In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences spotlights distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide range of disciplines.
Tasia Theoharis, an Elon College scholar with a dual major 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 as part of the Fulbright US Student Program the next academic year. She did a minor in German Studies.
She served as editor of the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics, which is currently hosted and published by Elon.
Theoharis is a member of the national honor societies Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, as well as the political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha, the international studies honor society Sigma Iota Rho and the German honor Delta Phi Alpha.
What the teachers say:
“For 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 taken on leadership roles in the journal since the beginning of our tenure, and in her final year she served as Editor-in-Chief. She has been one of our most dedicated and trusted students on the board. – Associate Professor of Political Science and Political Studies Baris Kesgin
“Tasia spent her first semester of Intermediate German at university in a group that included prospective German students and Fulbright applicants. She learned to thrive in this environment, taking advice from her more experienced peers and committing to three more years of German studies. As far as I know, she took a German course every semester in college, even though she had long qualified for the minor. Tasia’s drive and initiative make her eminently teachable. She embraces criticism and uses it to improve her performance. The improvement in his written and spoken German over the past three years is impressive, proof of his willingness to learn quickly by paying attention to feedback from teachers and mentors. – Associate Professor of German Scott Windham
How did you choose your majors?
I have always been interested in political relations between countries and more generally how we affect each other on a global scale. Choosing to double major in these two areas made the most sense and was the best decision I made at Elon. Courses from both majors work perfectly together to create a more nuanced understanding of how the world works.
What topics did you research and what opportunities arose from this work?
I had the good fortune to begin undergraduate research as a freshman when I joined Dr. Laura Roselle’s Political Communications Lab. This first semester, I worked with a group of eight upperclassmen on a project examining RT’s – a Russian news source – coverage of the 2016 US presidential election. Dr. Roselle presented our work at the International Studies Association conference this spring (2019), which was incredibly exciting. The following year I continued in his lab and started working on a project on RT coverage of the Middle East in 2016. My research partner and I had been accepted to present this project at the Conferences National Undergraduate Research Awards in 2020, but we weren’t able to due to the pandemic. I worked on another research project with Dr. Roselle and Faith Leslie. They were analyzing how White House news reports published by the Trump administration defined the international political system.
As an Elon College Scholar, I completed a two-year thesis project with my research mentor, Dr. Sean Giovanello. At first I couldn’t find a topic to save my life, but Dr. Giovanello had topics that interested him. I ended up combining them to form my project, “Securing Outer Space: How Presidential Narratives Explain Space Security. I have written case studies of the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, then I analyzed them to show how the narratives they used when talking about the space policies they supported I presented President Reagan’s case study at the 2021 Conference of the International Studies Association-South on a faculty panel and President Bush’s case study at SURF this spring.
Who were your mentors and how did they influence you?
For that, 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 at J-Term my freshman year. He actually got me started in Dr. Roselle’s research lab. He was an amazing mentor who gave me the agency to take control of my project and do it at my own pace while giving me the guidance I needed to come up with a meaningful project.
Since I met her, Dr. Roselle has supported me in and out of class. This past year in particular, she has helped me gain a new understanding of what I can do with my future and how to be confident in myself. Honestly, I wouldn’t do Fulbright or go to graduate school without them.
What are your post-Elon plans?
This summer, I will be doing an internship at the Center for European Policy Analysis within their Transatlantic Defense and Security team. I was 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 go to Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies to do a Masters in International Relations. I will be spending my first year of graduate school in Bologna, Italy, and my second year in Washington, DC.
What are some of the experiences that helped you succeed at Elon?
I have so many experiences at Elon that have had a huge impact on me and set me up for success, but I guess there are two that really stand out.
The first was to study abroad in Spain and Morocco during J-Term in 2020. In Tangier, Morocco, we students had the opportunity to talk to undocumented immigrant women from all over the world. Africa who had gone to Morocco either to seek a passage to Europe or to try to earn money in Tangier. Hearing the heartbreaking stories of these women cemented my passion for international relations and made it very clear that I had chosen the right things to study at Elon. I was able to relate what I had learned in class to real-life experiences and it gave me a very unique perspective on international politics. I think this experience is ultimately the reason why I have so much interest in living abroad and studying international relations.
Secondly, I have to say that my experience as the content editor of the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics was a turning point for me. I was able to work with and supervise 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 ability to edit a research journal – a well-respected journal, even – is something almost no undergraduate student can claim and it has made me a better student and a better leader. Ultimately, I think this experience helped me realize that I had an interest in think tanks (where politics and research collide) and that’s why I’m interning at CEPA this summer.
What advice would you give to future students of Elon?
Surround yourself with people who will challenge you and force you to be better. Whether it was my teachers, my classmates or my friends, it was invaluable to me to have hard working people 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.