Scholar Spotlight | My Semester in South America

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross in Machu Picchu, Peru

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross spent the spring of 2017 studying abroad in Argentina and Chile. He spent seven weeks in each country learning about economics, political development, and business in Latin America. During breaks he visited Uruguay and Peru. Cross sat down with the Tower Center to talk about his experience.

Describe your life in Argentina. What was a typical day like for you?

I began each day enjoying breakfast with my host family and roommate. Coffee, fresh fruit, medialunas (a croissant-like pastry), and dulce de leche (a spread similar to caramel) were staples. Next, I rode a public bus to the office building that housed the program’s classrooms. I participated in a lengthy seminar each morning with the nine other American students led by professors from distinguished local universities. For lunch, I often ate Argentine empanadas: a pastry shell filled with ground beef, olives, and eggs. Throughout the afternoon, my friends and I strolled through Buenos Aires’ eclectic mix of neighborhoods. We explored posh Recoleta, industrial La Boca, and youthful Palermo Soho, coming into contact with a cross-section of Argentine society.

Dinner with my host family was the highlight of each day. Over an Italian-style meal of gnocchi, ravioli, or risotto, we discussed current events and debated politics. In Argentina, asking about political views is not as taboo as in the U.S. My host family was captivated by the daily drama of President Trump. In fact, they followed American politics more closely than I did! Since most American college students study abroad in Europe, I was often the first young American Argentines had ever met. 

What is one lesson you took away from your time there?

Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar Ryan Cross in Santiago, Chile.

Living in Latin America requires all-embracing patience on a daily basis. I was routinely frustrated by small aspects of life which we take for granted in the United States. Modifying my expectations to match the reality of city life was imperative. For example, public transportation in Buenos Aires is notoriously unreliable. My 45-minute morning commute was often stymied by strikes and protest marches that obstructed thoroughfares leading to the city’s center. I surmounted this challenge with extremely flexible planning.

How has this experience impacted your goals for the future?

My semester in Argentina and Chile brought me one step closer to my professional goals. I secured a summer internship at the headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service in Washington. My responsibilities centered around Latin American affairs. Drawing upon my newfound comfort speaking in Spanish, I communicated with foreign government officials by letter, phone, and email. I helped to facilitate bilateral negotiations with the postal services of Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, and Venezuela. This opportunity solidified my interest in pursuing a career oriented toward Latin America.

What is it like transitioning back into life in Dallas and at SMU?

After living in dense neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and Santiago my lifestyle in Dallas feels relaxed. I now understand what a breeze it is to live in the Park Cities. Compared with the chaotic streets of Buenos Aires and Santiago, the busiest roads near campus like Mockingbird and Hillcrest are calm and orderly. I also enjoy the availability of green spaces like the Katy Trail. While I am grateful for the exposure to life in Latin American cities, I cannot deny that Dallas provides a very comfortable environment by comparison.

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Pia Orrenius | Effects of E-Verify on Unauthorized Immigrant Employment and Population

Tower Center Senior Fellow Pia Orrenius published a new study with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Digital Enforcement, on the effects of the E-Verify system on the employment of immigrants. The E-Verify system requires employers in some states to electronically verify the immigration status of workers before they can be hired.

“E-Verify, when it’s mandatory and all employers have to use it, can have very large deterrent effects on the employment of undocumented immigrants and possibly also on the immigration of undocumented immigrants or illegal immigration,” Orrenius said.

Read her report here.

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Event Recap | Food Safety After Fukushima

The Tower Center Sun & Star Japan East Asia Program held a discussion Sept. 7 with SMU Anthropology Assistant Professor Nicolas Sternsdorff Cisterna examining how citizens banded together to demand safe food after the 2011 nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.

The three disasters

The Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 and a subsequent tsunami of 30-foot waves March 11, 2011. More than 16,000 people died as a result of the disasters and more than 100,000 were displaced. The tsunami also triggered a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which released radioactive elements into the air.

Sternsdorff-Cisterna’s talk, a presentation on his forthcoming book, looked at how mistrust of the Japanese state led people to band together to demand stricter safety standards on food from the Fukushima prefecture, or government district. After the nuclear meltdown there was disagreement among different states about what level of radioactive poisoning in food was safe to consume. European countries were much more conservative after Chernobyl than Japan and the U.S. were after Fukushima. The goal was to cause as little harm to area farmers as possible, while still insuring the safety of the consumers.

