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 five Peace Scholars who are conducting their dissertation research across the globe. To learn more, read their biographies below.

Current Peace Scholars

Grant GordonGrant Gordon
Monitoring Conflict to Deter Violence
Columbia University, Department of Political Science
Doctoral Candidate

Grant Gordon's current research and policy work analyzes the politics of violence, with a focus on examining how causal inference, predictive modeling, and crowd-sourced data can improve humanitarian intervention and change the underlying strategic dimensions of conflict. He has worked with the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping, the U.N. Refugee Agency, and governmental and non-governmental organizations throughout the Great Lakes Region, West Africa, and in Haiti and Somalia.

Grant’s dissertation examines whether the independent monitoring conflict deters violence before it takes place – and if so, why and when. This project draws on multiple forms of evidence – cross-national data that sheds light on broad trends in monitoring, carefully collected within-country data that assesses the impact of a satellite monitoring intervention implemented in Darfur, and individual-level survey data with Congolese Defense Officials that illuminates how monitoring affects individual behavior– to paint a full picture of whether monitoring conflict works. This dissertation makes three contributions to the study of conflict: it provides a unified framework to identify the conditions under which third-party documentation affects the strategic use of violence during war; it analyzes the mechanisms through which such monitoring affects violent behavior; and it delivers causal estimates on the effect of monitoring.

Diana Barbara GreenwaldDiana Greenwald
“From Resistance Movement to Ruling Party: The Effect of Conflict Legacies on the Fiscal Performance of New States”
University of Michigan, Department of Political Science
Ph.D. Candidate

Diana Greenwald is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Diana is the founder and graduate student coordinator of the Workshop on Modern Middle East Studies at the University of Michigan, and she was a 2010-2011 Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies Student Fellow. Prior to starting her Ph.D. at Michigan, Diana was a Research Assistant for the Middle East Youth Initiative at the Brookings Institution. Diana graduated from Georgetown University (B.A. 2006, Magna Cum Laude) where she majored in Government and minored in Arabic and Studio Art.

Diana Greenwald’s dissertation aims to understand the conditions under which new states are able to build fiscal capacity, or the ability to generate revenue. She also seeks to measure and explain the extent to which state revenue mobilization strategies are based on popular consent rather than coercion. Existing work has demonstrated important linkages between taxation and state building in Western Europe. Diana’s research contends that contemporary experiences of state formation via secession or independence demand new theories of fiscal capacity development. Many of these cases diverge from historical European cases because they a) are animated by organized secessionist or independence movements with varied legacies of fiscal management during conflict, and b) go through protracted post-conflict transitional periods where authority over fiscal policy is ambiguous or contested. While one component of Diana’s project seeks to explain variation in fiscal capacity across new states, she will also explore subnational sources of variation in public revenue generation, focusing in detail on two cases: Palestine and Timor-Leste.

Pellumb KelmendiPellumb Kelmendi
“When Rebels become Politicians: the Transformation of Rebel Organizations into Political Parties and their Performance in Post-War Elections”
Brown University, Department of Political Science
Doctoral Candidate

Pellumb Kelmendi’s dissertation analyzes the transformation of rebel organizations into political parties and their divergent performance in post-conflict elections. Although much has been written about civil wars, conflict resolution, and post-conflict state-building, we know very little about the conditions under which rebel organizations make their transition to political parties and the determinants of their performance in post-war elections. His project fills this gap and provides novel theoretical and policy insights by employing a mixed methods research design, including the in-depth comparative study of cases from the same region (the Western Balkans) and the analysis of a larger sample of cases from across the world.

Pellumb received a B.A. from the University of Chicago and an MPhil from the University of Cambridge. He has worked as a researcher at Cambridge and a consultant for the UNDP and has taught at Brown and Prishtina Universities. In 2014 he received the Smith Richardson Foundation’s World Politics and Statecraft Fellowship to conduct fieldwork dissertation research. Other awards he has won include: the Watson Institute’s Graduate Fellowship for policy relevant research, Brown’s Graduate Program in Development Fellowship, the Open Society Foundations Global Supplementary Grant, the Shell Centenary Scholarship from the Cambridge Overseas Trust, and the Hermon D. Smith Scholarship from the University of Chicago. His research interests include ethnic conflict, party politics, state building and the political economy of post-conflict reconstruction.


