College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

USM Student Has Honor Thesis Published By European Union Center

April 19, 2013

Contact: Jeanne Curran, (207) 780-4198

PORTLAND, Maine – A University of Southern Maine senior has received the distinction of having his senior honors thesis published by one of the top U.S. academic centers focusing on the 27-member European Union (EU).

Tim Stretton of Lewiston, who will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a concentration in international studies, was one of eight undergraduates from around the country selected this past weekend to have his thesis on the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) published by the European Union Center of California, located at Scripps College in Claremont, Ca.

Stretton attended the California center’s 11th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference this past weekend, where he presented his thesis on the EESA and learned that his original research was selected for publication. His trip was sponsored by the Dean’s Office of the USM College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

“I didn’t expect to be published,” Stretton said, adding that he was elated about the honor. “It was a great opportunity to go to the conference and to be one of the few accepted. It’s not very often that an undergraduate gets to be published.”

"Tim’s senior thesis on the EU’s European External Action Service is a very innovative study on the role of European integration in the foreign policy area,” commented Francesca Vassallo, associate professor and chair of the CAHS Department of History and Political Science, who mentored Stretton’s work. “Tim’s research work is a cutting-edge investigation of how the EU performs when required to act as a coordinated entity, for instance, when voting at the United Nations. The publication of Tim’s thesis represents the ultimate corroboration of the high value of student research at USM."

The senior will present his thesis locally later this month during USM’s “Thinking Matters,” USM’s annual conference that showcases high-quality, student-faculty research collaborations throughout the university. The conference, open to the public, will take place 8:30-4:30 p.m., Friday, April 26, at USM’s Sullivan Gym and Payson Smith Hall in Portland.

The EESA was founded in July 2010 to act as the diplomatic arm of the European Union, “almost like the State Department in the U.S.,” Stretton explained. The international agency is “mandated to harmonize relations between the member states” of the EU, he said.

Stretton was intrigued about whether the agency was actually successful and decided to do a study of the unanimity of the EU members in their roll-call votes in the U.N. General Assembly as an indicator. His nine-month project included analyzing the roll call votes in the General Assembly from 2003-2012, a total of 600 votes.

“The reason why I decided to do the study is because of July of this year, I knew that Croatia would be a new member state,” the senior said. “So I thought it would be interesting to see how an enlarged EU would affect cohesion.”

It took Stretton a month to compile all the statistics on the EU countries’ votes, using the UN Bibliographic Information System and the UN Documentation Research Guide. His conclusion?

“Each year the agency has been in existence, it definitely has contributed to the cohesion of the EU members in terms of foreign policy,” Stretton said.

The senior attended and presented his thesis April 11-12 at the California conference as one of 49 students from around the U.S. Stretton also participated in a panel on EU foreign and security policy. His discussant was the former Czech ambassador to the UN, Ambassador Karel Kovanda, who also gave the conference keynote address.

“He was impressed with my data collection,” Stretton admitted.

Stretton, who is secretary-general of USM’s Model United Nations Organization, hopes to go to graduate school following his graduation and eventually enter the U.S. Foreign Service. This summer, he will travel through a USM travel-abroad course, visiting, among other places, EU and NATO institutions in Belgium and the International Criminal Court and Court of Justice in the Netherlands, as well as job-shadowing diplomats at the UN Human Rights Council in Switzerland.

“When I first came here to USM, I didn’t know that opportunities like this existed here,” he said. “It’s been very fulfilling.”

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Tim Stretton of Lewiston, a senior political science major at the University of Southern Maine, will have his honor thesis on the European Union’s European External Action Service published by the European Union Center of California, one of the top U.S. academic centers focusing on the 27-member EU.