The neoliberal subject

This discrepancy in safety standards between the European reaction and the Japanese and U.S. reaction worried Japanese consumers — especially mothers. Many responded by protesting nuclear energy in Tokyo and becoming a member of the Seikatsu Club, which by July of 2011 was offering food with levels of radioactive cesium at a range of one tenth to one half of what the government required. The Japanese people were united by the feeling that they had to take action in the face of the accident.

Sternsdorff-Cisterna tied this reaction from the Japanese people into the idea of the neoliberal subject. He argued that as mistrust in the state increases, citizens are taking on the responsibility of becoming informed consumers themselves. People no longer rely on the government to keep them safe, but instead vote with their wallet to govern their own actions. Sternsdorff-Cisterna believes this individual action comes after social deliberation and groupsharing. Outlets such as the Seikatsu Club provided Japanese people with more information about the products they were consuming, thereby bringing producers and consumers together.

Rehabilitating the Fukushima name

Farmers carried much of the burden after the accident. Even though they had nothing to do with the disaster, they were still held accountable to provide safe food for consumers. If their land reached a certain level of contamination, the farmers were compensated by TEPCO, the energy company that owned the nuclear plant. But there were many farmers whose land was not contaminated enough to receive compensation and therefore suffered from their lost business. These farmers felt trapped and some committed suicide.

Protected by mountains, the west side of the Fukushima prefecture was hardly affected by the accident, but because farmers still had to label their products as coming from Fukushima they lost many of their customers anyway. Producers were unable to differentiate Fukushima the place from Fukushima the accident. One orchard farmer from the area told Sternsdorff-Cisterna that he lost 50 percent of his customers. The issue of contamination is more complex than consumers think, he said.

Many campaigns have been launched to rebrand Fukushima. One store began posting photos and bios of each producer, as well as testing results for each product, so consumers could feel comfortable purchasing from Fukushima. Establishing a personal connection with the producers encouraged people to buy from them. Still, farmers expressed concern saying that the sympathy was temporary. They still need a long-term plan.

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Are Dreamers job stealers?

Tower Center Academic Director James Hollifield was interviewed on Marketplace to discuss the impact President Trump’s decision to end DACA will have on the job market. Hollifield believes that it would be very difficult for companies to replace the workers that would be forced to leave once their two-year term expires.

“Given the amount of demand for labor in our economy, especially educated high skilled labor, those markets are incredibly tight,” he said.

Listen to the Marketplace story here.

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Jeff Engel: Trump’s DACA announcement gives Congress a chance

Tower Center Senior Fellow Jeffrey Engel was interviewed on Fox 4 News to discuss President Trump’s announcement regarding DACA. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Tuesday that the Justice Department is ending the program, but gave Congress six months to potentially save it. Engel believes that Trump’s six-month deadline on Congress will help to push forward immigration reform in Congress, which prior administrations have struggled with.

“[Trump] is actually giving Congress a chance for that rare thing in Congress, which is a win,” Engel said.

Watch the interview here.

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Luisa del Rosal wins D CEO Latino Up-And-Comer Award

Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center Executive Director Luisa del Rosal won the “Latino Up-And-Comer” award as part of D CEO’s 2017 Latino Business Awards. The awards are designed to honor the top Latino “visionary thinkers and industry pioneers” in North Texas.

“I get to do what I love every day and it’s an honor to be selected among such a worthy group,” del Rosal said. “Each nominee and award winner is an outstanding Hispanic leader, proving that we are better together.”

Read more about del Rosal and the other award winners here.

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Cullum Clark on Harvey: Dallas could see more than 100,000 evacuees

Tower Center Fellow Cullum Clark was interviewed on Fox 4 News to weigh in on lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina as more people evacuate after Hurricane Harvey to Dallas. Clark thinks Dallas could see more than 100,000 evacuees.

“To move with a lot of other people whom they know, that’s what helps them get back on their feet,” he said. “We saw that after Katrina.” Watch the interview here.

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Business leaders may still work with Trump discreetly

Jeffrey Engel, Tower Center senior fellow and director of the Center for Presidential History, was quoted in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed on the leadership, or rather non-leadership, of the Trump administration.

