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

Current Peace Scholars


Nathaniel AllenNathaniel Allen
"Confronting the Janus Face: The Armed Forces and the Politics of Democratization in Africa"
Johns Hopkins University/SAIS, International Relations
Ph.D. Candidate

Nathaniel Allen is Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He studies comparative politics, with a focus on democratization, civil-military relations, and insurgency, primarily in Africa. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Eleanor Foster Dulles Fellowship from Princeton University, the Harold W. Rosenthal Fellowship in International Affairs, and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention. Previously, he worked for the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, and as a Research Analyst with NORC at the University of Chicago, where he conducted impact evaluations of foreign aid programs in Africa and the Middle East. He holds a B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College and an M.P.A. in Development Studies from Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School.  

Nathaniel’s dissertation focuses on the role of armed forces in transitioning to and sustaining democracy. Combining cross-country regression analysis with paired comparisons from fieldwork in Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria and Angola, his study examines the linkages between civil-military relations, democratic transition, and the duration of emerging democracies in Africa. His study seeks to improve understanding of the military's role in democratization, and address ongoing policy debates on U.S. military engagement to build institutions that prevent violence. 


DekeyserElizabeth Dekeyser
An Antidote to Extremism: Religious Leadership and Civic Integration in Immigrant Communities in France
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Political Science
Ph.D. Candidate

Elizabeth Dekeyser is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her dissertation examines the question of when religions act for or against the state, arguing that much of the variation lies not in macro-level doctrines or individual-level belief but community-level norms. She focuses on local relationships between Islam and the state in France, using automated text analysis of geo-located social media data as well as in-depth ethnographic fieldwork. Her research has been supported by the Harvard Center for European Studies, the Center for International Studies at MIT, and others. Other work examines immigration, citizenship, and the public opinion of religious groups.

Elizabeth received a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University where she was a Stanford in Government Fellow and was awarded the Firestone Medal for excellence in undergraduate research


Tyler JostTyler Jost
Armies and Influence: A Civil-Military Theory of International Conflict
Harvard University, Department of Government
Ph.D. Candidate

Tyler Jost is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He earned his Master of Arts in Chinese Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. His research generally focuses on Chinese foreign policy, state competition in the nuclear and cyber domains, and the domestic sources of interstate conflict. His dissertation examines the relationship between civil-military relations and international conflict, leveraging new archival data on domestic institutions and decision-makers in four case countries: China, Taiwan, India, and Pakistan. Previously, Tyler was an officer in the U.S. Army, serving in U.S. Cyber Command and completing two combat tours in Afghanistan. He was selected as a Next Generation National Security Leader by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). His work has been published by CNAS and the U.S. Naval War College. Tyler speaks Mandarin Chinese and has conducted extensive language training and fieldwork in China and Taiwan.


Ore KorenOre Koren
Hunger Games: Analyzing Relationships Between Food Security and Violence
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, Political Science
Ph.D. Candidate

Ore Koren is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in Political Science. His research interests are broadly in the areas of international security, conflict and political violence, with a strong focus on forecasting the onset of violence. As a researcher, he devoted considerable energy into developing “localized conflict” approaches to understanding manifestations of violence that have traditionally been thought of mostly as initiated by states or leaders. Using a combination of “big data” analysis and archival research, Koren’s current work analyzes the implications of food security and climatic variations to conflict and political violence, and experiments with creating theoretically informed indicators to measure the distribution of different political and economic factors at the highly localized level. His research was published or is forthcoming in multiple academic journals, and has also been featured in policy-oriented outlets.

Koren earned a B.A. in government and history from Dartmouth College, where he was the inaugural recipient of the Ofer & Sons Fellowship and awarded the Rockefeller Prize for his honors thesis, in addition to multiple research awards and prizes. He also holds a M.A. in Political Science and a M.Sc. in Applied Economics from the University of Minnesota.


