May 27, 2011 — Two students in the University of Virginia's College of Arts & Sciences have received Sen. John W. Warner Public Leadership Undergraduate Research Awards.
John Jacob Nay, 21, of Richmond and Midlothian, is a double major in environmental thought and practice and in philosophy, with a minor in global sustainability. He is researching disaster management and climate change preparation policies.
Casey Enders, 20, of Chantilly, a politics honors major, is researching the morality and efficacy of schools' zero-tolerance policies concerning drugs and weapons.
The U.Va. Office of the Provost gives the annual awards to a third-year undergraduate who exhibits a serious ambition to seek public office in the future, whether in a part-time city council position or a full-time legislative or executive office. The award, up to $3,000, will fund research informing the recipient's future career as an elected official. The proposed work should result in a significant research product, such as an honors or distinguished majors thesis or an analysis of an important policy issue and a proposed solution to the problems it raises.
Nay's research on disaster management and climate change preparation policies will take him to Bangladesh, Scotland and Washington, D.C.
"I have been very interested in this topic because of the increasing need to cope with both climate change adaptation and 'normal' natural disasters," Nay said. "Also, I think that Bangladesh, being forced to deal with these issues on a larger scale of human impact than anywhere else in the world, has insights in this field to offer organizations and governments in other regions of the world."
Brad Brown, an associate professor in the McIntire School of Commerce, brought Nay to Nicaragua as part of his January Term course on economic development.
"I have never had a student so eager to learn and to do additional work beyond what was already required by this short course," Brown said. "This was his first time in a developing country, and he was fascinated by some of the environmental issues we studied in addition to the economic development."
Nay, the son of Mark Nay and Tammy Tipton-Nay, will be a Lawn resident in the coming school year. He is a junior member of the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Honor Society, president of the U.Va. Disabilities Awareness Committee, a member of Lose the Shoes Grassroots Soccer for AIDS reduction and a brother in Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He has received a Raven Society Fellowship, the Z Society Sullivan Scholarship, the Helping Hand Scholarship from the College of Arts & Sciences and intermediate honors. His essay won the U.Va. Institute for Practical Ethics’ Hollingsworth Ethics Essay contest. He is also an Eagle Scout.
Nay is currently in Washington both researching the United States' natural disaster management policy and interning at the U.S. House of Representatives. He plans to apply to Ph.D. programs to study politics and public policy, especially related to environmental issues in developing countries.
"Nothing fascinates me more than studying the intersection of nature, society and development from the perspectives of philosophy and the social sciences," Nay said. "After graduate school, I hope to become involved in both academia and politics."
Enders said she was drawn to research policy that has had a more immediate impact closer to home.
"I learned about two suicides in my hometown that have been attributed to the harsh penalties imposed by zero-tolerance policies," she said. "I wanted to see what administrators thought about the policies and how they were actually implemented in different school environments, which is information you can't get by reading a handbook."
Enders said school officials have imposed zero-tolerance policies to deter students from violating drug laws and using weapons. She noted the federal Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 required schools to implement zero-tolerance policies as a condition of receiving federal school money.
"Because this debate focuses so deliberately on efficacy and practicality of policies, questions of the inherent morality of the policies are often excluded," Enders said. "Efficacy and practicality is related to the question of morality, but it is only part of the story and a part which has not been well-documented or researched."
Jeffrey W. Legro, professor of politics in U.Va.'s Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and Randolph P. Compton Professor in U.Va.'s Miller Center for Public Affairs, first met Enders when she took his course on theories of international relations.
"She is a very smart, very hard-working, confident and ambitious person who is not afraid to take charge in terms of organizational or intellectual matters," Legro said. "Casey's performance in class was outstanding, her work was consistently A-level across papers, exams and participation."
"Casey is unusually bright and diligent," said John M. Owen IV, an associate professor of politics. "She managers to flourish in the politics honors program while being on the University's cheerleading team."
Enders, the daughter of John and Kim Enders, also will be a Lawn resident in the coming school year. She is a member of the Order of Omega, president of the Kappa Delta sorority and a varsity cheerleader. She has received a Small Research and Travel Grant. She is founder and executive director of Up 'Til Dawn, which raises money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. She has been an acute pediatrics ward volunteer, a political campaign intern and has worked as a tutor, nanny and cheerleading coach. She plans to pursue a dual degree in education and law and eventually work in educational policy.
"With three younger siblings, I've always taken a personal interest in educational policy, and I knew I wanted to research something in the field for my senior thesis," she said. "This grant will give me the ability to travel and visit cities, interviewing administrators and gauging school climates in places I've never been. This is something I never could have afforded on my own. I needed a little help to make my big ideas happen."
The Sen. John W. Warner Public Leadership Award is funded through an endowment from the former U.S. Senator. This is the fourth year that U.Va. has presented the award.