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Hendrix Students Chosen to Present at Political Science Honor Society’s National Student Research Conference

Keeley Ausburn ’24 and Jakson Needham ’24 spoke at Pi Sigma Alpha gathering

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CONWAY, Arkansas (March 8, 2024)—Two Hendrix College seniors last month presented on different panels at the Pi Sigma Alpha National Research Conference in Washington, D.C. 

Keeley Ausburn ’24 of Maumelle and Jakson Needham ’24 of Alma were selected from a record number of applicants to present their theses along with other undergraduates and graduates from across the United States. Pi Sigma Alpha is the national political science honor society; Ausburn is double majoring in politics and English, while Needham is majoring in politics with a minor in history.

“Pi Sigma Alpha is among the most selective undergraduate research conferences,” said Hendrix Professor of Politics Dr. Kim Maslin. “Their participation is a testament to the hard work that Keeley and Jakson put into their projects. The Politics Department is delighted that their work was recognized in this way and proud of all that they have accomplished.”

Needham’s project, “A ‘Wet Blanket’ or an Eventual Warm Embrace: The Effects of Environmental Regulation on Economic Growth Over Time,” is a quantitative look at environmental regulation policies globally and how these policies affect the overall economic growth of states. He conducted a time-series analysis of economic growth and a cross-sectional analysis between economic growth and environmental regulation. He found that environmental regulation positively affects the economy the longer environmental regulations are in place.

Pi Sigma Alpha 2024 Ausburn_web.pngIn “Chasing Scalia: How Justices Barrett and Gorsuch are Redefining Originalism,” Ausburn performed a full jurisprudential analysis of Justice Barrett and Justice Gorsuch, reading all 113 opinions they have authored. She developed definitions and operationalizations of different forms of originalism to understand what they look like in practice. She concludes that Justice Gorsuch takes a tradition-centric stance on originalism, focused on common law and historical values; Justice Barrett’s originalism favors historical definitions and prioritizes judicial restraint. Ausburn reveals holes in modern judicial theory and argues that research should provide active analysis of active Justices to be useful to contemporary lawyers.

“Keeley engages a groundbreaking question—‘Are the originalists on the Court really a monolithic group?’ and she concludes that they are not. Jakson uses time series analysis to examine the relationship between economic growth and environmental regulations. Both these topics are obviously timely and important. Their analyses are sophisticated and their papers are well written,” Maslin said. “They are great examples of what undergraduate research can be.” 

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at   

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose