By Taylor Lunka '15
PLU Marketing & Communications
TACOMA, Wash. (March 24, 2015)—Pacific Lutheran University senior Helen “Nellie” Moran has been chosen out of 3,700 submissions to present her Economics Capstone at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) April 16-18.
Moran, a double major in Economics and French, began her initial research in 2013 with a paper she wrote in one of her classes. This blossomed into Moran’s final Capstone, PLU’s senior research project, which looks at how candidates’ expenditures affect the outcome of their campaign.
“There is a lot of controversy about the money spent in politics,” said Moran. “I really wanted to look at an issue that is highly debated. It’s hard because you want your causes to succeed, and you know the only way to do that is with money.”
Moran researched the House of Representatives’ 2010 and 2012 elections as part of her project, looking at open-seat elections—ones where either candidate has run or won before.
Karen Travis, PLU Associate Professor of Economics, believes Moran’s Capstone stood out for NCUR because of the subject matter.
“Her topic of the role of campaign expenditures in open-seat elections is timely,” said Travis. “In addition, she included both a theoretical framework as well as sophisticated statistical analysis using data she compiled from government websites.”
Moran has extensive experience with national issues and politics: She met President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during her summer internship with the Democratic National Committee, and in October she was named one of “10 Campus Women to Watch Out For” as a member of the National Student Advisory Council (SAC).
Travis and Lynn Hunnicutt, Professor of Economics, encouraged Moran to apply for the conference last semester.
When Moran found out she was one of the applicants selected to present her work, she couldn’t wait to share her findings with more people.
“I had a lot of fun with my Capstone,” said Moran. “I really enjoyed it, and I felt like it was a great experience for me. I’m excited to showcase that work in another way. It’ll be fun to talk about this to a different audience.”
Moran said she owes a lot to Travis.
“She would be up at 10:30 on a Saturday night Google chatting with me [while I was] in Morken (Center for Learning and Technology),” said Moran. “I feel so lucky to have her as my advisor. I feel like she was such an incredible support to me throughout the process. I don’t think it would’ve turned out as well without her.”
Until NCUR next month, Travis suggested Moran reformulate her Capstone to appeal to people who may not have a background in Economics. However, Travis believes Moran won’t have a problem when it comes time for her to present her work.
“She is an authoritative and engaging speaker, so I am certain her presentation will be a success,” Travis said.