Several business leaders resigned from President Trump’s business councils saying his failure to condemn white nationalists after the events in Charlottesville was unacceptable. The controversy surrounding Trump impedes his ability to move forward with projects such as tax reform.

“I don’t see any hope for progress on any of those issues. And if it does come, it’s not going to be because of White House leadership,” Engel said.

Read the full article here.

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Think About This Before Tearing Down That Robert E. Lee Statue

Tower Center Associate Chris Jenks wrote an op-ed discussing the recent surge in proposals to remove Robert E. Lee statues in cities all across the U.S.

Jenks writes that the context of each individual Confederate memorial needs to be considered. Not all ships, barracks, and forts named for Confederate soldiers were intended to promote racist beliefs, but many were named because of the reunification efforts of ex-Confederate soldiers.

“One size does not fit all,” he wrote.

Read his essay in Newsweek here.

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Fellows and Associates Research Highlights — Spring 2017


Dominique Baker, Associate
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Undergraduate debt’s role in shaping students’ futures,” TG (formerly Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation), June 2017.
    • “Borrowing to get ahead: Undergraduate debt’s effect on graduate school decision-making,” Stanford University Center for Education Policy Analysis, March 2017.
    • “Beyond the incident: Institutional predictors of student collective action,” Midwest Political Science Association, April 2017. (with Richard S. L. Blissett)
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Baker, D. J., & Doyle, W. R. (2017). Impact of community college student debt levels on credit accumulation. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 671(1), 132-153.
    • Flores, S. M., Park, T. J., & Baker, D. J. (2017). The racial college completion gap: Evidence from Texas. The Journal of Higher Education. Published online first.
Caroline B. Brettell, Senior Fellow
  • Appointments
    • Elected Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Gender, Families, and Immigration Policy” Society for Psychological Anthropology Plenary Session, New Orleans, March 2017.
    • Roundtable Participant, “Anthropological Writing: Engaging Various Audiences”, Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, March, 2017.
    • Discussant, “The New Comparativism”, Society for Psychological Anthropology, New Orleans, March 2017.
Cullum Clark, Fellow
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
Harold Clarke, Senior Fellow
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Book. Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley, Brexit – Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017
    • (With Robert Blake). “Hospital Compare and Hospital Choice: Public Reporting and Hospital Choice by Hip Replacement Patients in Texas.” Medical Care Research and Review 42: 131-54.
    • (With Mattew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley). “Why Britain Voted for Brexit: An Individual-Level Analysis of the 2016 Referendum Vote.” Parliamentary Affairs 70: 439-64.
    • (With Tim Gravelle, Thomas J. Scotto and Marianne C. Stewart). “Like Father, Like Son: Valence Voting in the 2015 Canadian Federal Election.” PS: Political Science & Politics. 50 (2017: 701-07).
    • (With Euel Elliott and Marianne C. Stewart). “Heuristics, Heterogeneity and Green Choices: Voting on California’s Proposition 23.” Political Science Research and Methods. 4 (2016: forthcoming).
    • Is This Really the Brexit Election” The Conversation (UK) (blog).
    • Why Did Older Voters Choose Brexit: It’s a Matter of Identity” The Conversation (UK) (blog).
Carrie Liu Currier, Associate
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Chinese Diplomacy in Middle East Conflicts,” for China in Conflict Zones: Competition or Cooperation? Sponsored by Georgetown University and the U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington D.C., March 22, 2017.
Victoria Farrar-Myers, Senior Fellow
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting – Panelist on Former WPSA Presidents Roundtable on “The Impact of the Trump Presidency on Higher Education and Political Science”.
    • “All the Single Ladies”, an examination of the social and political implications of the “untethered woman” phenomenon, presented at Arlington on Tap public lecture series, February 15, 2017.
  • Media Appearances
Christopher Jenks, Associate
