During U.S. Political Strife, Student Studies Party Politics in Kenya
With the United States mired in the Jan. 6 hearings, Supreme Court rulings and challenges to gay marriage, Catherine Chodnicki ’25 turned her attention to party politics on the other side of the world — Kenya.
Under the mentorship of Kirk Harris, assistant professor of political science and director of the international studies program, Chodnicki examined how political parties in Kenya change, merge and diminish in the context of a presidential election. She also studied the way each candidate campaigned. The Kenyan presidential elections began Aug. 9, 2022, which influenced Chodnicki’s decision to take on the project.
“I think the thing I have enjoyed the most is the Kenyan politics. It’s a very different atmosphere than American politics and it was very refreshing to see the world working differently than we do here,” Chodnicki, of Bel Air, Maryland, said. “It gets hard to see the way the rest of the world works when you get stuck in the USA bubble, and this project has reminded me that the world is very different from what we experience here in America.”
Over the course of the summer, Chodnicki — a double major in environmental studies and French studies with a minor in Africana studies — worked with database software, created interactive maps and analyzed the political survey process. Chodnicki was also tasked with gathering research for Harris’s projects.
“The research I provided for Dr. Harris’s upcoming projects is very specific, and he allowed me to gather information and present it in ways that I came up with,” she said. “He tweaked it here and there and gave me tips on more efficient ways to organize information. I am a learner who likes to figure things out, and I am happy he allowed me to do so in a pretty risk-free environment.”
Chodnicki analyzed presidential candidates by watching their behaviors, which helped her gain an understanding of the Kenyan political climate.
“This experience has allowed my mind to grow, and the mind is anyone’s greatest superpower,” she added. “That is the best way this summer assistantship has helped me prepare for postgrad endeavors.”
After she graduates from Susquehanna University, Chodnicki is considering travel or attending an international graduate school for a degree in environmental conservation and international politics, with hopes of working in rewilding or international environmental policy.