LBJ School Theses and Professional Reports

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This collection is updated quarterly. For the most complete record of theses and professional reports, please see the ETD Collection.


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Now showing 1 - 20 of 165
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    Drivers of environmentally-friendly technology adoption : electric vehicle and residential solar PV adoption in California
    (2016-05) Nath, Vivek; Rai, Varun; Zarnikau, Jay
    The use of electric vehicles (EVs) and residential solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is expected to play a role in stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere within an acceptable range, to mitigate detrimental climate change impacts. This thesis uses two uniquely rich datasets from the EV and residential solar PV market in California to study the demographic, motivational, social and informational influences on technology adoption decision-making. Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory and the theory of planned behavior (TPB) are extensively used to contextualize the findings. Several findings aligned with Rogers’ generalizations regarding communication channels and characteristics of earlier adopters, and the increasing role of interpersonal communication channels signaled a shift to the early majority. Strong support was also found for the theory of planned behavior through the identification of the role of personal norms, subjective norms, attitude, and perceived behavioral control on intention and, ultimately, behavior. Information channels used by the EV cohort suggest a possible departure from TPB through the role of habitual behavior and attitudinal formation.
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    Does coal mining in West Virginia produce or consume water? : a net water balance of seven coal mines in Logan County, West Virginia, an aquifer assessment, and the policies determining water quantities
    (2016-05) Smith, Faith Martinez; Webber, Michael E., 1971-; Eaton, David J.; Kreitler,, Charles
    This work evaluates whether coal mining in Logan County, West Virginia is a net consumer or producer of water at seven mines in Logan County, West Virginia. Water is used at each step in the coal mining process, making it important to understand the quantity of water that might be consumed. Geologic conditions and production procedures exist such that water might be produced from coal mining. Through steps such as dewatering mines and using water for on-site dust control, water is discharged from aquifers, which adds to the local waterways and affects the water table. The total discharge for each mine was quantified from 2014 discharge permits, which were curated from fillings with regulatory agencies. Water withdrawal values were provided by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. This is a quantitative inventory of water outflows or a net water balance. Net balance refers to the total diference between water discharged and withdrawn. This analysis suggests that the seven mines analyzed for this work discharge significantly more water than they withdraw from the surrounding watersheds. Thus, on balance, these mines are net producers of water. However, the water quality of those discharges are typically significantly different. The volume of discharge from these mines can be comparable to the water usage of many cities in the United States.
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    Eschatology in the ISIS narrative
    (2015-12) Petit, David Nathaniel; Moin, A. Azfar; Kuperman, Alan J
    Apocalyptic millenarianism, rooted in traditional Islamic eschatology, is at the very core of the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s narrative and its claim to sovereignty and legitimacy. The millenarian narrative also represents a radical departure from the jihadist paradigm of al-Qa’ida and provides a major conceptual and theoretical challenge to al-Qa’ida’s leadership of the global jihadist movement. Other combatant groups in the Syrian civil war, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Hezbollah, make some limited use of millenarian symbols. This essay will reference these cases briefly, for the purposes of comparison and context. The primary goals are to analyze the Islamic State’s challenge to al-Qa’ida, document ISIS’s millenarian narrative, and to contextualize these millenarian outbursts.
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    OATS, CAT, and CARDS : financial regulation in the era of big data
    (2015-05) Moore, Peter Austin; Flamm, Kenneth, 1951-; Von Hippel, Paul
    The explosion of data in the financial industry has led regulators to seek better ways to utilize big data analytics. This paper analyzes the inception and development of three major regulatory programs borne from market failures. These programs represent the promise of big data, but have had to withstand criticisms of their cost, effectiveness, and necessity. The focus is on the twin goals of these programs: to reconstruct the market and to detect market abuse; and how the promises have been met and criticisms have been replied to.
