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“It’s been a great time here,” says Rob Alessi, a senior government and law major from Moorestown, N.J., and a graduate of Peddie School. “I really like the individual attention I receive. Lafayette is a great community.”

Rob Alessi is doing in-depth research in two quite different areas. One topic is Native Americans and the law in early America, and the other is the role that rumor plays in causing a decline in people’s faith in government.

In the Native American research he’s assisting Deborah A. Rosen, associate professor of history and chair of the American Studies program, as a participant in the EXCEL Scholars Program, in which students collaborate closely with faculty members on research projects while earning a stipend. The faith-in-government study is a year-long departmental-honors project with Richard A. Hall, visiting assistant professor of government and law.

The first part of his history project is a broad description and analysis of legislation and judicial decisions pertaining to Indians in five jurisdictions, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Mexico, and Louisiana, Rosen explains. “The second part will be a series of in-depth studies of selected cases relating to Indians,” she says.

“I’m working through the New York statutes right now,” Alessi says, “looking at trends in subjects like land, religion, trade, race, and moral behavior.”

Rosen’s areas of special interest and expertise include colonial America, revolutionary America, social history, women’s history, race and ethnicity, native American history, constitutional history, and legal history. She is coeditor of a two-volume collection of early American Indian documents and author of a book entitled Courts and Commerce: Gender, Law, and the Market Economy in Colonial New York.

Rosen learned of her student’s analytical abilities when she had him in two classes, including a constitutional law class.

“It’s really a very specialized skill to be able to analyze law. I knew Robert was interested in policy issues, so I approached him about doing EXCEL work,” she explains. “I’m very optimistic about the project. Even though this is very serious research, I think it’s appropriate for his level.”

Alessi, who plans to attend law school after graduation, sees the work as good preparation for a career.

“I really enjoy law. The legal research I’m doing here is definitely interesting. I know I’m also improving my writing and research skills,” he says.

In his investigation of the role of rumor, he says, “I’m exploring the social environment in which rumors circulate and looking closely at specific events in which people feel they have been ‘burned’ by the government — Watergate, for example — and their function in declining public opinion of government.

“After spending time in Washington as an intern for Congressman Saxton of the third district of New Jersey, I became interested in how the government was perceived by the people,” he adds.

Alessi says the projects cap a career full of positive experiences at Lafayette.

“It’s been a great time here,” he says. “I really like the individual attention I receive. Lafayette is a great community.”

Categorized in: Academic News