UW PSEC Scholarship winner Kevin Aslett reports on his trip

Kevin recieved the UW PSEC Scholarship this past June and used this award to help fund a trip to Poland to further his study on the EU.  His essay on his trip is posted below.

 

UW PSEC Scholarship Report

 

June 10, 2017- July 13, 2017

 

            The UW PSEC scholarship gave me the opportunity to travel to Poland for five weeks to develop my Polish language skills, perform surveys/interviews, access essential primary and secondary documents unavailable in the United States, and collect national and regional data for two large research projects.

During four weeks in Katowice, I stayed with my grandmother to significantly improve my Polish language skills and work on a research project that tests a new political economic theory. I tested whether higher levels of trust and participation in government institutions lead to higher levels of EU structural fund effectiveness in Poland. I performed interviews of structural fund directors to determine the process of structural fund distribution and how it differs by voivodship and locality in Poland. My contacts at the EU Structural Funds office in Poland gave me access to structural fund data that is unavailable in the United States and helped me compare different Polish regions quantitatively. These interviews and data are intrinsic to my dissertation and will allow me to test my theories. My findings will have policy implications not only for economic development in Poland, but also regional policy throughout the EU

In Warsaw, I also worked on a research project that explains Euro adoption in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as the process has eluded explanation by major political economic theories. Elite interviews with advisors at the Narodowy Bank Polski and Polish economists offered important insights to the process of Euro adoption as well as access to primary documents that explain the decision-making process in Poland. These interviews and access have allowed me to put together an article that is currently under review at an academic peer-reviewed journal and contributes to our understanding of monetary integration in Europe and economic development in CEE.

            When planning my trip to Poland, I expected my research to benefit most from interviews, data collection, and primary documents in Poland, but I underestimated the impact of my daily interactions in Poland on my research. One day in particular, I left my grandmother’s flat in Katowice to travel on a tram (renovated using EU structural funds) to meet with a professor for lunch at the mall in the town center (built using EU structural funds), and then spend the rest of the day working at the CINiBA library (built using EU structural funds). My whole day was influenced by the EU and I witnessed similar patterns in other Polish cities such as Wrocław and Łódź. Regardless of one’s opinion of the European Union, its impact on Polish society, politics, and economics is significant and important to research. These daily experiences in Poland as well as conversations with local Poles have expanded my understanding of the EU influence in Poland and driven my research agenda to a degree not possible from my office at the University of Washington.

            I would like to give a massive thank you to the UW PSEC committee who awarded me the funds necessary to push forward my dissertation research, finish another secondary research project, and further my Polish language skills. Thanks to this award I will be presenting my research on EU structural fund distribution this November at the Social Science History Association (SSHA) annual conference in Montreal, Canada. I must also give special thanks to Dr. Iwona Pawlas, Dr. Eugeniusz Gatnar, and Lucyna Sikora who were indispensable during my time in Poland. They not only provided me with abundant amounts of their time for interviews, but also pointed me in the correct direction for further research and increased my network of contacts in Poland. Without their help, my research would not be anywhere close to where it is today.

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