WMU News

Graduate student's research yields national award

Jan. 14, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Aparna Thomas, a doctoral candidate in Western Michigan University's Department of Political Science, has been awarded the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for her research examining women's participation in politics.

The prestigious $1,000 prize is one of three top prizes awarded nationally in a competition among faculty members and graduate students. It is awarded through the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. The center honors an Iowa State alumna who was a leader of the U.S. women's suffrage movement, co-founder of the League of Women Voters, crusader for international peace, and an advocate for the expansion of women's rights throughout the world.

Thomas' research is based on 14 months of study in Western Maharashtra, a rural state in India, where she examined participation rates of women in local government councils. Her findings deal with the effects of 1993 Indian legislation that uses quotas to encourage women's participation in the political process.

"While successful in some cases, women's participation is hindered by the influence of other variables including caste, party politics and lack of support from the families," says Thomas.

The Carrie Chapman Catt Prize is given to recognize significant research in the area of women and politics and includes a $1000 award to be used toward the recipient's project. Thomas plans to broaden the scope of her research by including two more Indian states in her study, and also to a comparison between women's political participation in India and other developing countries.

Thomas, who is from Holland, Mich., earned her master's degree in political science from WMU and her bachelor's degree in political science from Hope College.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 269 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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