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Undergrad presents paper at conference

Westchester native Rob Burckhard doesn’t shrink from a challenge.

When a faculty member suggested he try a couple of graduate-level courses, this senior political science major plunged in with enthusiasm. He not only earned an A and a B in the two classes — one on judicial politics, the other on research methods — he wrote a paper good enough to be presented at a professional conference.

Burckhard’s paper, titled “The Gubernatorial Coattail Effect on Partisan Judicial Elections,” was the only one by an undergraduate accepted for last month’s Southern Political Science Association meeting.

“In a nerdy way, it was neat to meet all these people whose work I had read,” he said. “I had to hold myself back from asking for their autographs.”

Wendy Martinek, an associate professor of political science and his instructor for the graduate-level courses, said her colleagues were shocked to learn Burckhard’s paper was the work of an undergraduate.

Burckhard analyzed election returns from 1980-2005 from the 12 states that use partisan elections for judicial posts. He found there is a moderate correlation between votes cast for the gubernatorial candidate and judicial candidates of the same party.

“My idea was that people didn’t know who’s running for judicial posts,” he said. “People will basically vote their party affiliation.”

Martinek said it has been delightful to have Burckhard in her classroom.

“He does exactly what undergraduates should do,” she said. “He’s in our department a lot and talks to faculty, not just when there’s a problem.”

Burckhard, 21, is a third-year resident assistant in College-in-the-Woods as well as chair of the 30th annual Casino in the Woods fundraiser, which will be held in March.

He hopes to pursue a master’s degree in sports management. Burckhard, who’s interning with the Binghamton Mets this semester, claims he’s enjoying every minute of it, in spite of the obvious conflicts for a Yankees fan.

“I love being there,” he said. “Who gets to be at a ballpark in the winter?”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08