Political Science Now

Meet Centennial Center Scholar, Virginia Beard

Hope College Washington, DC Honors students stop for a picture with Virginia Beard (right), and Hope alumna Amy Plaster (center), Director of the Board for the Women’s Congressional Policy Institute at their annual gala, March 1, 2017.

Virginia Beard is a visiting scholar with the Centennial Center while leading a group of 22 college students from her home institution who are interning at various sites around Washington, DC. Her scholarship as part of the Centennial Center involves two projects that are part of her ongoing research agenda. The first project is an extension of over a decade of work that began with her dissertation, assessing foundations for democratic growth and consolidation in emerging African democracies. Her current investigation in this vein is investigating the persistence and perpetuation of politicized ethnicity as a divisive factor undermining democracy and stability. Using Afrobarometer data to describe ethnic perspectives as well as content analysis of major print media venues in Kenya, Beard is analyzing the extent and forms that ethnic politics take both during and apart from electoral cycles.

Beard’s second project focuses on the domestic context, evaluating framing of and resulting policy seeking to curtail homelessness. Beard is working towards a book project on the political history of homelessness with the goal of creating better understanding of why homelessness exists in the forms it currently does and why people who experience homelessness are viewed and treated as they are. Thus she is using historical event analysis of a uniquely created data set beginning with the first federal involvement in housing issues—a federal census of former slave dwellings conducted in 1887—through the most recent reauthorizations of the McKinney-Vento/HEARTH Act to understand the explanations and responses—individual versus structural—to homelessness at the federal level. She is also working with an economist colleague to investigate possible market-based solutions to homelessness.

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