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With a resume already filled from student-faculty research and travel to Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of a Forum of Federations seminar, Brandon Benjamin ’06 (Towanda, Pa.) continued his pursuit of academic excellence studying in England last semester.

A double major in government & law and economics & business, he took the courses Modern Britain: Politics, Institutions, and World Role and British History Since 1900 at St. Anne’s College, Oxford University.

In addition to two lectures per class each week, he alternated between presenting a comprehensive essay for either his politics or history class every other week. The tutorials, one-on-one classes with a professor in which the student presents an essay and discusses the topic, are unique to Oxford University and very rigorous.

“The pressure of presenting papers to professors adds incentive to perform and write at a high level,” Benjamin says. “I loved this aspect of the program, as well as the topics we covered. The constant academic pressure was different, but I had plenty of fun, traveled often, and lived life to the fullest. It was an awesome experience.”

Thanks to his student-faculty research at Lafayette, which began during the summer of 2003 and continued until this fall, Benjamin had much experience working with professors at such a high level. He collaborated with John Kincaid, Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Professor of Government & Public Service and director of the Meyner Center, on projects that included collecting information about social, political, and civil rights in 185 nations and conducting a statistical analysis of that data. Benjamin says his work with Kincaid and other experiences at Lafayette prepared him for being abroad.

“The education one receives at Lafayette is second-to-none; thus, I felt comfortable and confident in my academic forums,” he says. “And while I learned a ton while [in England], the basis of my education is credited to Lafayette. Similarly, the opportunity to conduct research during my sophomore summer has allowed me to specialize in a subject — comparative federalism and government performance. This specialization through the EXCEL Scholars program has presented numerous opportunities and helped me contribute to discussions in the classroom while abroad.”

Benjamin’s EXCEL research also resulted in his contribution to A Global Dialogue on Federalism, Volume 1, Constitutional Origins, Structure, and Change in Federal Democracies. The book is a continuing, cooperative effort among the Forum of Federations, Ottawa, Canada; International Association of Centers for Federal Studies; and the Robert B. and Helen S. Meyner Center for the Study of State and Local Government, Lafayette. Helping Kincaid review chapters, Benjamin says they hope to have volumes one and two published before the Third International Conference on Federalism in Brussels, Belgium this March.

In Lafayette’s distinctive EXCEL Scholars program, students conduct research with faculty while earning a stipend. The program has helped to make Lafayette a national leader in undergraduate research. Many of the more than 160 students who participate each year share their work through articles in academic journals and/or conference presentations.

Before traveling to England, Benjamin spent 16 days in Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina as the youngest and only American participant in a Forum of Federations seminar. He attended academic discussions, cultural excursions, and social outings with practitioners, elected officials, academics, and youth organizations.

Benjamin says that all of his traveling has slightly altered his views.

“Traveling allows me to witness the practical applications of what I learn while researching,” he says. “Moreover, I’ve realized how the concept of federalism means different things in different places. For instance, with regard to the European Union, federalism is practically a bad word in England. Academics and commentators alike are afraid of the term because it suggests a loss of sovereignty. Likewise, Bosnia, while labeled a federal country, is a federation in trouble. Federalism is not a viable option in every country; rather, it is one option among many multiethnic societies.”

He adds that his experiences as part of Lafayette’s small and community-oriented atmosphere proved to be an invaluable resource when studying abroad.

“I’ve made some great friends from every corner of the globe and will be in touch for years and decades to come,” he says.

Benjamin is a member of the Experience Lafayette Committee, Lafayette Leadership Education Committee, Kirby Government and Law Society, College Republicans, and mock trial team. He has volunteered through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center with the Boys and Girls Club and Kids in the Community programs.

An award-winning professor, Kincaidhas been awarded Fulbright grants to conduct summer institutes for foreign university educators. Kincaid has hosted institutes at the Meyner Center in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. He is the author of various works on federalism and intergovernmental relations and editor of Publius: The Journal of Federalism, as well as a 50-book series on the Governments and Politics of the American States.

As a national leader in undergraduate research, Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Researcheach year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at the last year’s conference.

Categorized in: Academic News