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    Disaster mitigation and recovery: a study of Hurricane Hugo’s effect on South Carolina
    (2016-05) Roper, Vance Andrew Lewis; Paterson, Robert G.; Spelman, William
    Death, destruction, and loss are what many people experience when they encounter a disaster such as a hurricane. One key fact to remember about disasters is that they are a human made event. This is because disasters only occur when a natural hazard comes into contact with human made items. One such natural hazard, hurricanes, can result in significant destruction and have a major impact on humankind. While humankind is effected by natural hazards, it can also have an effect on the results from these hazards. Using proper techniques, damage from disasters can be reduced by significant portions. This can be accomplished through mitigation, resilience and recovery. The combination of these three components can both reduce and eliminate destruction from disasters caused by natural hazards. This paper will look at each of these three components and how they apply to disasters caused by hurricanes. The focus will be looking at how differing building requirements can have an effect on the amount of damage caused by hurricanes. These results will then be used to recommend what types of building codes should be used and the political viability of using such codes.
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    Mitigating local buckling of post-tensioned connections in steel self-centering moment resisting frames
    (2016-05) Hulsey, Anne McLeod; Clayton, Patricia M.; Rai, Varun
    Self-centering moment resisting frames (SC-MRF) employ post-tensioned (PT) beam-to-column connections for achieving large drifts while maintaining elastic behavior. The PT bars develop large tension forces as the connection rocks open, pivoting about the end of one of the beam’s flanges. This induces a large compression force in the flange, making it susceptible to beam local buckling. The buckling, in turn, shortens the beam and reduces the PT forces, jeopardizing the frame’s moment capacity and making it more vulnerable to collapse. The SC-MRF design procedure developed by Garlock [2002] used strain limits to prevent buckling. Chou et al. [2006] later used the same concept but modified the limiting strain value. The current experimental data demonstrates that the critical strains for buckling are dependent on the flange width-to-thickness ratio, b/t. Therefore it is recommended that the design procedure should include a beam width-to-thickness limit.
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    Carbon pricing, politics and the Clean Power Plan
    (2016-05) Draper, Maia Penelope; Olmstead, Sheila M.; Busby, Joshua
    This paper examines the role that emissions trading among states can play in implementing the Clean Power Plan in the U.S., reviewing the structure and performance of existing carbon markets as examples for how a multistate carbon market might be implemented. Additionally, given the politically contentious environment surrounding the Clean Power Plan, the paper reviews the arguments of states opposing the Clean Power Plan and analyzes to what extent this opposition is driven by ideologically motivated political factors as opposed to economic factors. Overall, I find that while both political and economic factors drive opposition to the Clean Power Plan, ideologically motivated political factors seem to play a stronger role in states’ attitudes. With regard to cost-effective implementation of the Clean Power Plan, a review of the literature suggests that thoroughly incorporating market-driven carbon pricing mechanisms and facilitating coordination among states will be crucial in determining the rule’s overall effectiveness.
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    Using GIS and the RUSLE model to create an index of potential soil erosion at the large basin scale and discussing the implications for water planning and land management in Morocco
    (2015-12) Clark, Madeline Lacy; Eaton, David J.; Hajji, Mustapha
    Severe erosion rates endanger the drinking water and agroforestry sectors in Morocco. To determine ways to improve erosion mitigation in Morocco, this study examined the political landscape underpinning research and policy implementation nation-wide. It also conducted a case study for erosion modeling in the most important river basin for drinking water in Morocco, the Bouregreg Basin. In this case study, 15 erosion scenarios were constructed in ArcMap according to the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), the most commonly used tool to predict erosion in Morocco, to determine the effect of variation in data inputs on the quantity and severity of sheet and rill erosion. Results indicate that average annual erosion rates in the Basin are minimal to moderate, with localized areas experiencing severe rates over 25 tons/hectares/year, indicating that channel and gully erosion rather than sheet or interill erosion dominate in the basin. Increased DEM resolution from 30 to 90 meters amplified predicted erosion rates by a factor of 10, and variation in precipitation between the highest and lowest agricultural years yielded a difference in maximum erosion rates of nearly 60,000 tons/hectares/year. These results indicate that the spatial resolution of datasets and variation in climatic factors produce substantial differences in model output and may bias policy-making in light of variation in data management practices and the potential effects of climate change. In order for Morocco to reach its goal of implementing Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), operators and researchers should collaborate at the basin level and establish best data management practices in the drinking water and agro-forestry sectors of Morocco. To achieve these changes, this study recommends that decision makers reexamine how they fund and support erosion research and mitigation, and that all stakeholders coordinate to both compile data to develop empirical and process-based erosion models fitted to Morocco and calibrate these models through investing in representative field studies.
