A Scholar and (Hopefully) a Lawyer

Political science and economics double major Gerardo Escalera Cardoso gets his senior thesis published in an academic journal as he looks toward law school.

Class change at MBU

Not many undergraduate students can claim to be published scholars, especially double majors that work full-time while being active in various groups on campus. But that’s what Gerardo Escalera Cardoso ’24 has achieved. 

Cardoso’s senior thesis, “When Logic Trumped Anger: A Case Study of Political Rhetoric’s Impact on the Outcome of NAFTA Renegotiation” was one of four papers selected for publication in the Spring 2023 issue of the Pi Sigma Alpha Undergraduate Journal of Politics (volume 23, no. 1).

Cardoso, a political science and economics double major with a 3.7 cumulative GPA while working 36 hours a week as a loss prevention specialist at The TJX Companies in Bridgewater, is co-President of the MBU chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha (the national honor society for Political Science). Cardoso has also been working as a Student Advocate with the Honor Council on campus.

The question that drove Cardoso’s thesis was how Donald Trump’s rhetoric affected the outcome of the NAFTA trade agreement renegotiations in 2018. Specifically, Cardoso wondered whether Trump’s protectionist rhetoric would have any effect as to whether the trade deal would be more liberalized or more restrictive.

“What I found was that Donald Trump’s rhetoric seemed to have no actual bearing on the trade agreement, because an overall more liberal trade deal did emerge from a rhetorically hostile and tense renegotiation,” Cardoso said.

Cardoso was encouraged to submit his thesis to the journal by his senior thesis advisor, political science professor Laura van Assendelft.

“I enjoyed having Gerardo in class from day one,” van Assendelft said. “I have taught Gerardo in four political science courses, and he was always prepared, always engaged, and contributed the most thoughtful comments to class discussions.”

Cardoso, a Harrisonburg native, chose MBU because he felt he would get more one-on-one time with his professors.

“The best part about going to Mary Baldwin has definitely been the faculty,” Cardoso said. “The professors are really good at helping students get where they need to be to be successful.”

“The best part about going to Mary Baldwin has definitely been the faculty. The professors are really good at helping students get where they need to be to be successful.”

— Gerardo Escalera Cardoso ’24

Cardoso graduates from MBU in December, and he’s looking forward to completing his second senior thesis, this time for his economics major.

“I’m analyzing the impacts of Medicare now being able to negotiate with drug manufacturers about drug prices,” Cardoso said, “and how that’s going to impact both the quantity consumed and the prices of the drugs.”

Cardoso hopes to submit that thesis for publication in a journal as well. In the meantime, he has his sights set on attending law school in the fall of 2024.

“Nobody in my family is really into politics,” Cardoso said. “When I came into MBU, I knew I wanted to do political science because I thought that it would help prepare me for law school.”

“Right now, I’m leaning toward some type of advocacy — maybe criminal defense or immigration law,” Cardoso added, “but I’m not super committed to that yet.”