#ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Tasia Theoharis, political science and international & global studies

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

Tasia Theoharis, an Elon College Fellow double majoring in political science and international and global studies, is one of six members of the Class of 2022 selected to teach English in a foreign country through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program next academic year. She minored in German studies.

She served as content editor of Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, which is currently hosted and published by Elon.

Theoharis is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi national honor societies, as well as Pi Sigma Alpha political science honor society, Sigma Iota Rho international studies honor society and Delta Phi Alpha German honor society.

What faculty say:

“In the past two-and-a-half years, Tasia has been a member of the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, which Elon hosts for the Political Science National Honor Society. She has assumed leadership roles in the journal since our term began, and during her senior year has served as a senior editor. She has been one of our most dedicated, reliable students on the board.” – Associate Professor of Political Science and Policy Studies Baris Kesgin

“Tasia took intermediate German her first semester in college in a group that included soon-to-be German majors and applicants for the Fulbright Program. She learned to thrive in that environment, taking pointers from her more experienced peers and committing herself to three additional years of German study. As far as I know, she’s taken a German course every semester in college, even though she long ago fulfilled the requirements for the minor. Tasia’s drive and initiative make her eminently teachable. She embraces critique and uses it to improve her performance. The improvement in her written and spoken German over the last three years is impressive, evidence of her willingness to learn quickly by paying attention to feedback from professors and mentors.” – Associate Professor of German Scott Windham

How did you choose your majors?

I’ve always been interested in political relationships between countries and, more generally, how we affect each other on global scales. Choosing to double-major in these two fields made the most sense and has been the best decision I’ve made at Elon. The courses in both majors work together perfectly to create a more nuanced understanding of how the world works.

What topics did you research and what opportunities came from that work?

I was lucky enough to start undergraduate research as a first-year student when I joined Dr. Laura Roselle’s political communications lab. That first semester, I worked with a group of eight upperclassmen on a project examining RT’s—a Russian news source’s—coverage of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Dr. Roselle presented our work at the International Studies Association conference that spring (2019), which was incredibly exciting. That next year I continued in her lab and began working on a project looking into RT’s coverage of the Middle East in 2016. My research partner and I had been accepted to present that project at the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research in 2020, but were unable to due to the pandemic. I worked on one more research project with Dr. Roselle and Faith Leslie. They were analyzing how the White House newsletters released by the Trump administration defined the international political system.

As an Elon College Fellow, I completed a two-year long thesis project with my research mentor, Dr. Sean Giovanello. At first, I could not come up with a topic to save my life, but Dr. Giovanello had some topics he was interested in. I ended up combining those to form my project, “The Securitization of Outer Space: How Presidential Narratives Explain Outer Space Security.” I wrote case studies of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush presidencies and then analyzed those to show how the narratives they used when talking about the outer space policies they were supporting. I presented the President Reagan case study at the 2021 International Studies Association-South Conference on a panel of professors and the President Bush case study at SURF this spring.

Who were your mentors and how did they influence you?

For this, I have to talk about both Dr. Giovanello and Dr. Roselle. They both helped me grow academically and personally in ways I didn’t think established professors would.

Dr. Giovanello has been my biggest cheerleader and advocate since I met him in the J-Term of my first year. He actually helped me get started in Dr. Roselle’s research lab. He’s been an awesome mentor who’s given me the agency to take control of my project and do it at my own pace while still giving me the guidance I needed to end up with a meaningful project.

Dr. Roselle has supported me in and out of the classroom consistently since I met her. This past year especially, she’s helped me gain a new understanding of what I can do with my future and how to be confident in myself. Honestly, I would not be doing Fulbright or going to graduate school without them.

What are your post-Elon plans?

This summer, I will be interning at the Center for European Policy Analysis on their Transatlantic Defense and Security team. I have been recently named a finalist for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Germany, so I will be moving there in the fall. After that, I will be going to the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies to work toward a Master in International Relations. I’ll spend my first year of graduate school in Bologna, Italy, and my second year in Washington, DC.

What are some of the experiences that made you successful at Elon?

I have so many experiences at Elon that made a huge impact on me and set me up for success, but I guess there are two that really stand out.

The first was studying abroad in Spain and Morocco during J-Term in 2020. In Tangier, Morocco, us students had the opportunity to speak to undocumented immigrant women from around Africa who had gone to Morocco to either seek passage to Europe or to try to earn money in Tangier. Hearing these women’s heartbreaking stories cemented my passion for international relations and made it very clear that I had chosen the right things to study at Elon. I got to connect what I had learned about in the classroom to lived experiences and it gave me a completely unique lens into international politics. I think that experience is ultimately why I have so much interest in living abroad and studying international relations.

Secondly, I would have to say that my experience serving as content editor of the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics was a turning point for me. I got to work on and oversee a team of about 20 Elon students who had a passion for political science research and creating an opportunity for underrepresented research to be published.

The opportunity to edit a research journal—one that is well respected, even—is something barely any undergraduate student can claim and it has made me a better student and leader. Ultimately, I think this experience helped me realize that I had an interest in think tanks (where policy and research collide) and is why I’m interning at CEPA this summer.

What advice would you give to future Elon students?

Surround yourself with the people who will challenge you and force you to be better. Whether that was my professors, classmates, or friends, it was invaluable for me to have people who were hard workers around me. There are so many places on this campus where you can find amazing role models, so I challenge you to find those people.