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Weapons Review of Learning Systems” presentation delivered as part of Program on Regulation of Emerging Military Technologies Future Wars & Public Conscience Symposium, Melbourne Law School, Melbourne, Australia, May 2017.
    • “Military Justice in the Modern Age: Characteristics & Challenges”, presentation delivered as part of Military Briefing Series, Geneva Academy, Geneva, Switzerland, May 2017.
    • “SOFAs in UN Peacekeeping”; “UN Police in Peacekeeping”; and “UN Peacekeeping and the ICC” presentations as part of Legal Aspects of Peacekeeping Operations Seminar with Moldovan Armed Forces, Chisinau, Moldova, May 2017.
    • “Key Instruments: Cease Fire Agreements and Peace Agreements”, “PSO: When Does IHL Apply?”, Conduct of Peacekeepers & Addressing Their IHL Violations” as part of Conduct of Peace Support Operations Course, International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Deputy Course Director and Presenter, Sanremo, Italy, May 2017.
    • “Right Against Torture and Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment”; “Non-international Armed Conflict & the Law”; and “Targeting Under the Law of Armed Conflict” presentations as part of Human Rights & International Humanitarian Law Seminar with Hungarian Armed Forces, Debrecen, Hungary, Jan. 2017.
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • The Gathering Swarm: The Path to Increasingly Autonomous Weapon Systems, Jurimetrics, 2017.
    • A Matter of Policy: United States Application of the Law of Armed Conflict to Detention, Sw. L. Rev., 2017.
  • Media Appearances
Jeffrey D. Kahn, Fellow
  • Awards
    • Fulbright Research Scholar, University of Oslo, 2017-2018
    • Gerald J. Ford Research Fellowship, SMU, 2017-2018
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • AT&T Legal Conference, Co-Presenter, “Supreme Court Update: The Nine” (with former Acting U.S. Attorney General Peter Keisler), Omni Hotel, Dallas, May 3, 2017.
    • Morning Keynote, “Terrorist Watchlists, Freedom of Movement, & the Meaning of Citizenship,” MSDS@SMU, Magnolia Hotel, Dallas, March 31, 2017.
    • Invited presentation, “The Unreasonable Rise of Reasonable Suspicion: Terrorist Watchlists and Terry v. Ohio,” at the Institute of Bill of Rights and William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal Symposium, Williamsburg, Virginia, March 24, 2017.
    • Keynote Address, “The Story of James Donovan: The Real-Life Inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies,” at the Institute for Honor Symposium From Redcoats to Red Spies and Beyond: Lawyers & Infamous Clients, Washington & Lee School of Law, Lexington, VA, March 14, 2017.
    • Organizer and Moderator, “Big Data” – A Panel Discussion on Database Technology, Liberty, and Privacy, February 3, 2017 (panelists Patricia Kosseim (OPC), Joel Reidenberg (Fordham), Justin Koplow (AT&T)).
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • The Richelieu Effect: The Khodorkovsky Case and Political Interference with Justice, in LAW AND JUSTICE IN RUSSIA (M. Kurkchiyan & A. Kubal, eds., Cambridge University Press forthcoming 2017).
    • Terrorist Watchlists, in THE CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK OF SURVEILLANCE LAW (D. Gray & S. Henderson, eds., Cambridge University Press forthcoming 2017).
    • Hybrid Warfare, International Humanitarian Law, and the Case of Ukraine, in COMPLEX BATTLESPACES: THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT AND THE DYNAMICS OF MODERN WARFARE (C. Ford & W. Williams, eds., Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2017).
    • The Unreasonable Rise of Reasonable Suspicion: Terrorist Watchlists and Terry v. Ohio, 26 WILLIAM & MARY BILL OF RIGHTS JOURNAL — (forthcoming 2017).
  • Media Appearances
Rita Kirk, Associate
  • Appointments
    • William F. May Endowed Director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibilty, February 2017.
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Book. Schill, D., Kirk, R., & Jasperson, A. E. (Eds.). (2017). Political Communication in Real Time: Scalable Multidimensional Response Measurement using a Mobile Platform. Routledge.
    • Schill, D., & Kirk, R. (2017). Angry, Passionate, and Divided: Undecided Voters and the 2016 Presidential Election. American Behavioral Scientist, 0002764217709040.
    • Kirk, R., & Martin, S. A. (2017). The Dark Power of Words: Stratagems of Hate in the 2016 Presidential Campaign. In The 2016 US Presidential Campaign (pp. 205-229). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
    • Kirk, R. (2017). New media, interactivity, and rapid response in presidential communication: The narcotizing dysfunction revisited. In S.A. Martin (Ed.), From columns to characters. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M Press.
LaiYee Leong, Fellow
