Student Profile

Briana Vargas

A Florida native, Briana Vargas came to UCF as an undergraduate and earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a focus on International Relations. Her interests in this area began with her father who was in the military and encouraged her to work for the government or state department. In 2011, she had the opportunity to work for the state department in the Ukraine in the community liaison office, which she describes as invaluable first-hand experience. She is now focusing on American and Comparative politics and is interested in a career in academia. Vargas is conducting her thesis research on public opinion and attitudes toward EU (European Union) membership in post-communist countries since the 2008 global economic crisis. She presented her research at the Northeastern Political Science Association conference in November.

One of the aspects of the program which Vargas appreciates most is the level of involvement of the faculty. In particular, she is grateful to Myunghee Kim, PhD and Barbara Kinsey, PhD, both of whom influenced her and pushed her to achieve. “They are always there to help – to discuss methods, help us apply for conferences, give advice,” she says. Vargas also enjoys serving as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. She will complete her degree in 2014 and is applying to doctoral programs in the northeast.

Ashley Timmerman

Ashley Timmerman came to UCF as an undergraduate earning dual bachelor’s degrees in History and International and Global Studies. One of the many aspects of UCF’s Political Science master’s program that she appreciates is its versatility. Of all the universities she considered, UCF also offered the greatest number of classes specific to her area of research interest. She has found the professors to be supportive and encouraging. In particular she is grateful to her thesis chair, Thomas Dolan, PhD, who encouraged her to develop her presentation skills and apply to conferences. She is also appreciative of her mentor Bruce Wilson, PhD, who shares her interest in Latin American studies, and Professor Myunghee Kim, PhD, who challenged her to be persistent in achieving her goals.

Timmerman’s paper on same-sex rights liberalization in Latin America was accepted for presentation at the 2014 Southern Political Science Association (SPSA) conference in New Orleans. Her current research is on state sponsored repression and the factors that contribute to its use by particular governments. During her time at UCF Timmerman had the opportunity to spend a summer in Guadalajara, Mexico, where her first-hand experience of the culture and language enhanced her desire to travel and explore other countries. Fascinated by international politics and cooperation, she enjoys utilizing her background in history to examine the root causes of contemporary political issues. After graduating in 2014, Timmerman hopes to obtain a position as an intelligence analyst with the state department.

Matthew Benchimol

Matthew Benchimol first came to UCF as undergraduate on a pre-law track, earning his Bachelors in Political Science. After deciding that he did not want to practice law, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. His goal is to become a Military Intelligence Officer. He is currently taking part in the U.S. Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) while working on his master’s degree in Political Science with an emphasis in International Studies. Upon completion of this program, he will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. 

One of the many aspects that Benchimol appreciates about UCF is the University’s unique relationship with government contractors like NSA Orlando and Lockheed Martin. He believes this adds to a unique and dynamic atmosphere where students can transition straight from their academic education to a more practical work environment. In addition, he finds professors in the Political Science Department to be extremely knowledgeable in their subject matter. “This program has forced me to challenge beliefs that I considered common knowledge. As a result, it has forced me to think about complex issues in an innovative way.”

Among his many pursuits, Benchimol was awarded a Graduate Teaching Assistantship and is a volunteer for Operation Giveback, a Wounded Warrior Project affiliate that creates awareness and helps wounded warriors in the Orlando area. His experiences within and around this institution have allowed him the opportunity to pursue avenues that would otherwise be unavailable. "At UCF," he says, "access to a wide range of exceptional faculty and resources allows an education at a choice institution to anyone who is willing to challenge their thinking and perspectives. That reward has never been more available than it is at UCF."

Benchimol will graduate in Spring 2015 and intends on pursuing his PhD after his initial military training has been completed.

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