WWU’S Mary Moeller Wins Best Undergraduate Research Paper at National Conference

Western Economics major Mary Moeller of Bellingham recently won Best Undergraduate Research Paper at the annual Western Association for Borderlands Studies conference in San Antonio, Texas for her essay, “The Canada-U.S. Security Relationship: A Study of Cross-Border Collaboration against Human Trafficking Focusing on the Pacific Northwest.”

Moeller, a senior, wrote this essay as part of her job at Western’s Border Policy Research Institute.  She was asked by her supervisor, BPRI Director Laurie Trautman, to assist with providing research for an upcoming book that is being written on human trafficking. Moeller was assigned the topic of analyzing qualitative data about the Canadian – U.S relationship against human trafficking across the borders.

“It was really hard to find information, and it took five months to complete it – but it was totally worth it,” she said.

Moeller was selected to write the essay because of her work ethic and commitment to the BPRI, Trautman said.

“Mary is a highly motivated and engaged student who is truly passionate about the research she has done for the BPRI. She has been an incredible asset, particularly in regards to our research project on human trafficking across the Canada – U.S. border. I have been very impressed by her diligent research, but even more so by her professionalism,” Trautman said.

“It was really hard to find information, and it took five months to complete it – but it was totally worth it."

The Border Policy Research Institute at Western Washington University is a multi-disciplinary facility undertaking data to inform policy-makers on matters related to the Canada – U.S. border, focusing primarily on the northwest border.

Moeller said she loves analyzing data for the institute and has been inspired by the work that she has been doing for the past year that she has been there.

Upon completion of the essay, she was invited to attend the conference in San Antonio.

“It was super fun I’ve never been to Texas before, and it was beautiful,” Moeller said.

The conference was hosted April 4-7, and each year holds two competitions for students, one for the best undergraduate paper and one for the best graduate paper; the winners in each category receive a plaque, a prize of $800 and reimbursement of their conference registration fee. 

Congratulatory letters from the WSSA president-elect will be sent to the students' department chairs, deans, provosts and other administrators at the students' home institutions.

Moeller’s networking at the conference may have already paid off.

“I met the president of The Association of Portland Studies, Lupita Zamora Rezendiz, and we may be writing a Department of Defense grant study together,” Moeller said.

Moeller has always been inspired by life experiences and the people she has met, and she said she believes that these experiences have led her to want to pursue a career in cross-border research.

“It was really rewarding and really important, and it made me realize that what we do in school can positively impact the real world,” Moeller said.