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    Does international aid to education improve education outcomes?
    (2015-08) Carvalho, Shelby Frances; Weaver, Catherine; Lincove, Jane A
    Between 2000 and 2012, nearly US$161 billion in international aid was allocated to the education sector. As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals quickly approaches, debate about the effectiveness of international donors and aid in general continues across sectors. With 58 million children still out of school and persistent gender disparities across all levels of schooling, education is no exception to this scrutiny. The central question in this report seeks to understand if international aid to the education is positively related to education outcomes in low and low-middle income countries. I provide a summary of progress in education in developing countries over the last two decades and a description of trends in international aid to the education sector. In an empirical analysis of 135 countries between 1990 and 2010, I find that aid to primary education is positively related to primary school enrollment for boys and girls. Using the findings from the analysis, I offer policy recommendations to improve international donor effectiveness in the education sector. Through this report, I hope to contribute to the conversation related to education and international aid in post-2015 Sustainable Development Goal agendas and strategies.
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    The taming of a toothless tiger : INS implementation of the Flores settlement agreement
    (2002-08) Thompson, Amy Christine; Black, William K. (William Kurt), 1951-; Spelman, William
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    Indigenizing cyberspace: the possibilities of new media technologies for indigenous peoples
    (2015-12) Brown, Amanda Frances; McDonough, Kelly S., 1970-; Mallapragada, Madhavi; Dorn, Edwin
    The information superhighway. The global village. Cyberspace. These are only a few of the metaphors used to describe the Internet, a vast global interconnected computer network which has dominated life in the 20th and 21st centuries. While online media spaces are often described as an open limitless frontiers by scholars and users alike, recent scholarship has shown that racism, sexism, and other discriminatory forces shape user experiences. While this emerging literature on the issues surrounding cyberspace has uncovered important aspects of identity making in this space, this thesis project takes a different approach and considers the potential possibilities of new media technologies. By focusing specifically on the possibilities for indigenous users, an identity often ignored in new media scholarship, I argue that cyberspace is a critical landscape for indigenous peoples to work toward decolonization, carve out indigenous spaces online, and foster indigenous cultures and ways of knowing. By positing two new frameworks to analyze cyberspace, cyborg-intimacy and the virtual third space, I demonstrate new ways of thinking about how indigenous bodies matter in this space and how cyberspace can function as a zone outside of traditional political and cultural boundaries. Through this work, this thesis project not only asserts the presence of indigenous peoples in these spaces, countering stereotypes of these peoples as outside modernity, but also showcases the innovative ways that indigenous peoples are contributing and shaping cyberspace.
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    A gang prevention model for communities in schools of Texas
    (1992-08) Ikels, Catherine Marie
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    The re-emergence of popular credit in Russia : a sign of economic development?
    (2006-12) Ruggiero-Mendoza, Cristina Marie; Livers, Keith; Bychkova Jordan, Bella; Auerbach, Robert D.
    This paper is an historical exploration of popular financial behavior in Russia, from 1861 to the present. The author seeks to understand historical and contemporary linkages between popular access to credit and levels of economic development, with a focus on the expansion of credit in the pre-World War I era, black markets in the Soviet period, and the leap in consumer credit over just the last five years. The role of financial intermediation in economic development is discussed, both in theory and within the context of the case study of Russia. The author concludes that when financial intermediation is greater, i.e., when popular access to credit is more widespread, levels of economic development are generally higher. However, the financial system is acted on and influenced by actors in the rest of the macro-economy. Thus, successful financial institutions are a necessary, though not sufficient, condition for economic development in the Russian case.
