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about

Cline Challenge Courses

Beginning in the 2009-10 AY, the Cline Center initiated a practicum series that is part of the Department of Political Science's Challenge Course offerings intended for advanced and highly motivated undergraduates. These year-long seminars offer students the opportunity to participate in the Societal Infrastructures and Development Project (SID), the Center's signature research initiative. Students are trained to use an advanced set of tools and resources developed within one of the key components of the SID project: the Social, Political and Economic Events Database Project (SPEED). SPEED is a cutting-edge, technology-intensive effort to extract and analyze vital information from the Cline Center's global news archive. Students use the information technologies embedded in SPEED to generate original data from these global news reports that bear on important and enduring issues. The practicum courses generate a final report that is posted on the Cline Center's website; a press release is issue, where warranted.

Past Challenge Courses

2010: Civil Unrest across the Globe: Trends and Patterns in the Post-WWII Era

This year-long course offered the opportunity for fifteen advanced undergraduates to participate in the Societal Infrastructures and Development Project (SID), the signature research initiative of the Cline Center for Democracy. This section of the practicum focused on one of the most enduring and fundamental challenges confronting organized social life: armed violence and the civil discontents that often precede violent acts. Termed the "Hobbesian Problem" by many, civil unrest is a fundamental reason for the creation of governments. While most developed societies have created a level of societal stability in the post WW II era that has provided for sustained advancements in social welfare, civil peace has evaded many developing societies. Indeed, civil conflict currently accounts for far more deaths than interstate conflict. Moreover, the discontents that fuel civil unrest in developing societies have increasingly spawned terrorist attacks in more advanced societies. Research done within this practicum provided a through and original empirical examination of civil unrest in the post WWII era; it focused on such things are protests, strikes, riots, suicide attacks, kidnappings, assassinations, and etc. This research was based on a systematic review of an encompassing set of news reports focusing on inter-group conflict, and the final report of the practicum was concerned with the different sources of civil unrest (anti-government sentiment, ethnic tension, class-based conflict, desire for enhanced political freedoms, etc.) and the impact that democracy and established legal orders have on the level of civil unrest. This review provided an informed basis for its prognosticating about future trends in group-based conflict.

 

2009: Social Group Conflict acoss the Globe: Trends and Patterns in the Post-WWII Era

This course focused on a problem that has plagued social life ever since it evolved beyond simple kinship groupings in isolated settings: group-based conflicts. Despite centuries of efforts to address this problem, conflicts rooted in racial, ethnic, religious and tribal groupings continue to emerge in every type of society in every region of the world. Moreover, many have argued that globalization has exacerbated the impact of these culturally based conflicts; if correct, this prognostication has dire implications for life in the 21st century. The final report produced by this practicum provided a through and original empirical examination of group-based conflict in the post WWII era based on a systematic review of news reports focusing on inter-group conflict.

 

2009: Climate Change and Societal Stability

This course focused on one of the most pressing issues confronted by global security analysts concerned with planning for future threats: climate change and societal stability. In the minds of many, the threats to human security from climate-induced episodes of instability in regions with fragile ecosystems are more worrisome than those from terrorists. Unfortunately, little is known about the potentially destabilizing impact that future climatic change could generate. The final report produced by this practicum provided original insights into the impact of civil unrest by a set of rapid-onset disasters associated with climate change: floods and storms.