Save the Date: Research Method Seminar Wed. April 4

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Graduate Student Research Symposium

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This coming Monday select SIS graduate students will be presenting their research at the Spring Research Symposium. This is a great opportunity to listen to original research conducted by other graduate students at AU. If you are a first year graduate student contemplating topics for your thesis or SRP, this might be an excellent opportunity to hear what others have done. Presenters will have ten minutes to share their research followed by five minutes for questions from the audience.

Come to learn about research. Come to support your friends.
Come to learn more about a particular topic.
Sponsored by the Graduate Student Council and the Journal of International Service
Founders Room, SIS

11:30  Crystal Corman
Leadership Spaces and Potential for Women within Islam in Malaysia:Professional Women’s Experiences and Perceptions
11:45  Linh Nguyen
Does urbanization increase access to improved sanitation for all? An analysis of the role of urban poor in explaining variation in access to improved sanitation
12:00  Mohsin Ali
Troubled Frequencies: Pakistan’s Media War Against Militant Ideologies
12:15  Sarah Chu
A Cautious Pendulum: The Momentum of Taliban Negotiations
12:30    Lunch
1:30  Sarah Howell
Research Award Presentation: South Africa for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP17)
1:45  Rebecca Novick 
The Private Sector as a Strategic Partner for Peace: How Business Can Overcome Violence in Colombia and Ciudad Juárez
2:00  Nadia Bulkin
Regionalism in the Mind of Sukarno: Regional Communities in Post-Colonial Context
2:15  Inu Barbee
Regulatory Convergence and North American Integration: Lessons from the European Single Market
2:30  Johannes Langer
A Specter is Haunting Kenya: The Construction of Identity and Electoral Violence
2:45  Anna Fox
Women’s Political Participation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Producing Policy that is Important to Women and Gender Parity?

Three Easy Tricks You Probably Didn’t Know About Pie Charts in Excel

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You’ve probably used Excel a lot, especially when cleaning up your data and making little bar and pie charts here and there when you need to.  If you need a quick pie chart, and you don’t spend any time trying to make it look nice, you’ll probably end up with something like this:

HEY WAKE UP!  Don’t let that boring pie chart put you to sleep.  Here are three simple tricks to make it look much more interesting.  It’s as easy as pie. 

(Yes. I went there.)

Tip # 1. Give it a little dimension. 
Excel has six different pie graph options for you to choose from. Four are 2-D and two are 3-D.  There is nothing wrong with a 2-dimensional pie graph, especially if you have many categories that could get lost in a 3-dimensional graph.  Use good judgement when choosing which pie chart is right for your data. If you have fewer categories that are better represented in a 3-D pie graph, go for it.

Tip # 2. Rotate your pie so that the smaller categories are seen. 

For some reason, when you make a pie chart on Excel, Excel tends to stick the smaller categories toward the back and bring the big piece to the front.  I suppose Excel’s logic is that you would want to see the larger value up front.  But what if the smaller values are what you’re really trying to show?

This can be fixed.  Right-click the pie chart and choose “Format Data Series.”  Under “Series Options” in the “Angle of the First Slice” section, slide the rotation notch to the right (somewhere between 90 and 100 should be fine, but you can play around with this). Viola.  Your small value slices have gotten upgraded to front and center.

Tip # 3. Make one piece of the pie explode

Who doesn’t want to see a slice of pie explode?  Not only is this great clown comedy, it’s a good way make one category or value of your pie stand out from the rest.  Earlier when you chose the type of pie graph you wanted, you could choose one that already has all the slices exploded.  Here is how you can make just one slice explode:

When you click on the pie graph, you’ll see that little “handles” appear on the edges. When you click on just one slice of the pie, the same thing happens.  Drag that piece of the pie out…and bam. Pie slice explosion.

Next time you need to make a pie graph on Excel, consider some ways to  make it look more interesting.  Your audience will appreciate it.

