Carnegie Mellon University

Kyanna Dawson

Kyanna DawsonMajor: International Relations and Politics
Adviser: Geoffrey McGovern

The Balance of Powers: The Federal Court System and the Presidency

With the election of a political outsider, Washington is seeing a dramatic change in the status quo. Although Trump’s inexperience proved to be an invaluable tool in winning the election, it has led to serious errors in policies already delivered by his administration. This is especially true in regard to executive orders like the Muslim Travel Ban. The ban has been challenged in several federal courts since its rollout, raising the question of the balance of powers between the three branches of government.

By researching federal courts’ response to executive orders, I hope to gain a better understanding of how much unrestrained power a president can exercise. I especially want to examine the importance of federal courts in relation to the will of the other branches of government. Court cases, briefs and executive orders will be indispensable resources in accomplishing my research. I also hope to use scholarly papers to further understand the history of the relationship between the judiciary and the executive branches.


I was born and raised in a small military town in South Carolina. I blame my mother—a New Jersey native—for my northern-influenced southern accent. (Don’t be surprised if you hear me say “pai” for “pie” or “caw-fee” for “coffee”!) I love a good bagel with lox, grits and sweet tea. But sadly, not everyone brews sweet tea like the south, where it is mostly sugar!

One of my favorite hobbies is experiencing new cuisines from different ethnic backgrounds. My family—especially my uncle—shares the same interest. When my family travels, my uncle and I are in charge of meals and watch the Travel Channel and Food Network for recommendations. He thinks of us as foodies and wants to start a blog documenting our experiences.

My family has also been a major influence on my passion for politics. My grandmother is constantly watching C-SPAN or reading the local newspaper. Whenever she calls, we discuss our views on that day’s breaking news.

I remember sitting in the living room with my grandmother and mother as a second-grader, listening to the callers on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” During a break, I proudly proclaimed that I intended to cast my presidential ballot for Abraham Lincoln. When my mother asked for my reasoning, I cited Lincoln’s actions in response to the South’s desperate clinging to that “peculiar institution” of slavery.

My grandmother is proud of how my political views have matured since that day. In fact, when I learned that I was to intern with the Democratic National Committee for the fall 2016 semester, she bragged to her friends and fellow church members.

I am grateful for my family’s support and advice, and I hope they understand how much I love and appreciate them for all they have done for me.