May 24, 2024

UMW Professor Assesses Afghan Political Party Initiative

Young Afghan political party activists who received training through a pro-democracy initiative offer hope for effective democratic elections in the war-torn country, according to University of Mary Washington Professor Ranjit Singh, who recently returned from a 10-day research and reporting trip to Afghanistan.

Singh, associate professor of political science and international relations,

Ranjit Singh

Ranjit Singh, associate professor of political science and international relations.

traveled to Kabul earlier this month at the request of the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute (NDI). The nonprofit agency that works to strengthen democratic institutions worldwide was contracted by the British Foreign Office to implement a 27-month program to support the role of political parties in Afghanistan. Singh interviewed nearly 40 members and leaders of various Afghan political parties in an effort to assess the effectiveness of the program that ends this month.

“Robust political parties are considered essential to modern democracies,” said Singh, an accredited international election observer who witnessed the Afghan presidential election of 2009 as part of a delegation of foreign policy experts. Singh also has been part of observer delegations during the elections in South Africa and Namibia in 1994, Bangladesh in 1996, Liberia in 1997 and the Gaza Strip in 1996, 2005 and 2006.

In an effort to bolster stability and democratic development, the NDI support program provides party-related workshops, guidance and technical consultations.  Party experts from around the world, including the Balkans, have relied on their own experiences to help Afghan party activists work with media, develop campaign strategies and platforms, create effective databases, target voters, select candidates, and much more, said Singh.

Political parties play significant roles, said Singh. They organize and mobilize citizens with common interests; translate those interests in policies; and stabilize a society by providing mechanisms for non-violent competition. So far, such parties haven’t been as successful in Afghanistan.

“They face a number of strong obstacles, including a public mistrust of parties that stems from decades of war,” said Singh. In addition, he said political parties confront a tendency towards ethnic divisions, dependency on warlords, a largely unchecked presidency, which make building party structures at the local level very difficult.

He noted a generation gap operating within many Afghan parties.
“Younger members are seeking to modernize their parties’ internal workings in the face of opposition from senior, established party leaders,” said Singh.

Security issues pose another hurdle to building effective parties.
“Afghan party members find travel among the provinces dangerous and expensive,” said Singh. “In some cases, they have to hide the training program materials they’ve received from Taliban operating roadside checkpoints. This makes it hard for parties to establish branch offices and conduct effective campaigns outside the capital area.”

Despite the challenges, Singh sees benefits of the two-year support program.

“The people who participated in the training and workshops have enthusiastically embraced the information and campaign techniques they’ve learned,” said Singh, who will submit his final report to NDI by the month’s end. “Many of the trainees are young, practical men and women, and their training often has enabled them to rise to positions of greater responsibility within their party.”

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Girard Bucello travels abroad to study the European Union.

UMW To Host 1st Congressional District Debate, Oct. 6

A third candidate has joined the 1st Congressional District Debate to be held on Monday, Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m. in George Washington Hall’s Dodd Auditorium.   Gail Parker Rob Wittman Norm Mosher Independent candidate Gail Parker will debate incumbent Republican Rep. Rob Wittman and Democratic challenger Norm Mosher. The 1st District includes more than 15 counties and includes parts of Stafford, Spotsylvania, and the city of Fredericksburg. The event is free and open to the public. Parker, a retired officer of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, has spent 34 years as a U.S. civil servant. She has been involved with numerous organizations including the Fairfax Federation of Citizen’s Associations, Washington Region Council of Governments Transportation Committee and Federally Employed Women. Wittman, a resident of Montross, has held the seat since 2007. He co-chairs the House Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus and serves on the House Natural Resources Committee. Prior to his election to Congress, he served in the House of Delegates for the Northern Neck. A former captain of the U.S. Navy, Mosher is a resident of Irvington. He served on the Irvington Town Council and as chair of the Lancaster County Democratic Committee. Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the Center for Leadership and Media Studies, will moderate the program. Panelists will be Chelyen Davis, assistant editorial page editor at The Free Lance-Star, and Ted Schubel, news director for B101.5 and WFVA’s News Talk 1230. The debate is co-sponsored by the Fredericksburg Area Chamber of Commerce; The Free Lance-Star; UMW’s Young Democrats; UMW’s College Republicans; The Blue and Gray Press; and the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies. For more information about the debate, contact Stephen Farnsworth at Additional information on each candidate can be found on their respective websites:, and

Proposed Texas Textbooks Are Inaccurate, Biased and Politicized, New Report Finds (The Washington Post)

Farnsworth Lectures at Boys’ State of Virginia

Stephen Farnsworth

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the University’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, delivered a lecture entitled “Virginia’s Candidate Selection Process: Examining Recent Primaries and Conventions” to the roughly 800 high school students attending the American Legion Boys’ State of Virginia at Radford University on June 17.