Egor LazarevEgor Lazarev
Laws in Conflict: The Politics of Legal Pluralism in Chechnya
Yale University & Columbia University, Order, Conflict, and Violence & Department of Political Science
Pre-Doctoral Fellow & Doctoral Candidate

Egor Lazarev is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at Yale University’s Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence and a doctoral candidate in political science at Columbia University. His dissertation explores state-building through the prism of legal pluralism in Chechnya, where Russian statutory law co-exists with shari’a and customary law. First it examines the historical development of legal pluralism and the political logic of promotion of non-state legal orders by regional authorities. Second it investigates the impact of conflict on the use of Russian law across Chechen communities. Third, it explores microfoundations of individual preferences for the alternative legal orders. The dissertation also compares Chechnya with neighboring Muslim-majority regions of Dagestan and Ingushetia, and investigates preferences for the alternative legal orders within Chechen diasporas in Europe. Egor has also conducted research in Central Asia, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. His research has been published in World Politics and Political Science Research & Methods.


Rachel SchwartzRachel Schwartz
“Constructing the ‘Parallel’ State: Institutional Evolution in Civil War”
University of Wisconsin–Madison, Political Science
Ph.D. Candidate

Rachel Schwartz is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Latin American and Iberian Studies from Haverford College. Prior to beginning graduate school, Rachel was a program associate at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. where she coordinated programs on citizen security and migration in Central America and Mexico and Congressional outreach. She is also a recipient of the Fulbright U.S. Student Award.

Rachel’s dissertation examines how wartime structures and practices shape the development and configuration of state institutions during and after armed conflict. The long-term effects of war on state building is a central question within political science; however, in the context of civil war, existing research has uncovered mixed findings. While some scholars suggest that wartime centralization and societal mobilization build state institutions, others find that the divided sovereignty and violence that characterize civil war instead degrades or destroys state institutions. Focusing on the Central American cases of Guatemala and Nicaragua, Rachel’s dissertation assumes a new approach to this puzzle, examining how different wartime political coalitions and strategies may create different kinds of institutional logics with divergent effects on state development and performance beyond conflict. Through archival and interview research and cross-case comparison, Rachel’s dissertation will trace the evolution of extractive, coercive, and administrative institutions from war to peace to understand distinct patterns of institutional evolution and to contribute to broader policy debates on postwar state reform and the rule of law.


Kunaal SharmaKunaal Sharma
“Persuasion to Reduce Radicalization: Theory and Evidence from India”
Columbia University, Department of Political Science
Ph.D. Candidate

Kunaal Sharma is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. His research is at the intersection of religion, conflict, and persuasion. His research has received a conditional acceptance for publication at the Journal of Conflict Resolution and published in Political Science Research & Methods.

His dissertation investigates the relationship between elite persuasion and religious extremism. It is based on extensive qualitative, observational, and experimental field research in Lucknow, the capital of India’s largest state that is home to chronic Sunni-Shia violence. The dissertation includes several parts. First, he uses large-scale survey to explain the causes of religious extremism among Sunni and Shia young adult men. Second, he uses semi-structured interviews and time spent with Sunni and Shia religious clerics and their followers to demonstrate how religious and economic elites in Lucknow use persuasive appeals to affect youth attitudes and behavior toward the outgroup. Finally, he uses experimental research to examine the effects of pro-peace elite persuasion on religious extremist attitudes and behavior, and whether such persuasion can sustain in the face of a counterargument to the peace message.


Paul Thissen Paul Thissen
“Legacy Institutions and Political Order in Weak States”
University of California, Berkeley, Department of Political Science
Ph.D. Candidate

Paul Thissen is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. His research has received support from the National Science Foundation; the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego; and the Institute of International Studies and Center for African Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds a B.S. in journalism and economics from Northwestern University. He has conducted research in Cameroon and Chad. In the 2015-2016 academic year, he was a visiting researcher and instructor at the Université Adam Barka d'Abéché in Chad.

Paul's dissertation investigates variation in the ability of non-state institutions to produce political order in weak states. In some places, chieftaincies, clans, sultanates, or kingdoms perform many of the functions of a state: enforcing legal codes, collecting taxes, guaranteeing property rights, and ensuring security. The leaders of some such institutions demonstrate an impressive command over their followers. Yet in other places, residents feel free to disobey their leaders with impunity. This project asks: Why are leaders of some non-state institutions able to command compliance from their followers while others are not? To address this question, Paul employs both ethnographic techniques and a survey experiment in peripheral regions of Chad, which ranked sixth on the 2014 Fragile States Index.