With eager spirits, the LEAP Center took to the road to visit Oklahoma City. With the end of the semester ever so close, travels involving art, history, and food was a lift to the spirit. Our first objective, however, was to attend the Oklahoma Political Science Association Conference, where Brian and Professor Yawn were presenting separate papers.
Following a stop at Cuppie and Joe’s for some morning coffee, we headed to the conference for the morning session, in which Brian was scheduled to present his paper on economic development in Mexico.
Morning Session, by Brian Aldaco
United as a team of proud Bearkats, we walked into the Starkey Building on Oklahoma City University’s campus. With a stomach full of nerves and delicious Chi-Latte, I looked for room 100. My panel was composed of students from East Central University, University of Central Oklahoma, and University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and we were all eager to begin.
As the first research projects were presented, focusing on the use of social media by Oklahoma legislators (Lauren Stafford and others)…
…the morality of athletic programs in universities (Allyson Wilcox)…
…gender as defined by the supreme court, and public opinion concerning the raise in teacher’s wages, I revised by notes in last-minute preparation of my presentaiton. With twelve minutes allocated to each presentation (some composed of groups), my turn soon came to step up to the podium and present the research I had conducted on economic policy throughout Mexico’s history.
With a palpitating heart, I began, occasionally stumbling, but nonetheless detailing the various economic periods of Mexico and how industries are currently affected by globalism.
After a short Q&A session from the audience…
we retired to the audience seats where my encouraging LEAPsters congratulated me on a well delivered presentation, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Innocence Project, by Kaitlyn Tyra
After the interesting and informative student panel, the conference recessed briefly to gather lunch and reconvene in the conference room for keynote speaker Vicki Behenna. Executive Director of the Oklahoma Innocence Project at the Oklahoma City University School of Law, Ms. Behenna discussed the project’s objectives, the factors contributing to wrongful convictions, the opportunities provided for law students in connection with the project, and Oklahoma’s latest exoneration. The Oklahoma Innocence Project aims to help exonerate wrongly convicted individuals and to provide a unique educational experience for law students.
During her discussion, we learned that there are many reasons citizens can be convicted for crimes they did not commit such as inaccurate eyewitness testimony, procedural errors, evidence misinterpretation, and false confessions. We were surprised to learn that it takes 6 to 10 years for an inmate to be exonerated from the time the Innocence Project receives the case. Although this time period seems lengthy, the Innocence Project stays busy with more than 100 cases on their current case load.
Proudly, Ms. Behenna described Oklahoma’s most recent exoneration of Malcolm Scott and De’Marchoe Carpenter in July 2016. The crime involved a drive-by shooting which killed one women at a party in 1994, where the young men were convicted of the murder at age 18. The then young boys would serve 22 years in prison for a crime they had not committed before the innocence project was able to successfully exonerate them. Ms. Behenna discussed the specific case and the continuous amount of work they have to do on current cases. For LEAP Ambassadors, after meeting Michael Morton last year (who was wrongfully convicted in Texas), the keynote address carried extra meaning and an emotional connection with us.
American Topics Panel, by Mitchell Sanchez
After Ms. Behenna’s eye-opening presentation, we decided to split up to have a chance to listen from various discussion panels. With our plan set in motion, Brian Aldaco, Sadie McLaughlin, and I decided to attend an American Topics Panel in which SHSU’s very own Mike Yawn would present his paper. This panel, led by Dr. Bob Darcy, covered many different aspects of political science making it a thought-provoking session. It kicked off with Oklahoma City University professor Dr. Darcy and Dr. Mark Payton’s, “A Fresh Look at Fair Apportionment”, which dove into how the number of representatives for each state is actually decided.
Dr. Brett Sharp from University of Central Oklahoma then discussed his research on political history through editorial cartoons and how they paint a colorful picture of many key political times throughout the US and world history. The third presentation was given by Dr. Aaron Mason, professor from Northwestern Oklahoma State University and covered constitutional theory of American Indian Tribes. Native American Tribes were a particularly interesting aspect to Oklahoma political scene, which Dr. Mason so wonderfully presented to us Texans. Thomas Taylor from Redlands Community College looked at the decline and possible demise of Democrats in Oklahoma, a very timely piece with the recent election results.
Transitioning from topic to topic finally led us to our very own Professor Yawn. Professor Yawn presented his research on, “City and County Use of Social Media” where he discussed how advancements in technology and growth in social media could prove very beneficial for county use.
Criminal Justice Discussion Panel, by Kaitlyn Tyra
After the rest left to the neighboring conference room, Ashely Allen and I stayed in room 100 to listen to the very interesting conversation about recent reform in Oklahoma’s Criminal Justice System. The panel discussant was Former State Speaker of the House, Kris Steele, along with a team of specialized individuals who headed the campaign on the state propositions. Each provided their insight and background making the panel lively and personal. The speakers were passionate, citing a number of statistics showing the issue of the Oklahoma Criminal Justice System. The panel discussed solutions and how to improve the system. It was an engaging way to learn about one of Oklahoma’s major issues!
Views on Class and Support for Right Wing Policies Panel, by Mitchell Sanchez
Deciding that it was better to divide and conquer the conference’s discussion panels, we again split up where Sadie, Ashely, and I went into the Views on Class and Support for Right Wing Policies Panel. With recent election results, this panel was particularly interesting. Dr. Woo Jin Kang from the Kyung Pook National University presented his research on, “Income and voting Behavior in Korean Politics: Why Do the Poor Support Conservative Political Parties?” Looking into the politics of another country helped give some perspective to the occurrences of our own country. Following Dr. Kang, Dr. Bob Darcy delivered a passionate presentation and discussion of support for Donald Trump. This relevant topic was intensely, and at times contentiously, discussed.
Pubic Administration Panel, by Brian Aldaco
While Mitch and his group analyzed the elections more in depth, Kaitlyn and I learned of public administration policies dear to Oklahomans. With discussion on the diversification of revenue sources for the state budget, the preferred paradigms of public officials, and policy regarding gambling revenue from Indian Territory, we were exposed to the differences of public policy needs as compared to those of Texas.
The day brought forth an exchange of many interesting ideas. For most of us, this was our first conference, and our major takeaways were as follows:
- Presenting papers is difficult, with much research going into a topic. But the result is an exchange of ideas that can be beneficial to the presenter and his/her audience;
- The election of Donald Trump is likely to remain controversial;
- The presence of Indian tribes in Oklahoma poses interesting challenges and opportunities that are not really on the public agenda in Texas.
For us, the conference presented many opportunities to learn and to embark on professional growth, and together we look forward to learning more about Oklahoma City.