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‘Compelling and readable’

Political science students produce population dynamics and policies blog

Teaching and Learning

By Chad Pelley

Migration, precarity and politics.

That’s the focus of an online magazine recently launched, and inspired by, members of the Political Science 3295 class.

Dr. Cote and Ms. Worthman sit on either side of a laptop displaying their new online magazine
From left are Dr. Isabelle Côté and graduate student Sarah Worthman.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Titled Population and Security, the blog addresses some of the most pressing political and security issues related to population dynamics and policies around the world.

Some of the first topics tackled on the site range from the causes of Lebanon’s third mass exodus to the connections between internal migration and conflict in Xinjiang to linguistic demographic engineering in Quebec.

More analyses like these will be penned by up-and-coming junior scholars from Memorial University and beyond.

Its contributors will primarily be graduate students alongside upper-level undergraduate contributors who are doing rigorous and policy-relevant research.

Academia and real world

Dr. Isabelle Côté, an associate professor in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the director of the Nexus Centre for Humanities and Social Science Research at Memorial, is editor of Population and Security.

Dr. Isabelle Côté in foreground with blurry windows in background
Dr. Isabelle Côté feels the ability to clearly communicate complex political issues in compelling writing for a broad audience is a vital skill set for junior scholars.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

She says the idea came to her after asking her students to write blog posts as their final assignments last fall.

Students were asked to write on any topic, so long as it related to the title of the course: migration and security.

“As I was marking them, I was amazed at how good they were,” said Dr. Côté. “Because make no mistake, introducing key academic questions and issues, and making them compelling and readable to a wide audience, is hard.”

She decided to contact some of her students who did particularly well on their assignments to see if they would be interested in revising their blog posts for publication.

Population and Security was born.

“I love that I have the ability to help other students grow as writers and help them see their hard work recognized.” — Sarah Worthman

Writing a blog post instead of a standard paper is an innovation in teaching in itself, says Dr. Côté.

The process can highlight the connections between academia and real-world issues in need of policies, actions and awareness.

‘Help other students grow’

Sarah Worthman is a graduate student in the Department of Political Science, who is the managing editor for Population and Security.

Sarah Worthman wearing a green shirt in foreground, with blurry windows in background
Sarah Worthman says contributing to Population and Security will diversify how students write about their academic interests.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“I love that I have the ability to help other students grow as writers and help them see their hard work recognized,” Ms. Worthman said.

She also says she is appreciative of how the role is different from the usual positions available to graduate students and that it gives her hands-on experience working on an editorial board.

“Both of which are things I think will help me stand out after I graduate.”

Ms. Worthman adds that the opportunity will help students diversify how they write about their academic interests.

“We are often taught specific methods for academic writing, which I think is great, but it is incredibly useful to expand our writing abilities so that we can engage with individuals outside our given fields.”

Peer review experience

Population and Security will also introduce students to the peer-review process.

“All blog posts are reviewed by the editorial board,” said Dr. Côté. “Learning how to respectfully and constructively provide comments on the work of others — and learning how to integrate colleagues’ feedback into your own work — are important skills, both inside and outside academia.”

It will also provide a broader avenue for student work to reach a wider audience, help students show their loved ones what they have been working on for months at a time and add their voice to public discussions.

“On a number of occasions, that paper will only be read by one person — their course instructor.” — Dr. Isabelle Côté

Dr. Côté says students spend a significant amount of time working on their papers, developing an idea from start to finish and often immerse themselves in it.

“And yet, on a number of occasions, that paper will only be read by one person — their course instructor.”

Dr. Côté is using some of her most recent Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funding to hire a computer science graduate student to develop a website, three political science graduate students to join her on the editorial board and three undergraduate students to help with copyediting.

“And for the time being, or at least, until my funding ends, we are thrilled to be able to offer a small payment for blog posts that are accepted for publication.”

Population and Security is currently accepting submissions of up to 1,000 words on a wide variety of topics. Visit the website for information on submission guidelines.

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