Political Science Research
Student and prof probe evolution lawsuit
A school board's attempt to mandate the teaching of "intelligent design" focused international media attention on central Pennsylvania, where a lawsuit challenging the board's anti-evolution stance echoed the famous Scopes "monkey trial" of 80 years before.
The 2005 case fascinated student Madeline Shepherd, so she brought the federal judge who tried it to campus for a panel discussion.
Then, with the help of a summer research grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, she interviewed trial participants for a scholarly treatise that she co-authored with political science professor Ken Mott. The pair presented their findings at a conference of the Northeast Political Science Association and plan to publish their work.
This is "a very volatile issue," Mott said. "There are intense feelings all around. But Madeline's been able to keep a steady head."
Collaborating with Mott had a major impact on Shepherd's Gettysburg experience. "‘Enriched' would be an understatement," she said.
In addition to majoring in English, Shepherd designed her own second major, Religion in American Political History, through Gettysburg's Interdisciplinary Studies Program.
As one of five student fellows of the College's Eisenhower Institute for Public Policy, Shepherd developed programming, coordinated campus events and met with guest speakers such as newsman Chris Matthews and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.
Shepherd seized many of the opportunities offered by Gettysburg's vibrant campus life. She led the College Democrats and was an editor of The Gettysburgian student newspaper. "I like having a day full of meetings and feeling like I'm really doing things and being productive."
Slow days are likely to remain few and far between for Shepherd, who graduated in 2009 and looks forward to a career in civil rights law.