Josephine Neulen suspects her interest in studying the rise of populism in Western Europe stems from her ancestry: Her mother is French and her father is German. She was raised in Germany until moving to the United States when she was 13. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s fluent in German and French, making foreign-language research materials accessible.
Neulen, who graduated from Edison High School in Alexandria, Va., before coming to Mason as a freshman, concludes her undergraduate career with an impressive array of accolades, according to one of her mentors, assistant professor Delton T. Daigle.
The government and international politics major, with a minor in conflict analysis and resolution, not only had her poster for her study of “Populism and Right Wing Extremism in Europe” accepted for presentation to the prestigious 76th Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago in April, but she and Daigle received a contract from publishing house Palgrave Macmillan to turn her research into a book for publication later in the year.
“I’ve always been interested in extremist movements and I have my own ‘cultural baggage,’” she said. “I find it really interesting to see why people suddenly scapegoat others and begin hating other groups. It’s irrational behavior.”
Neulen tutors in 300-level government courses, leads final exam study sessions and explores sophisticated research tools, such as big data modeling techniques.
“I give her more work because I know she can do it,” Daigle said. “Ultimately, despite completing her undergrad this semester, we have been treating her like a PhD student all year.”
In fact, the student and professor work on each other’s research as part of the Undergraduate Research Assistant Program at Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government. The program, coordinated by Schar associate professor Jennifer N. Victor, creates partnerships among professors and volunteer undergraduates who want hands-on experience in social science research.
Neulen credits Mason with ample support for her success in college. Mason’s Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) provided a grant to fund her work, partially underwriting her presentation in Chicago.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with bright students and talented faculty in my days at Mason,” she said. “I’m really grateful for all the support from the Schar School and Professor Daigle, who has been patient and helpful and taught me more than I thought was possible.”
Neulen, who is in the accelerated master’s program, begins her political science master’s program at the Schar School in the fall. And after that?
“I would really like to do something in research,” she said. “Maybe at a think tank or a nongovernment organization. I would like to do something that’s meaningful, maybe in international development.”
“Her work will be on the cutting edge of the field,” Daigle said. “The academic world will be interested.”