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    Data visualization as a tool for groundwater management : bridging science and policy
    (2015-05) Ballew, Natalie Jean; Pierce, Suzanne Alise, 1969-; Olmstead, Sheila M; Huber, Karen
    Groundwater resources in Texas are a contentious topic in social and political arenas. As ongoing drought and growing populations put stress on surface water supplies, more water users turn to groundwater to meet increased water demands. It is critical to manage groundwater supplies to meet current and future water demands from agriculture, industry, growing urban centers, and the environment. Data visualizations can serve as an effective tool to make informed policy decisions for groundwater resource management. Incorporating uncertainty into groundwater models and into the visualizations used to convey scientific information can aid in making well-informed decisions. Groundwater availability models and scientific information are used as guides for creating policy, but data from scientific sources and tools, displayed in maps, graphs, charts, etc., are often difficult to understand without a background in hydrology or a water resource management. Water management is not restricted to the scientists who produce data; it reaches into a broader arena of stakeholders and policy makers. What is lacking are approaches to present groundwater information such that visualizations create a base level of understanding among all actors involved in decision-making processes while retaining key elements to convey scientific uncertainty in the data. This research presents statistical analyses of uncertainty interpretations for a large dataset in the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer in Central Texas. Results explore visualization approaches for groundwater information that are based on graphic design principles. Visualizations are presented that display results of uncertainty analysis as a means to support science-based discussions among stakeholders about future water plans and policies.
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    The solar energy consumer agent decision (SECAD) model : addressing complexity through GIS-integrated agent-based modeling
    (2014-05) Robinson, Scott Austen; Rai, Varun; Arima, Eugenio; Zarnikau, Jay
    This thesis presents a step-by-step implementation of the Solar Energy Consumer Agent Decision (SECAD) model: an empirically-grounded multi-agent model of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) adoption with an integrated geospatial topology. Solar PV diffusion is a complex system with geographic heterogeneity, uncertain information, high financial risk, and important social interaction and feedback effects between consumers. A key limitation for agentbased models in human socio-technical systems is the integration of empirical patterns in the model structure, initialization, and validation efforts. This limitation is addressed though highly granular and interlocking data-streams from the geographic, social network, financial, demographic, and decision-making process of real households in the study. The fitted and validation model is used to simulate implementation of potential policies to inform decision-makers: i) Targeted informational dissemination campaigns, ii) Tiered rebates, iii) Locational pricing, and iv) Alternative rebate schedules. Informational campaigns can increase cumulative installations by as much as 12%, but vary greatly in their effectiveness based on which agents are targeted. Simulations suggest that by lowering the cost barrier to lower wealth households through a slightly higher rebate (+$0.25/Watt), the mean difference in wealth between solar adopters and non adopters could be reduced by 22.6%. Locational pricing can allow the utility more control over diffusion patterns with regard to load pockets--a $0.25 higher offering increased the percentage of adopters in the target area from less than 1% to over 10%. Relative to flatter rebate schedules, sharply decreasing schedules are effective in terms of motivating adoption but inefficient in small markets. It is our hope that this work will provide a working example for other agent-based models of human socio-technical systems as well as provide insight into the likely outcomes of novel policy-levers such as those described above.