  • Appointments
    • Associate Editor (Southeast Asia) for the Association for Asian Studies blog #AsiaNow
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
Pia M. Orrenius, Senior Fellow
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Pia M. Orrenius, Madeline Zavodny, “Creating Cohesive, Coherent Immigration Policy,” Journal on Migration and Human Security, March 16, 2017.
    • Pia M. Orrenius, “New Findings on the Fiscal Impact of Immigration in the United States,” Conyuntura Demografica, May 26, 2017.
Edward T. Rincón, Associate
Carolyn Smith-Morris, Associate
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Smith-Morris, Carolyn. “Epidemiological placism in public health emergencies: Ebola in two Dallas neighborhoods”. Social Science & Medicine 179: 106-114.
Hiroki Takeuchi, Senior Fellow
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • “Political Economy of Rural China,” Lecture at the School of Policy Science, Ritsumeikan University, Ibaraki, Japan, June 2017.
    • “Free Trade Agreements and Domestic Politics of an Authoritarian Regime.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association in Hong Kong, June 2017.
    • “Security Implications of Free Trade Agreements with Authoritarian Countries.” Paper presented at the Economics Workshop at City University of Osaka, Japan, June 2017.
    • “‘Globalized Texas’ and U.S.-China Relations,” Dallas CFO Executive Summit, Dallas, TX, May 2017.
    • “Post-TPP: The State of U.S.-Japan Relations from a Texas Perspective,” SMU Tower Center Sun & Star Symposium, “One Hundred Days In: The State of U.S.-Japan Relations Under the Trump Administration,” Dallas, TX, May 2017.
    • “Taiwan and East Asia.” Paper presented at the Taiwan Conference at University of St. Thomas, April 2017.
    • “Asia’s Contested Waters: The East and South China Seas.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Western Political Science Association, Vancouver, Canada, April 2017.
    • “Domestic Politics of Japan’s Security Policy.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Baltimore, MD, February 2017.
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
Jenia Turner, Associate
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • Moderator and Discussant, Criminal Justice and New Technology, AALS Mid-Year Criminal Justice Section Meeting, Washington, D.C., June 12, 2017.
    • Miranda Safeguards Against Coerced Confessions, Should Criminals Walk Free When Constables Blunder? Exclusionary Rules as a Challenge to Criminal Justice Systems, University of Basel, Switzerland, May 19, 2017.
    • The Purposes and Functions of Exclusionary Rules: A Comparative Overview, Safeguarding a Fair Trial through Exclusionary Rules, University of Basel, Switzerland, May 18, 2017.
    • Plea Bargaining, Academy for Justice, ASU Law School, Phoenix, AZ, Feb. 11, 2017.
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Plea Bargaining and International Criminal Justice, 48 MCGEORGE L. REV. 219 (2017).
    • Defense Perspectives on Fairness and Efficiency at the International Criminal Court, in OXFORD HANDBOOK ON INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL LAW (Kevin Jon Heller et al. eds.) (forthcoming 2017).
    • Plea Bargaining, in ACADEMY FOR JUSTICE, A REPORT ON SCHOLARSHIP AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM (Erik Luna ed., forthcoming 2017).
  • Media Appearances
Stephen Wegren, Fellow
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • Stephen K. Wegren, Alexander Nikulin, and Irina Trotsuk, “The Russian Variant of Food Security,” Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 64, no. 1 (2017): 47-62.
    • Stephen K. Wegren, “Food Security and Import Substitution in Russia,” Russian Analytical Digest, no. 204 (June 2017): 2-5.
    • Stephen K. Wegren, Alexander Nikulin, Irina Trotsuk, and Svetlana Golovina, “Gender Inequality in Russia’s Rural Informal Sector,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol. 50, no. 2 (2017): 87-98.
    • Alexander Nikulin, Irina Trotsuk, and Stephen K. Wegren, “The Importance of Strong Regional Leadership in Russia: The Belgorod Miracle in Agriculture,” Eurasian Geography and Economics, vol. 58, no. 3 (2017): 316-39.
Bernard L. Weinstein, Associate
Matthew Wilson, Senior Fellow
  • Awards
    • President’s Associates Outstanding Faculty Award
  • Academic Lectures, Conference Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
    • Constitutionalism and American Civil Society, Bush Institute Liberty and Leadership Program, Burma.
  • Papers, Publications, and Other Writings
    • J. Matthew Wilson, “Mormons and American Political Life,” Politics and Religion, vol. 10, issue 1 (March 2017): 222-230.
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