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Placement Candidates


Scovia Aweko

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of study: Comparative Politics, International Relations, Research Methods

Dissertation Title: The Legacy of Violence: Experience With Political Violence and Support. For Refugees.

Dissertation Committee: Dwayne Woods (Co-Chair), Giancarlo Visconti (Co-Chair), Claire Adida, Minh Trinh

Summary: My dissertation looks at how external shocks shape political behavior and preferences. I draw theories from social psychology and comparative politics to demonstrate the varying impact of political violence on preferences for migrants. Using original data from Northern Uganda, I shed light on how an individual's past experience with civil war shapes their attitudes towards refugees. I show that those individuals who faced displacement or had family members killed during civil war are not more likely than their unaffected counterparts to prefer refugees who are fleeing the similar circumstance of political violence. 

Kaitlin Kelly-Thompson

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: Public Policy

Dissertation Title: There is Power in a Plaza: Social Movements, Democracy and Spatial Politics

Committee: S. Laurel Weldon (Chair), Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Rachel Einwohner, and Molly Scudder

Summary: My dissertation uses a mixed-methods approach to interrogate the relationship between the city, as a built and lived environment, and the inclusion of marginalized groups within social movements. Using the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013 and the Women’s Marches in Boston, San. Antonio, and Pittsburgh in 2017, I develop a theoretical explanation for why the built environment can encourage inclusion of diverse groups within movements and the potential effects this can have on local democracy. I then test my expectations through a series of statistical analyses of the 2017 Women’s Marches, using an original dataset. Through this project, I find that the space of the city effects movements ability to develop inclusion, not only when activists are making direct claims to space, as in the Gezi case, but also when activists come together for more abstract goals, as in the case of the Women’s Marches.

Jieyeon Kim

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: International Relations

Dissertation Title: Why Do Countries Participate in UNPKOs? (Working Title)

Committee: Ann Marie Clark (Chair), James A. McCann, Mark Tilton, Kyle Haynes

Summary: Why do middle powers participate in UNPKOs even though there is no clear benefit for them? This is the core question that motivates my research. Bellamy and Williams (2013) provided five reasons for PKOs Participation: political, economic, security, institution, and norm. I will find out the reasons why middle powers, with relatively limited resources, participate in PKOs. Since the existing literature on participation of small and middle sized is very limited, my research on middle powers UNPKOs will be a contribution to the field. Case studies will be conducted to test my hypotheses. Among middle powers, two cases are selected: Canada and Republic of Korea (ROK). Taken together, the combination of qualitative analysis, documentary analyses on PKOs participation, and interviewing of related officials will be able to provide comprehensive findings on Middle powers and UNPKOs.


Sky Kunkel

CV  Personal Website

Fields of study:  International Relations, Political Methodology

Dissertation Title:  The Local Effects of UN Peacekeeping

Committee:  Kyle Haynes (Chair), Liana Eustacia ReyesGiancarlo Visconti, Michael Greig

Summary  What are the effects of UN Peacekeepers? Existing research concludes that more peacekeepers lead to less violence. However, primarily conducted at the cross-national level, whether these findings transfer to the subnational or local level remains to be determined. Applying a novel theoretical framework, I emphasize local features of peacekeepers that may impact their effectiveness at decreasing violence, specifically temporal, geospatial, and gender. Using quantitative methods, they find that women peacekeepers are vital in decreasing violence, but timing and location condition this relationship. My research adds nuance to the peacekeeping effectiveness literature. It has implications for how, when, and where to move peacekeepers and their demographic composition. 

John Megson

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: American Politics

Dissertation Title: The Strong American Voter

Committee: James McCann (Chair), Eric Waltenburg, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Tom Mustillio

Summary: The paper seeks to meld the two dominant competing theories of party identification in the US context: the expressive view, where Party ID is seen as a long standing psychological attachment to a political party; and the instrumental view, where Party ID is subject to reevaluation. Using ANES panel data, the paper examines both expressive and instrumental elements of partisanship. In keeping with past research, it finds strong evidence for the expressive understanding of Party ID; partisan groupings tend to be highly stable. However, the strength of identifications varies considerably over time, with perceptions of candidates, presidential approval, policy preferences, and ideological orientations driving these changes. These results are in keeping with an instrumental conceptualization of partisan identities.


Catalina Vega Mendez

CV | Personal Webpage

Field of study: Migration Policy, Comparative Political Behavior, and Latin American Politics. 

Dissertation title: Migration-Driven Demographic Changes and Political Attitudes: Understanding Populist Shifts in the Global South. 

Committee: James McCann (Co-Chair), Giancarlo Visconti (Co-Chair), Ann Marie Clark, Natasha T. Duncan.

Summary:  This dissertation investigates the impact of migration-induced demographic shifts on preexisting latent factors, such as economic and cultural grievances, among South American voters. The study seeks to uncover the mechanisms driving these differential effects, which subsequently influence voters' leanings toward supporting left-wing or right-wing populist candidates. To explore the ramifications of a significant influx of Venezuelan migrants on the concerns of host citizens regarding public goods and national identity in the Global South, this research employs a combination of both administrative and survey data. Data is gathered from ten primary host countries in Latin America: Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as Mexico. Additionally, I conduct in-depth case studies in Colombia and Chile. The research methodology employs a difference-in-differences design to assess the impact of exposure to the migration crisis before and after the substantial immigration influx in 2017 on latent economic and cultural grievances.  


Sharonda Woodford

CV | Personal Webpage

Fields of Study: American Politics; Identity Politics; and Public Policy

Dissertation Title: Responsibility for Housing Matters: News Media Frames of Housing Crises During Hurricane Katrina, The Great Recession, and COVID-19

Committee: Rosalee Clawson (Chair), Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Patricia Boling, and Jennifer Freeman-Marshall

Summary: Housing is an issue that affects all individuals in society. People have firsthand experiences with housing on a daily basis. Housing is also a macro issue that is affected by and has implications for the nation’s economy and public policy. Despite the centrality of housing for individuals and society, few scholars have examined media coverage of housing issues and housing policy. This gap is especially problematic when considering the critical role the housing market has during times of national crisis and the potential the media have to shape perceptions of housing policy and the economy. In this project, I examine media framing of housing and housing policies between 2005 and 2020 in the New York Times. I investigate whether housing is framed in episodic or thematic ways and how housing media frames change in response to crises. In addition, I pay particular attention to whether housing media frames are racialized.