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Abigail Klare

Shanon Cunningham

University Honors Program

5 September 2018

Retroactive Experience Reflection: A Research Experience Examining the Economic

Interconnectedness of Global Production

Undergraduate research—two words that nearly every university mentions when

highlighting its distinctions of academic prominence, but a concept that to most is abstract and

foreign at best. As a high school senior touring various colleges, it seemed a mere fantasy that

someday my name could be included as a contributor to published research, let alone during my

freshman year. In January of 2018, I was made aware of an opportunity to work as a student

research aid under the guidance of Dr. Thomas Moore of the Political Science Department at the

University of Cincinnati. His project, “Understanding International Relations in an Era of

Globalized Production” explores the economic interconnectedness of the world’s leading

manufacturing nations as it pertains to geopolitical stability and foreign relations. As a student

pursuing degrees in both economics and political science, this topic sits at the crux of my

intellectual curiosities and served as an incredible introduction to the world of undergraduate

research.

Sitting around a conference room table on the twelfth floor of Crosley Tower, my

stomach fluttered with butterflies as I took mental inventory of my fellow student research aids

for the first time. To my left sat a fifth-year student studying economics and mathematics who

found herself in the midst of deciding where to go to pursue her PhD in Economics: Columbia or

Johns Hopkins. To my right was a third-year student who had just returned from a semester
abroad at the University of Oxford where he had spent four months enthralled in studies of

public economic policy. And then there was me: a curious first-year student who had taken an

economics course in high school—and loved it—but who possessed not a fraction of the

experience of her peers. To say I was intimidated is quite an understatement; however, my

nerves completely dissipated as I listened to Dr. Moore explain his research question in greater

detail. The political challenges facing our world are not new but rather time-tested variations of

the same struggles for power, land, and control. However, while the challenges are the same, the

landscape for such issues has been dramatically altered as we have delved rapidly into an era of

globalization. We know that world superpowers like the United States and China are

interconnected, but to what extent is difficult to understand and even harder to quantify. Since I

was in the sixth grade, I have dreamed of being the United States Secretary of State and

envisioned myself with a seat at the table to discuss such important questions. Now, I was being

presented an opportunity to put my passion into action and with excitement, I delved into the

world of academic research.

While it is exciting to discuss the high-level conclusions, it would be impossible to do so

without the empirical data that is foundational to such analysis. Throughout the spring semester,

my role as a member of Dr. Moore’s research team was to gather data about the production

interdependence of the Forbes Global 2000 companies within the Iron and Steel Industry based

on the biannual publications of the list. Using Microsoft Excel and a Bloomberg Terminal, I

collected and analyzed information about the domestic vs. international makeup of various

companies’ sales, assets, revenues, and profits. By quantifying the global diversification within

the financial metrics of such companies, it quickly became apparent that incorporation in one

country in no way meant that economic exposure was limited as such. At the outset of the
research, I inferred that economic interdependence would be exist in concentrated geographic

areas such as strictly among European countries; however, as I began to dig into the data, I came

to realize that such boundaries cannot be placed on our increasingly interconnected global

economy. China, Russia, Japan, Germany, and the United States—all economic powerhouses in

their own way—have increasingly more exposure to one another across all industries with each

year that passes.

At first glance, such an analysis might appear to be rather simple: it is. However, it is not

simple in the sense that it is trivial, but rather in that its significance is apparent without needing

to overcomplicate the matter at hand. The shared themes of economic interdependence among

both the set of countries with longstanding political power and those that have emerged in recent

decades anchors the conversation around increasingly more complex foreign relations throughout

our world. Sixty years ago, the prospect of Soviet and American economic cooperation, let alone

interdependence, was a mere figment of the imagination; however, today the United States and

Russia share immense exposure to one another and other key players like China. It is no wonder

these countries find themselves caught up in the one another’s domestic happenings as they have

material impact on the various economies whether they play a direct role or not.

Very rarely does one have the chance to “test-drive” a future career field in the way that I

got to experience through this research opportunity. Sure, in the grand scheme of things I was

working within Microsoft Excel and following the directions Dr. Moore had created. To me,

though, such work was not small, but rather the beginning of a journey to explore my passion

and use my curiosity to bring about good through thoughtful economic policy decisions. In

considering the “so what?” aspect of this experience, I find myself asking, “what’s next?” With

four years still ahead of me and countless classes within economics and political science still to
come, a spark has been ignited within me to use my role as a research aid as a launchpad for

additional opportunities to deepen my knowledge and expand upon my passions. My dream of

becoming Secretary of State is not going to come to fruition overnight and will not come from

simply achieving good grades. It will be a result of unrelenting curiosity and a desire to never

stop working for a just and worthy cause. A commitment to asking questions, working to find

answers, and revising to constantly make improvements—just as is necessary within a research

project—is a recipe for success in moving towards any goal. I could not have asked for a better

first endeavor within the world of academic research and am grateful to have been presented

such an opportunity so early in my college career. I am looking forward to building upon this

research experience and beginning to ask—and hopefully answer—questions of my own as such

is critical to be a positive force for good within our world.

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