18 with Dr. Scott Cole, associate professor of political science

Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street have used social media to engage people in their movements. Katie Kinsey ’18 is researching exactly how they have used it.

In a case study, part of the Summer Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (SURI) program, she is comparing and contrasting how the two movements “recruit and mobilize” through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

“Millennials might be less active in formal participation, such as voting, but are active in other ways,” said the political science major from New Kent. “We’ve been socialized differently through social media. It promotes us to participate in more direct, hands-on ways, like protest. We’re creating our own political generation.”

She has compiled a 10-category “classification scheme” for how and why these movements use social media, which includes recruitment, organization, promotion and getting the message out. Black Lives Matter’s use has been particularly effective; she has found less information so far on Occupy Wall Street.

We’re creating our own political generation.

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“She’s found an exciting niche that needs to be filled. This is interesting stuff,” said Dr. Scott Cole, associate professor of political science, who is overseeing her project.

“This research experience has made me feel independent. If I have any research papers next year, they will be so easy,” said Kinsey, a member of the Politics Club and Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor fraternity, and a participant in the campus effort to include Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson in the Vice Presidential Debate last October. And yes, she voted—for the first time—in the presidential election.

“As a political science major, I would be ashamed if I didn’t vote,” she said with a laugh.

Cole, who praised Kinsey’s “academic qualifications [3.8 GPA] and strong work ethic,” enjoys “brainstorming” with his student. “I guide her in the research process, and she helps me remember some of the tricks of the trade. When she was in my citizenship politics class last fall, she really stood out. She even told me she loved doing homework.”

Kinsey plans to work for a nonprofit or NGO, possibly related to the refugee crisis, resettlement or other humanitarian issues. In a study abroad program last winter in Cape Town, South Africa, Kinsey studied the former apartheid system and visited Nelson Mandela’s longtime jail cell on Robben Island.

In the SURI program, the professor-mentor conducts an independent, though related, project. Cole is looking at President Trump’s foreign policy in Latin America, focusing on Venezuela.

“Trump has been labeled a major disruption in global politics, but surprisingly, despite upending so many policies, he has followed the status quo with Venezuela,” said Cole, who teaches Latin American politics. “Venezuela, which is a mess politically and economically, has replaced Cuba as the main challenge for U.S. national security issues in Latin America.”

Kinsey, he added, has helped him with his research. “She is helping with my introduction and my data analysis section, and she’ll collect data on Trump’s foreign policy speeches. Sometimes she’ll come into my office, and she’ll bring up something that she’s read or I’ve said that doesn’t make sense, and we’ll discuss things. She knows how to disagree cordially.”

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