Political Science Student Awarded Summer Scholarship

University of Mary Washington junior Shirley Martey is the recipient of the 2013 Ambassador Summer Scholarship from the Taiwan-U.S. Sister Relations Alliance (TUSA). Martey, chosen to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the first UMW student to be awarded the scholarship. A political science major, Martey is a member of UMW’s Finance Committee and is the treasurer of the Student Government Association. She also serves on the College of Arts and Sciences Curriculum Committee and has been active in Student Senate. Martey is a member of the Mortar Board national honor society and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society. She has been named to the Dean’s List. “Shirley personifies the spirit and values of UMW,” said Elizabeth Larus, professor of political science and international affairs. “A high achiever, Shirley has an infectious enthusiasm for learning and will bring a high level of energy and gusto to the TUSA program. Shirley will make an excellent ambassador because she is open to other cultures and her exuberant friendliness quickly puts others at ease.” The Ambassador Scholarship provides funds for an eight-week study of Chinese language at the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan. Recipients of the scholarship learn Mandarin Chinese and experience Taiwanese culture while representing the U.S. TUSA promotes peace in the world by creating closer friendships and understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of Taiwan. “Shirley’s achievement speaks for itself: it is an outstanding accomplishment, consistent with her record of academic excellence that she has compiled at UMW,” said Jack Kramer, distinguished professor and chair of political science and international affairs. “It is also very welcome news because the United States desperately needs far more individuals fluent in Chinese as it seeks to understand and respond to a rapidly growing China that is emerging as a global challenger to the U.S. economically and militarily.” For more information about the TUSA, visit

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News release prepared by:       Julia Davis

Chad Murphy Op-ed in Richmond Newspaper

An opinion article “Redistricting Plan Encourages D.C.-type Dysfunction,” written by Chad Murphy, assistant professor of political science, appears in the January 31 edition of The Richmond Times-Dispatch.



Overseas Adventures

Bethany Farrell '11 is one of 21 UMW alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps.

Stephen Farnsworth Co-Authors Book Chapter

Stephen Farnsworth

Stephen Farnsworth

Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science and director of the university’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies, is co-author of a book chapter, “Mass Media and Policymaking,” published in the Routledge Handbook of Public Policy. The chapter grew out of a research project that originated during Farnsworth’s time as a Canada-US Fulbright Scholar at McGill University in Montreal.

UMW Alumna Named to Gov. McDonnell’s Policy Office

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has appointed University of Mary Washington alumna Annie K. Morris ’11 to his administration’s policy office. In her role as special assistant for legislative affairs and policy development, Morris administers the legislative tracking system, coordinates all meetings and leads and develops special projects for the Governor’s policy office.

Annie Morris

Morris first joined the McDonnell administration in 2011 as an intern and was later appointed as the executive assistant for commerce and trade.

In 2011, Morris was named one of the winners of the national essay competition sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, for her essay “Persuasion and the Bully Pulpit: Expanded Evidence on Strategies of Presidential Leadership.” She was chosen for the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s inaugural Emerging Leaders Program in 2012.

Annie Morris works in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s policy office. McDonnell is shown giving his State of the Commonwealth Address on Jan. 8, 2013. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office and Michaele White.

While a student at Mary Washington, she was involved in the Student Government Association, the Student Senate and the Pre-Law Society and was named to the Dean’s List. In addition, Morris interned for Rep. Todd Platts of Pennsylvania. She was vice president of the UMW chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha and was a member of several other scholastic honor societies, including Pi Gamma Mu for social sciences, Alpha Kappa Delta for sociology and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.

Morris, a native of York, Penn., received a bachelor’s in political science and sociology from Mary Washington.