Current Peace Scholars

Jennings Randolph Peace Scholar Dissertation Fellowships are awarded to outstanding doctoral students. The fellowships support one year of dissertation research and writing on topics addressing the sources, nature, prevention, and management of international conflict. This year we are pleased to be supporting nine Peace Scholars who are conducting their dissertation research across the globe. To learn more, read their biographies below.

2012-13 Peace Scholars at the U.S. Institute of Peace for their annual conference where scholars share their work and ideas with each other and USIP experts and receive valuable professional trainings.

Current Peace Scholars

Zubin AndrianvalaZubin Adrianvala
The Ethnic Community: Urban Form, Peace, Conflict, and Violence in Urban India
University of Maryland, College Park, School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation

What causes some cities to have higher levels of ethnic violence than others do? This research explores whether the urban form affects the level of ethnic violence in a city. Contemporary understanding of the physical city, as a determinant of outcomes or even as a target in ethnic violence, is very limited. Although ethnic conflict is a prominent global phenomenon, ethnic violence occurs in some narrow lanes and crowded neighborhoods, but not others. In addition, social scientists have focused on the ethnicization of urban spaces, but its effect on levels of ethnic violence is largely unstudied. This research hypothesizes that cities where the urban form is “ethnicized” are more likely to experience violent ethnic conflict than cities where the urban form is largely shared, secular, or multiethnic.

India is a rapidly urbanizing globalized country with much ethnic diversity, features typical of many post-colonial nations in the global Southeast. The study proposes a simultaneous ethnographic, geographic, and spatial comparison of two Indian cities, Surat and Ahmedabad, and the Hindu-Muslim ethnic relations in those cities. Ahmedabad has experienced high levels of Hindu-Muslim violence. In contrast, Surat has been largely peaceful. This disparity is especially interesting since Surat and Ahmedabad are part of the same Indian state with similar linguistic, political, and demographic features.  Scholars have compared the two cities before; however, the comparison has not included the urban form as a factor. This research will provide a new framework to study the ethnic urban violence with the urban form.

Zubin Adrianvala is a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, College Park. He holds a Master's degree in Architecture (Design) from the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and a Bachelor's degree in Architecture from Amravati University, India. He has worked as a Project Leader, teacher, designer and Architect for organizations in the U.S., India, and Australia.

Maria AguilarMaria Aguilar
“Policing ‘Subversives’ and Citizens: Reorganization and transformations of the Guatemalan National Police, 1944-1985”
Tulane University, Department of History

Maria Aguilar’s work focuses on the development and transformation of the urban police in Guatemala City between 1944-1985. Her project seeks to go beyond current explanations of violence committed by security forces in Latin America that portray their actions as simply irrational, or the region as inherently violent, and instead show that the police had a distinct history, culture, mission, and values through which it organized its work. To understand how the Guatemalan Police became one of the most brutal institutions in the country, it is necessary to examine how they construed their social role and how they negotiated their functions and responsibilities with the executive power as well as with the armed forces. By conducting research at the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, AHPN, the largest depository of police sources in Latin America, Aguilar will examine the police’s relationship with other state security forces on the one hand, and the civil society it policed on the other. While police forces are institutions essential to democratic states, their role during authoritarian times remains an understudied subject.

Maria Aguilar is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Tulane University. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Latin American Studies in 2009 and with an MA in History from Tulane University in 2011. In the past she received a Tinker Summer Field Research Grant to conduct research in Bolivia, which served as the basis for her thesis project. At Tulane she has served as an instructor for a survey course on Latin American history. She is currently living in Guatemala City, where she is conducting dissertation research. As an indigenous K’iche’ woman from Guatemala, she is conscious of the privilege she has had by receiving a quality education to which most of the indigenous youth in her country do not have access. After completing her dissertation, she would like to return to Guatemala to work as a historian studying the struggle for human rights.


