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Dustin Cheney Presents Research at the National Collegiate Research Conference

University of Idaho senior Dustin Cheney had the thrill to present his research on growth struggles facing the former Soviet Union during a recent conference at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

One of just 200 students from across the country, the U of I Honors Program student and president of the College of Business and Economics’ Graue Scholars program for top academically achieving students has been studying “Soviet Struggles — The Politics of Growth.” His research was presented at the National Collegiate Research Conference Jan. 24-26, 2019 at Harvard University.

"The Harvard conference connected me with a diverse group of students whose passion for research was matched only by the decorated keynote speakers, who encouraged us to learn and grow." — Dustin Cheney

Studying business economics and accounting, Cheney became interested in the relationship between the two when he took International Development Economics with Associate Professor Eric Stuen. That’s when Cheney realized he had a passion for a very specific niche of economics, and the class explored several theories as to why some nations are more productive than others.

Ultimately, Cheney had to research a specific country to see what underlying factors help or hinder growth. Cheney wanted to focus on specific Eastern European countries and how they fared since the fall of the Soviet Union more than twenty years ago.

“I eventually focused on Eastern Europe because of how volatile the political system was and is,” Cheney said. “The Soviet Union left a gaping hole in the region, but Eastern Europe seems glossed over in other research. I often say that Eastern Europe isn’t poor enough to be of interest and too rich to warrant intervention.”

His previous research focused on the constant political conflict between Serbia and Kosovo. Cheney has since expanded his efforts to focus on the entire region of Eastern Europe.

Cheney explored his topic even further as a student in Dilshani Sarathchandra’s Honors Thesis Mentoring course during fall 2018. Sarathchandra is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and was recently appointed as a faculty fellow for the Distinguished Scholarships Program. Sarathchandra noted that Dustin developed a high-quality thesis proposal, exemplifying his potential as an aspiring researcher. Sarathchandra said that Dustin’s research has implications for political reform in Eastern Europe and former Soviet territories and is truly impressive at the undergraduate level.

Cheney is thankful for the resources U of I and the University Honors Program have provided him over the years. He is particularly indebted to his honors thesis faculty committee and the Economics Department for their mentoring and support.

After presenting his research at Harvard, Cheney flew to Denmark to study at Southern Denmark University in Odense. There, he will begin graduate-level coursework on growth economics and policy analysis. He plans to attend graduate school after graduating from University of Idaho in summer 2019. Dustin’s choice of graduate school is still up in the air, but his dream would be to be accepted into the University of Chicago.

Article by Emily Hill, University Honors Program

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