  • "Civil Society and Contentious Politics in Post-Conflict Kosovo", in Civil Society in Kosovo Since 1999, Ed. Mentor Agani. Prishtina: Center for Political Courage (2012).

Faith OkpotorFaith Okpotor
“Electing Violence: Explaining Post-Election Violence in Africa”
University of Delaware (UD), Political Science and International Relations
Ph.D. Candidate

Faith Okpotor holds master’s degrees in political science and international relations (UD), and Journalism (Northwestern), as well as a B.A. from Hampshire College. She is the recipient of several awards, including travel grants, UD Global Research Grant, UD University Graduate Fellowship, and a National Science Foundation Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. Her publications include a co-authored article in Africa Today and a chapter in an edited volume on U.S. foreign policy toward Africa. She has presented her research at meetings of the International Studies Association (ISA), ISA-Northeast, Northeastern Political Science Association, Peace Science Society-ISA Joint International Conference in Budapest, Conference on U.S. Foreign Policy and Africa at Tennessee State University, and ABIC International Conference at the National Defense College, Abuja, Nigeria. Before commencing her doctoral studies, she was a political journalist in Washington, DC, and Chicago.

This project seeks to provide an explanatory framework for understanding the occurrence of post-election violence (PEV) in Africa. Not only has PEV received scant theoretical and empirical treatment in the political violence and internal conflict literatures, electoral violence is consistently recurring, happening at a relatively constant rate for the past two decades even as war is on the decline. Extant research has neither provided a systematic explanation for the occurrence of PEV in Africa, nor explained why it occurs in certain contexts and not in others. My dissertation will fill this gap by making the following theoretical and empirical contributions. Theoretically, I will provide an ideal-typical model that explains PEV in Africa to be subsequently deployed in the analysis of individual cases. Empirically, using a multi-method research design, I will engage in aggregate quantitative analysis of PEV in Africa as well as in-depth case studies of three cases – two with and one without PEV. These are recent presidential elections in Ghana (2012), Nigeria (2011) and Côte d’Ivoire (2010). The case studies involve field research using semi-structured expert/elite interviews, process tracing and discourse analysis. My research will enhance security studies by delineating the mechanisms and processes involved in PEV with policy implications for mitigating electoral violence in Africa and other newly democratizing states.

Jonathan E. ShawJonathan E. Shaw
“Always Kadogo: The Mobilization of Children in Conflict and the Legacies of Social Marginalization in North Kivu, Congo (DRC), 1959-2003”
University of Michigan, Department of History
Ph.D. candidate

Jonathan Shaw was born and raised just outside of Machakos, Kenya. While finishing an B.A. in film studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI his personal and academic interests shifted toward studying African anthropology and history. After a life-changing trip to eastern Congo in 2003 he dedicated himself to understanding that context more deeply. He completed an M.A. in History at the College of William & Mary (2011). He has published work on vernacular filmmaking in Congo and has given invited talks at the University of San Francisco and Stanford University on that subject. He is the recipient of multiple research grants including the Social Science Research Council’s Mellon IDRF fellowship. Shaw is a member of USIP’s Young Scholars Network on conflict and gender-based violence. Outside of academia, Shaw has been involved in advocacy for Congolese asylum seekers in the U.S.

Thousands of children are making war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite international condemnation combatants under the age of 15 remain vital constituents of Congo’s informal armies. In particular, a group of militias known as the Mai-Mai heavily utilize young fighters called kadogo (little ones) in Swahili. As these children leave the battlefield and return to their homes urgent questions emerge concerning how best to deal with the consequences of their violence: in their own lives, in their immediate families, and within their home communities. Shaw’s project seeks to historicize the contemporary role of children in eastern Congo’s conflicts. By tracing genealogies, through both kinship and ideology, between the involvement of children in the recent Congo Wars and the Simba Rebellion of 1964—the first postcolonial conflict in Congo to see the heavy recruitment of children—his dissertation aims to help make sense of violence being committed by young warriors in contemporary North Kivu. This project will attempt to locate the discourses of belonging, marginalization, social maturity, and power that were being converted into a vocabulary of violence by child soldiers in both eras. In uncovering this language of power and tracing its violent inscription on individual bodies and in eastern Congolese communities, the project seeks to link the mobilization of children five decades ago and today in ways that enable policy makers and social scientists to more effectively understand and interpret the meaning of violence committed by militarized children in Africa’s Great Lakes region.