  • “Movimiento estudiantil y repression policial en Guatemala: 1952-1956,” in Guerra Fría y anticomunismo en Centroamérica, ed. Roberto García Ferreira and Arturo Taracena Arriola. (Guatemala: Servi-Prensa, 2013) (UnderReview)

Casey EhrlichCasey Ehrlich
“Grassroots Peace: Village-level Reconstruction in Colombia”
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Political Science

Casey Ehrlich’s dissertation research addresses the following question: How do the dynamics of irregular civil conflict – specifically, violence and displacement – help to determine local patterns of grassroots peacebuilding efforts once the conflict subsides?  What role does gender play in this process?  Despite a large body of scholarship considering the micro-foundations of political violence and civilians’ social and political behavior during a war, little systematic research has offered insight into what shapes these behaviors after the conflict ends. Additionally, the existing approaches to understanding peace and peacebuilding efforts are premised on assumptions derived from conventional warfare.

Ehrlich will develop a theory of grassroots peacebuilding, while offering a way to capture its empirical implications through a measure that can be applied across post-conflict contexts.  She will test her theory on a large-n sample of village cases in Antioquia, Colombia, specifically, in a region that was previously on the frontlines of the conflict between the ELN, the FARC, and three paramilitary blocks, but where the active dynamics of the Colombian conflict have subsided.  In order to test her theory, she will use a mixed methodological approach, which includes a survey and statistical analysis of the large-n dataset, combined with an in-depth study of four village cases that uses process-tracing and semi-structured interviews.

Casey Ehrlich is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She earned a Master’s in International Affairs from Columbia University in 2009 and a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Michigan in 2004.  She has worked as an economic development consultant internationally in Ecuador and Mexico, and domestically in Cleveland, Ohio. Her previous awards include a Fulbright Scholarship, a foreign language and area studies (FLAS) award to study intensive Portuguese, and a University Fellowship from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She is currently a Drugs, Security, and Democracy Fellow for the Social Science Research Council. After completing her dissertation, Ehrlich will pursue a career in academic research and teaching.


  • "Sustainable Cleveland 2019: Action and Resources Guide: Building an Economic Engine to Empower." (coauthor) Economic Transformations Group. City of Cleveland, Ohio. 2010.
  • "Loja in Action: Competitiveness Plan." Economic Transformations Group. Loja, Ecuador. 2010.
  • "Evaluating Economic Insertion Programs for Colombia's Vulnerable and Poor."  (Coauthor) Columbia University. Masters Development Workshop. 2009.

Alex FattalAlex Fattal
“Guerrilla Marketing: Information War and the Demobilization of FARC Rebels”
Harvard University, Department of Anthropology

The Colombian government has reconstituted disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration policy—defined by the United Nations as a way to implement a peace agreement—as a counterinsurgency tactic, using it to promote desertion from the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and the National Liberation Army. Alex Fattal’s dissertation ethnographically analyzes the individual deserters program, the “Program for Humanitarian Attention to the Demobilized (PAHD),” in the Colombian Ministry of Defense. The dissertation critically examines this redefinition, paying close attention to how intelligence collection and desertion become a “virtuous cycle” driving the counterinsurgency, as well as the PAHD’s partnership with an elite public relations firm. The research finds that by combining demobilization policy and commercial marketing expertise, the Ministry of Defense seeks to rebrand the counterinsurgency effort as humane and intelligent, even if the reality of the ongoing war belies such positive projections. Central to the dissertation are questions of propaganda and the privatization of psychological operations, one part of the wider effort to tell and sell the Colombian success story to national and international audiences. The research places this propaganda effort in sharp contrast with the lived experiences of former rebels trying to transition to civilian life in the face of lucrative offers to rearm and a demobilization policy that keeps them involved in the war.

After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Duke University in 2001, Alex Fattal traveled to Colombia as a Fulbright Scholar. The photography project he started, Shooting Cameras for Peace, went on to become a Colombian non-profit and was exhibited widely, including display at the foyer of the UN General Assembly Building in New York. He then worked as a documentary researcher in South Africa before starting graduate school at Harvard University where his research has been supported by numerous foundations: The National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council (Mellon and OSF grants), the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. In 2013, Fattal was selected to be in Harvard's inaugural class of Horizons Scholars, a program which highlights the groundbreaking research of eight graduate students from across the university. 