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    How Iran could democratize
    (2015-05) Damiano, Steven Tabak; Shirazi, Faegheh, 1952-; Gholz, Eugene, 1971-
    In this report, I apply modernization and political institution-based theories of democracy to the Islamic Republic of Iran to look at the conditions under which Iran could transition from authoritarian rule to democratic rule. I provide an overview of the unique features of democracy and argue that democracies have a better track record than authoritarian regimes in refraining from the use of violence against their citizens and avoiding disastrous economic policies, two areas where the Islamic Republic has a poor track record. I then provide an overview of theories that explain the most likely way Iran could democratize and theories that explain why Iran has persisted as an authoritarian regime. I argue that democracy results from the development of a strong private sector in which economic groups are independent from the state. I go on to provide an in-depth look at how the Iranian government has persisted as an authoritarian regime by thwarting the development of private sector growth and redistributing oil resources to the population. I further explain how President Rouhani's attempt to rescue Iran from the economic crisis created by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could lead Iran to democratize in the medium-term future by developing a strong private sector. I conclude by summarizing my findings and showing what the implications of a democratic versus an authoritarian Iran would be.
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    Maternal resilience : rethinking maternal health for the post-2015 sustainable development goals agenda
    (2015-05) Charles, Nkechi Ukwu; Weaver, Catherine, 1971-; Lentz, Erin
    September 2015 signals the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the upcoming special summit on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fifth MDG (MDG 5), in particular, aims to improve maternal health by reducing maternal mortality rates by three-fourths and to achieve universal access to reproductive health care. MDG5 has progressed the least among the eight MDGs over the past 15 years. The 45% decline in global maternal mortality rates over the past two decades will not be sufficient to achieve MDG 5. With the summit on the post-2015 SDGs fast approaching, maternal health practitioners and researchers have a unique opportunity to rethink how we look at maternal health and the barriers to achieving progress. This professional report first explores some of limits and consequences of the MDG 5 framing of maternal health, critiquing the prominent use of maternal mortality as target and indicator. Then the report reviews extant literature that challenges us to consider the underlying cultural and behavioral drivers that affect maternal health. With no clear indication of the SDGs moving towards a better operationalization of maternal health, this report concludes by introducing maternal resilience as a new concept that can help foster a course correction towards a more comprehensive ecological-based framework to improve maternal health.
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    Insurance and financial products to mitigate political and credit risk
    (2015-05) Marton, Peter Dev; Inboden, William, 1972-; Galbraith, James K.; Ronn, Ehud
    This project explores insurance and financial products corporations use to transfer political and credit risk. In the post-WWII era, government agencies created new types of political risk and credit insurances to foster investments abroad. This market developed with greater participation from the private sector beginning in the 1990s. Concurrently, credit derivatives including credit default swaps (CDS) began, which worked similarly as hedges against default risk. This report develops a comparison of these two instruments, from their initial inception to their current regulation. From a policy perspective, the contrast between insurances and CDS illuminates some of the challenges the public sector faces when, in turn, working to foster foreign business activity and regulate the broader financial system.
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    PHP/HTML design and build of a computer adaptive test to assess English fluency among native Spanish speakers
    (2015-05) Schackmann, Brent Alexander; Von Hippel, Paul T.; Raghunathan, Rajagopal
    The following is a review of key findings from the implementation of a PHP/HTML web-based application to assess English fluency among native Spanish speakers. The scope of this professional report includes mainly the design, build, and implementation of a web based system accessible through This written portion is intended to briefly summarize initial results from the implementation of the successfully built application, provide information on how to replicate the application, and detail areas of focus for future development.
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    Contemporary policy issues in the State of Texas : a series of policy analyses
    (2015-08) Sandberg, Faith Erin; Rodriguez, Victoria Elizabeth, 1954-; McDaniel Rhodes, Diane
    This report is a combination of individual policy analyses on food deserts, groundwater management, teenage pregnancy, and transportation capacity in the State of Texas. Additionally, an analysis on the gender pay gap viewed from the national level is included. These analyses suggest the critical importance of all five issues to the future of Texas as the state faces continued population growth and changing demographics. Furthermore, taken in tandem, these policy issues present an opportunity to reconsider the approach of policymakers working toward achieving social and economic justice. The commonalities amongst these issues suggest that moving from a policy agenda centered around a core of social issues to a broad, all-encompassing agenda that considers the disparate impact of issues like water scarcity and traffic congestion may have a more profound impact on the eradication of social and economic injustice.