By the way, that first pie graph shown above (the gray, bland one) is intended for giggles, but believe it or not, that is an actual color scheme by Excel.  Please, please, please, stay away from that option.  While you’re at it, stay away from single-color schemes, where pieces of the pie are different shades of green or orange, for example.  To make each of your pieces stand out, use different colors.  And stick with solid colors.  Patterns can get distracting.

Save the Date: Research Method Seminar Wed. March 21

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Using Commercial Satellite Imagery to Increase Transparency of Nuclear Forces

Wed. March 21, noon-1:30pm in Hurst 202. A light lunch will be served!!

The advent of high-resolution commercial satellite imagery has revolutionized the ability of people to monitor activities anywhere on surface of the planet. Only a decade ago, access to satellite imagery with better than one meter resolution required top secret access to military spy satellites. Now, anyone with a laptop computer can use GoogleEarth and several other free providers of free commercial satellite imagery to monitor developments in anything ranging from urban sprawl to deforestation to nuclear weapons deployments. As director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen uses commercial satellite imagery to monitor and document the nuclear forces of the world’s nine nuclear weapons states. His presentation will showcase some of his discoveries and give advise on how to use this unique technology to strengthen analysis and writing on nuclear weapons and non-proliferation issues.

About the speaker: Hans Kristensen is the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists where he focused on researching and describing the status of the world’s nuclear forces and the government policies that guide their potential use. His work is frequently published on the FAS Strategic Security Blog. He is a co-author to the Nuclear Notebook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and the World Nuclear Forces overview in the SIPRI Yearbook. Before he joined the Federation in 2005, Kristensen worked as a consultant to the Nuclear Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., and before that as a project officer at the Nautilus Institute in Berkeley, California.

Four (Free) Online GIS Programs

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Need a GIS program but don’t have access to ArcGIS for Desktop? Check out four GIS programs available online. You can be using mapping software within minutes!

Why GIS? A GIS (geographic information system) allows you to study relationships between different layers and detect causal relationships between different variables. Using a GIS, you can create dynamic maps that show change over time, and you can create predictive models. GIS has been used in many industries for decision-making and policy formulation. It has been prominent in the environmental and agricultural sector (how does climate change affect crops?), but has recently flourished in the business sector (i.e.: where to open a new bakery?) and is rapidly expanding into new sectors such as conflict management (i.e.: crisis mapping).

Google Earth

Google Earth maps the Earth by using superimposed images obtained from satellite imagery and aerial photography. You can explore layers created by other Google Earth users or create your own layers to display data and other information on the Google Earth maps. Using the place mark feature, you can pinpoint a location on the map and edit information about a specific location, even add an image or video to your place mark “bubble”.  Likewise, you can create polygon shapes, paths, and image overlays to represent areas on the map.  You can save your work as a .jpeg image or as a .kml or .kmz file (special file formats by Google Earth).  Use the history tool to go explore past satellite imagery available for a location, or create a tour of all your place marks while recording your voice.

Open Street Map

OSM creates and provides free geographic data and mapping to anyone around the globe. It’s the Wiki of maps. OSM was created to allow people around the world to share and create maps in creative, productive, or unexpected ways OSM includes more detailed maps than other sites, however, it does not offer the ability to analyze data. For example, you can find an address in a small town of Thailand and you can edit the map to add your favorite restaurant, but you cannot add a layer that shows robberies in that city (even if you have that layer saved somewhere).


GeoCommons is the public community of GeoIQ users who are building an open repository of data and maps for the world. The GeoIQ platform includes a large number of features that empower you to easily access, visualize and analyze your data for free.


Crowdmap is a tool that allows you to crowdsource information and see it on a map and timeline. It does not require software installation and allows you to visualize information on a map in a quick and easy way. Crowdmap works in three simple steps: 1) Collect information from cell phones, news and the web; 2) aggregate the information collected into a single platform; 3) visualize the information on a map and timeline. For example, Crowdmap is often used to monitor elections or for crisis mapping.

Which one do you prefer?

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