  • [Bi-lingual book: Accepted for Publication with Peabody Museum Press]. Shooting Cameras for Peace: Youth, Photography, and the Colombian Armed Conflict. Forthcoming 2015.
  • “Los Traumas Post-Conflicto”: Líneas de Fuga y Sueños para Interpretar. Sextante. Forthcoming 2013.
  • “The Recombinatory Circulation of Kidnapping Videos Online: Media Events and the Constraint of Pro-FARC Counterpublics in Colombia.” Pending [American Ethnologist]

Chelsea JohnsonChelsea Johnson
“Implementing Peace: Power Sharing in Post-Conflict Societies”
University of California – Berkeley, Department of Political Science

Chelsea Johnson is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.  Her dissertation project examines variation in negotiated settlements to civil war that involve power-sharing formulas, with a particular focus on post-war Uganda.  She has served as an affiliated researcher at the Makerere Institute for Social Research (MISR), the Center for Basic Research in Kampala, Uganda, and the International Peace Institute in New York City, and has led an Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Project (URAP) on election-related violence at UC-Berkeley.  Her research interests include ethnic conflict and resolution, war-to-democracy transitions, and the political integration of ex-combatants.

Publications & Presentations:

  • “Insurgents, Institutions and Post-conflict Elections.”  (With Leonardo R. Arriola.)  2013, forthcoming.  In Elections, Accountability and Democratic Governance in Africa.  New York: Cornell University Press. 
  • “Election Violence in Democratizing States.” (With Leonardo R. Arriola). Under review.
  • “Power sharing in post-conflict societies: The case of Uganda.”  Institute on Peace and Conflict Studies, Olympia Summer Academy, Olympia Greece, 14 July 2013.

Roudabeh KishiRoudabeh Kishi
“Does Foreign Aid Lead to Armed Civil Conflict? Examining Aid Dependency and Ethnic Exclusion”
University of Maryland – College Park, Department of Government and Politics

In theory, dependence on aid (like on an abundant natural resource) can raise the risk of armed conflict by weakening state capacity, blunting economic growth, and fueling popular grievances about the lack of government accountability (with lower reliance on tax revenue). These effects can be exacerbated in states where ethno-politics dictate discriminatory spending allocations.  Roudabeh Kishi’s dissertation project explores this relationship both through cross-national statistical analysis, as well as through micro-level analysis via mapping locations of aid projects, ethnic groups (and their access to power), and conflict sites, utilizing newly available geocoded data. Geographic and temporal variety of these variables is captured in case studies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Sudan. The sub-national research provides better insight than previously feasible into how factors interact locally by illuminating causal processes and mechanisms.  In states where a large share of the population is excluded from access to political power, aid dependency is associated with a higher likelihood of the onset of civil conflict. 

Roudabeh Kishi is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland.  She holds an MA in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, and graduated magna cum laude from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a BS in Psychology.  She currently works at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management, and has previously assisted with research projects at Georgia Tech and Amnesty International USA.  She has won multiple awards, including scholarships from the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity at Columbia University, and has presented at a number of conferences both domestically and abroad.


  • “Cultural Influences on Mediation in International Crises.” (With Molly Inman, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, Michele Gelfand, and Elizabeth Salmon). Journal of Conflict Resolution (2013).
  • “Adapting Mediation to the Intrastate Crisis Context.” (With David Quinn, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, Michele Gelfand, Elizabeth Salmon, Pelin Eralp, and Daniel Owens). International Association for Conflict Management, June 30 – July 3, 2013; Tacoma, Washington.
  • “Measuring Progress: The Effects of Operationalization in the Foreign Aid and Development Literature.”(With Darragh McNally). International Studies Association, April 1-4, 2012; San Diego, California.

Kathleen Klaus Kathleen Klaus
“Claiming Land: Institutions, Narratives, and Political Violence in Kenya”
University of Wisconsin – Madison, Department of Political Science

Kathleen Klaus’ dissertation examines the relationship between land and patterns of election-related violence in Kenya since the onset of multiparty elections.  Recent explanations of political violence emphasize weak state capacity, corruption, ethnic arrangements, and rivalries over national resources. This dissertation argues that variation in local land institutions—or how people access and secure land—is a crucial yet overlooked factor in shaping the patterns of election-time violence.  Klaus demonstrates how the relative strength of local land institutions affects the formation of contentious land claims between groups, and how and when politicians exploit these claims to organize or enable violence.  The dissertation is based on 12 months of mixed-method field research that combines in-depth interviews with 230 rural Kenyans, focus group discussions, and an original household-level survey with 760 respondents across the Rift Valley and the coast regions. 

