Author: kyannadawson

Goodbye Summer

This summer has provided me much insight into the type of researcher that I am and has eliminated a lot of anxiety that completing such a project would have produced. Regarding my work ethic, I like to begin my day early in case I become distracted during my work. I must work in quiet settings so that I can fully concentrate. Lastly, I do not work well at home so I must complete most of my work while I am at the library. Although these may be little, trivial tidbits that I realized throughout the course of my summer, I know that this information will be important during the rest of the thesis process in the fall and spring semesters.

Now that the school year is about to start, I am glad that I took time out this summer to begin my thesis. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the first part of my project required dedicated research into the beginnings of the American government. This meant that my days were filled with reading several different texts on the Constitution, American presidencies, and Supreme Court cases. Completing this sort of extensive research would be difficult to complete during the school year when I would have other coursework to complete. This summer also removed much stress that I anticipated this project would bring since I have a large chunk of my project done. Waiting until the end of August to begin my work would have been a recipe for disaster.

Overall, this was a very productive summer. I have completed an ample amount of research for the first part of my thesis and I have learned more about the type of worker that I am. However, the progress I have made would not have been possible if I did not have a great support system, like my mentor, to encourage and help me throughout the summer. I am extremely grateful for these individuals and all they have done for me.

Learn more about my project here.


I’m running out of time!

kyannaAs Monday rolled around it really hit me that summer is almost over. Naturally I started to freak out because there is so much work that I still want to do. There are some gaps in my research that I need to fill and I want to start writing my thesis. I just hope that I can accomplish all of this by the end of the summer.

Now you may be wondering why I am so worried about this when I still have two semesters left to complete my thesis. Well, at the beginning of this summer Geoff and I had set out a preliminary timeline for my project. Summer would be reserved for the more historical part of my thesis. I would gather as much data as I could about the presidency and the courts to understand how their powers have evolved over time. Since my last blog post, I have focused on different tools that the president can use to exert his will. Of the several different instruments that he can use, I mainly focused on executive orders since the second part of my project will center on the Muslim Travel Ban. This line of research led to the discovery of Executive Order 589 concerning the travel of Japanese and Korean labors. Even though I only have a limited understanding of this order so far, I feel as though it will become a crucial part of my project.

For the upcoming week, I will try to focus most of my attention into preparing for my presentation at the end of this month. Geoff and I have already developed an outline for the presentation that should help me create a draft for my talk. Now I need to go back over my notes, which may be the hardest part of the process since there is just so much information that I could talk about. Additionally, I will need to practice before the actual presentation. I am not the biggest fan of public speaking and tend to become very nervous whenever I have to do it. By having a few practice sessions, hopefully I will feel less anxious during the actual presentation.

Learn more about my project.



Hamilton and Jay and Madison and Washington

(This blog post was originally written on June 30.)

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Since my last blog post, I have made considerable advances in my research. With the recommendation of my mentor, Geoff McGovern, the Barco Law Library at the University of Pittsburgh has become an invaluable resource for me. As you can probably guess, the library is a pretty empty place during the summer so I usually find myself among only the law professors and the librarians. At times this can be rather usefully since I have a quiet place to peruse different texts on constitutional law. I have even found some go-to texts that I have continuously consulted these past few weeks.

In that period of time, I have dedicated my research to the early days of the American presidency and the federal court system. I naturally began to look at how the framers defined the executive and judicial branches during the days of the Constitutional Convention. Unsurprisingly, there was many conflicting views on how much power should be reserved to an executive and how many people should comprise this branch. From there I began to familiarize myself with different presidencies. So far, I have gained a better sense how a single president can strengthen his power during his term(s) in office. My plan is to ultimately group the presidents by time period to easily show my audience how the executive branch has evolved over time.

Aside from the presidency, I have also looked at the powers of the judiciary. I began with the earliest and most noteworthy cases, such as Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, to understand how powerful the judiciary was in its early days. I have also gotten into the more procedural aspects of the judiciary’s power and how it chooses the cases it hears. Of course, I delved a little too deeply into this topic and wandered into some areas that will not be relevant for my project as a whole. Now, per the suggestion of Geoff, I will devote more time to presidential powers. By the end of the summer I hope that I can begin writing parts of my thesis.

Learn more about my project.

Where to Begin?

Coming into this research project, I knew it would be a daunting task since the project would entail many different layers. I would first need to define some key terms, like what exactly an imperial presidency is. I also knew that throughout this process that my own partisan views could not limit the sources I use. Obtaining a well-rounded understanding of how Mr. Trump’s presidency would deal with the courts would be essential in gaining the trust of my audience and for them to seriously consider my research.

To begin, I thought it would be helpful to read some pieces from publications like the New York Times, the National Review, and the Atlantic, before I really dug deep into more scholarly works and take on a narrower approach to my project. Not only was this a great way to explore how other authors have approached the subject, but they have been great sources of information regarding other imperial presidencies and how much power such executives can wield. Jonathan Mahler’s New York Times piece, while very George W. Bush-centric, gave me an idea of where to start my research. A good starting point seems to be the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose expansive four terms in office led to the creation of the 22nd Amendment.

The other articles gave me a sense of the importance the incumbent has on the incoming president’s administration. As Conor Friedersdorf explains in his piece in the Atlantic, much of the power that many feared would fall into the hands of then-candidate Trump began with George W. Bush and were continued under Obama. The issue of the surveillance state and the treatment of prisoners of war were significant issues of discussion in the articles I have accessed so far, especially in the courts, which leads me to believe that this will be an important topic area to explore. Now that I have a clear picture of where to begin, I hope the rest of this process will go smoothly.