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Senior Kara Foley wins top undergraduate research prize

May 13, 2020

Kara FoleyKara Foley, a senior majoring in international relations and policy studies, won the Maxwell School’s annual Ben and Marcia Baldanza Prize for top undergraduate research paper, as part of the School’s annual efforts to recognize exemplary undergraduate research. 

Xinzhi Lin, a senior history and international relations major, was awarded an honorable mention for his research paper.

And Francine D’Amico, teaching professor of international relations, received the Ben and Marcia Baldanza Faculty Advisor of the Year Award.

The student awards are presented annually as part of Maxwell’s Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship, ordinarily held in the late spring semester. A faculty committee decides the winner. Scott Landes, assistant professor of sociology, chaired this year’s committee, and was joined by Christiane Pagé, associate director in the Center for Qualitative and Multi-Method Inquiry, and Robert Wilson, associate professor of geography. 

Foley, who is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, won the prize for her paper “Voluntourism in Guatemala: Harmful or Helpful?” The paper, her honors thesis in international relations, assesses the ethics and efficacy of Western volunteer tourism, or “voluntourism.” The research involved interviews with students, teachers, and volunteers at a school in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala, where Foley had previously volunteered as an English teacher. She determined that, if communication is consistent and transparent and volunteer work occurs with a long-term focus, outside volunteers can ethically work with these communities. Foley is also a recent recipient of a “Best Delegate” award at the National Model United Nations Conference. She plans to return to Maxwell this fall as an MPA student.

Xinzhi LinLin, a senior history and international relations major from Flushing, New York, received the honorable mention for his paper “Two Sons of Heaven: Senior Emperors and the Dual Emperorship of the Song Dynasty.” This research, completed as part of Lin’s history degree, examines the causes and consequences of senior emperors, of whom there were a disproportionate number during the Song Dynasty. The title “senior emperor” was given to a retired Chinese emperor, and awarded only 22 times in more than two millennia of Chinese imperial history. Lin found that the designation helped ensure smooth succession and minimize political interference from actors outside of the imperial family. Lin will soon begin his doctoral studies in history at Columbia University. 

Francine DAmico D’Amico is Maxwell’s director of undergraduate studies in international relations, and advised Foley’s project. Previously, D’Amico was named Syracuse University’s Outstanding Faculty Advisor of the Year (2010-11) and Sigma Iota Rho’s Outstanding Faculty Advisor of the Year (2011-12). She received a Meredith Teaching Recognition Award for Excellence in Teaching from Syracuse University in 2017-18.

These awards are supported by a 2018 gift from Ben ’84 BA (Econ/PSt) and Marcia Baldanza, given to support undergraduate scholarship at Maxwell, and underwriting the annual Celebration of Undergraduate Scholarship. Ben Baldanza has spent more than 35 years in the airline industry, including as the president and CEO of Spirit Airlines (2005-16). Marcia Baldanza, who graduated from Syracuse University’s School of Education and currently serves as a member of the school’s Board of Visitors, is a senior consultant with Just ASK Publications and Professional Development. 

“We both gained so much from our experiences as undergraduates at Syracuse University, and still rely on many of the things we learned during those times,” they stated. “We are very happy that we can support future undergraduate scholarship, and we’re both impressed and delighted with the excellence we saw in this year’s winners!” 


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