Kathleen Klaus is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2008-present). She earned her BA with high honors in Government from Smith College in 2007. Prior to graduate school, she was an IIE Fulbright Fellow in Malawi (2007-2008). Her research in Kenya has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the University of Wisconsin, in addition to foreign language and area studies (FLAS) fellowships to study Kiswahili. Upon the completion of her PhD, she plans to pursue a career in academia.

Working Papers & Presentations:

  • “Contentious Land Narratives and the Process of Electoral Violence in Kenya.” American Political Science Association. Chicago, IL. Aug 29-Sept 1, 2013.
  • “Land Patron or Land Lord? Property and Political Mobilization in Kenya.” Kenya at Fifty Conference. John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington D.C. Sept 26-27, 2013.
  • “Land and Patterns of Political Violence in Kenya’s Recent Elections.” African Studies Association. Baltimore, MD. Nov. 21-24, 2013.

Andy Levin Andy Levin
“Vulnerable Spaces: Explaining Sub-National Peacekeeping Outcomes in Civil War”
University of Pennsylvania, Department of Political Science

When the UN deploys peacekeepers within a country, why do some areas experience more conflict than others? Andy Levin’s dissertation examines variation in United Nations peacekeeping outcomes at the sub-national level by seeking to identify conditions under which peacekeeping is most and least likely to be an effective local conflict management tool. Levin’s research explores a variety of hypotheses considering how spatial variation in conflict dynamics, peacekeeping deployment patterns, and geography affect the UN’s efforts to mitigate violence within countries. The project employs a mixed-method approach, including both geographic information systems (GIS) and statistical analysis of an original dataset of peacekeeping deployment in eight countries, and historical case studies based on archival materials, media reports, and semi-structured interviews.

Andy Levin is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He earned an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University and a BA in Anthropology from Macalester College. Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, he worked for a number of organizations in Washington, D.C. focused on international and domestic conflict resolution. He also served as an AmeriCorps volunteer in St. Paul, Minnesota. Upon completion of his dissertation, he plans to pursue a career in academia.


  • "Vulnerable Spaces: Peacekeeping, Civil War, and Local Security." Midwest Political Science Association. 2013
  • "Explaining Sub-National Peacekeeping Outcomes in Civil War." International Studies Association. 2013.
  • "Context Matters: Explaining Sub-National Peacekeeping Outcomes." American Political Science Association. 2013.

Daniel NerenbergDaniel Nerenberg
“Cooperating with the Enemy: Leadership Dynamics and the Shifting Definition of ‘Betrayal' in the Palestinian National Movement, 1967-2012”
George Washington University, Department of Political Science

Daniel Nerenberg's dissertation investigates shifts in the boundaries of acceptable cooperation with the “adversary” in nationalist struggle, analyzing within-case variation in the West Bank and Gaza from 1967-2012. The research critically assesses the degree and quality of Palestinian social, economic, political, and security collaboration with Israel and Israelis, and the popular and elite responses to them. Most peace scholarship considers cooperation between warring ethnic or national groups to foster trust, build important coalitions between adversaries, and contribute to long-term prospects for peace. But certain types of cooperation at certain phases of contention elicit censure from within the identity group, furthering the trust gap between adversaries while creating legitimacy crises within the in-group. Understanding when and why cooperation is deemed acceptable is vital not only to our understanding of conflict between identity groups, but within them as well. The research is driven by 14 months of field research and employs content analysis of archival material and discursive analysis from interviews and focus groups.

Daniel Nerenberg is a PhD candidate in Political Science at George Washington University, majoring in comparative politics. His research focuses primarily on nationalism, identity construction, and contentious politics. After completing a BA and MA at McGill University, working on Islamism in the post-Soviet space and the conflict in Chechnya, Nerenberg shifted gears and moved to the occupied Palestinian territories. He worked in Palestine for a year and a half, researching and consulting for various peacebuilding NGOs, and serving as international liaison for the 2008 Palestine Investment Conference. Much of the basis for his current research stems from this early research trip. He expects to complete his dissertation by June 2014 to pursue a career in academia.        


  • “Jemal ad-Din al-Afghani: A Critical Assessment of his Role in Egypt.” McGill Journal of Middle East Studies. Vol. 7 (2002): 71-97.