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Schlingensiepen interview about Undergraduate Research Award for fall 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Marah Schlingensiepen, a junior double-majoring in Public Administration and Religious Studies, has been awarded an Undergraduate Research Award (UGRA) for the Fall 2015 semester. The UGRA comes with a $1,000 award.

Schlingensiepen will work on her project “Prisoner Perceptions of Justice” with her faculty sponsor, Dr. Shannon Portillo, Associate Professor in the School and Lead Researcher on the Sociolegal Justice Project (SJP) and use the SJP as a foundation. Schlingensiepen intends for her research to identify prisoners’ definitions of justice, whether their definitions of justice are influenced by race/ethnicity or criminal offense, and how prisoners’ definitions of justice relate to the definitions of justice within sociolegal literature.

The reviewers of Marah's application were impressed: “The applicant carved out a nice niche for herself in this project. Her literature review was well-conceptualized and executed. Her detailed analysis plan and overall timeline also are helpful… to understand how she and her mentor will carry out the project.”

To receive the award, each UGRA recipient must complete an Undergraduate Research Contract, which is intended to clearly establish expectations, goals, and communication plans between the researcher and his/her mentor, and attend a check-in meeting mid-semester.

We caught up with Marah to congratulate her on the award and find out more about her:

Q. How did you find the public administration program? What’s your story?

A. During my sophomore year, and as a new transfer student at KU, I was working toward a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. I became unsatisfied with the black and white nature of my education - I wasn't being forced to critically think about pressing issues. I was also becoming more interested in political and social issues, and I realized I wanted to make a different kind of contribution than forever prescribing Amoxicillin for ear infections. I struggled for months with finding something that was a better fit for me. I was new to KU and did not know how to maneuver the large campus and the massive website to just please figure out how to find an advisor. Eventually, I did, and it was then that I was recommended to look into the School of Public Affairs and Administration - quite the change of original plans - the best change of plans.

Q: What’s the most meaningful thing you've learned?

A. It depends on how you define meaningful. Through our program, I've learned the importance of mentorship - how incredibly dedicated and passionate professors can inspire and guide you, helping you to create strategies that will help you reach your goal. Through our program, I have been given the opportunity to be a part of Dr. Portillo's research, and I have learned how exciting academia is. And, most of all, I have learned about the many systemic and institutionalized inequities that exist in this world, some very clear, and others painfully subtle, that need to be addressed. I have learned how to grapple with tough issues, and I hope to continue to learn just that.

Q. What are your plans for after graduating with your Bachelor’s degree?

A. After graduation in May of 2016, I plan to go on to receive a PhD in Public Administration. I want to be a public administration scholar who studies the very enduring and resistant to change disparities within America's criminal justice system.

Q. What would you say to prospective students to the public administration program?

A. If you care about social equity, if you are interested in how the government works, if you're interested in policy implementation, or if you want to learn about political/social/economic issues ranging from local to global settings, this is a department with which to familiarize yourself. Take the intro course; from it, you will be able to infer whether this is the program for you. In any case, it is led by incredible faculty and opens many doors, so come and join one of KU's finest programs.


Ruth DeWitt, Communications Manager
KU School of Public Affairs and Administration
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