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“Complicatedly multi-disciplined” student finds research passion in Bosnia

Diane Stout studies the impact of personal stories on public policy


Diane Stout’s trip abroad last summer quickly morphed into a research study that continued long after she returned to Houston. Stout, along with three other University of Houston students, traveled to Bosnia for 14 days to learn about the Bosnian genocide. By the end of her experience, Stout had found a subject area that she wanted to research in-depth.

“I stayed with three other international students in a house and I spent my days at lectures and debates over the politics, the culture and the aftermath of the genocide,” said Stout. “The entire trip was a pivotal point in my life. I came back from this amazing trip and realized that I really wanted to research the power of appeals.”

She’s dissecting how hearing a personal story affects a person’s opinion of government intervention into another country's civil conflict - and if that opinion changes if the listener is made aware of the statistics surrounding that conflict.”

The trip was part of a program called Summer University and was led by Dr. Mient Jan Faber, a visiting scholar to the UH Honors College. Once she returned from Bosnia, Dr. Ryan Kennedy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the College of Liberal Arts and Social Science, helped Stout direct her thoughts into a feasible research project.

“I am researching the correlation between personal narratives of wars and the statistical numbers related to war (such as the number of bodies or tragedies), and how that affects public opinion toward U.S. involvement in the conflict,” said Stout. “For example, does a personal story generate more interest and cultivate people to want an increased U.S. involvement in the situation? Does that entail monetary involvement, troops on the ground, or bombs? I specifically want to look at the Bosnian War and the Srebrenica genocide because this conflict occurred in recent history and I can look at why the U.S. government did not act until it did.”

According to Dr. Kennedy, Diane has been a very enthusiastic researcher and student. Over the past several months she has had the opportunity to learn and utilize research tools that will be fundamental in her future studies.

“Her work is very exciting and pertinent to U.S. public policy and we are both excited to see the results,” said Dr. Kennedy. “She has gone well beyond expectations, especially so early in her college career, and I am excited to see what she will do in the future.”

Stout says her academic interests have made her “complicatedly multi-disciplined.” She got the opportunity to present her findings to faculty, staff and fellow students during Undergraduate Research Day in October. Through this process she learned something beyond what her studies taught her – to allow her interests to drive her research.

“The best advice I received was to first, find your passion and then figure out how to approach it with a logical and unbiased method to test your question or idea,” said Stout. “Never be afraid to come to your professors, boss, or elder for help and guidance.”

- By Monica Byars