This year’s Peace Scholar cohort is composed of 20 Peace Scholars who are conducting their dissertation research across the globe. To learn more, read their biographies below.
Current Peace Scholars
- Dogus Aktan
- Elizabeth L. Brannon
- Alexandra Chinchilla
- Silvia Danielak
- Yumna Fatima
- Kristin Foringer
- Meghan Garrity
- Andrew (Andy) Goodhart
- Patrick Hunnicutt
- Rehan R. Jamil
- Sooyeon Kang
- Rabea Kirmani
- Dylan Maguire
- Cameron Mailhot
- Hilary Matfess
- Ana María Montoya
- Benjamin Naimark-Rowse
- Paul Olander
- Nahrain S. Rasho
- Daniel R. Thomas
Dogus Aktan (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of Denver, Josef Korbel School of International Studies
“Repression Beyond Political Survival: Contentious Mobilizations Against Third Parties"
Dogus’ dissertation, “Repression Beyond Political Survival: Contentious Mobilizations Against Third Parties", examines why and how governments support or repress protests against third parties, such as private resource extraction firms. He uses game theory to explore when protesters can attract the government's attention and support, and when and why they are more likely to be targeted with repression. In addition to game theory, Dogus uses statistical analysis to study the effect of repression in these settings.
Dogus is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. He received his MA in International Studies from the same institution. Before coming to the US for his graduate education, he graduated from Galatasaray University in Istanbul with a BA in political science. His research focuses on dynamics of repression and dissent. In particular, Dogus is interested in using formal theory to differentiate various ways contentious mobilization and political violence operate. In his dissertation research, Dogus examines the strategic use of repression against protesters that do not challenge the government.
Elizabeth L. Brannon (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow )
Ph.D. Candidate | Michigan State University, Department of Political Science
“The Role of Women in Former Rebel Parties in Post-Conflict Africa”
"The Role of Women in Former Rebel Parties in Post-Conflict Africa” examines the role of women in former rebel groups that have transitioned into political parties. Women’s participation in rebellion has a variety of positive effects—including increasing popular support, legitimacy, and lethality of groups. Through participation, it is possible for women to expand their political skillsets and networks. Elizabeth seeks to understand if former rebel women are able to build on these experiences. She is conducting interviews with former female fighters from the National Resistance Army in Uganda. In addition, she is conducting survey experiments in Uganda to understand the existence of negative bias against former female fighters. Through this project, Elizabeth intends to shed light on the politics of exclusion of female ex-combatants, while examining how rebel parties may use women's political representation strategically.
Elizabeth (Lizzie) Brannon is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University. Her dissertation, “The Role of Women in Former Rebel Parties in Post-Conflict Africa,” examines the role of women in rebel groups that have transitioned into political parties. The project will utilize data collected from fieldwork in Uganda and will analyze the political ambition and opportunities among former female fighters, as well as the roots of their exclusion from political power.
Beyond her dissertation research, Lizzie studies International Relations and Quantitative Research Methodology. She is interested in gender and conflict, women’s political representation, peacebuilding, and post-war politics. Specifically, her research examines how women’s engagement in conflict influences peace outcomes and changes to gender equality. Lizzie graduated with honors from James Madison University in 2017 with a B.A. in International Affairs and minors in Humanitarian Affairs and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Her research has received support from Michigan State University’s Center for Gender in a Global Context and the College of Social Science.
Alexandra Chinchilla (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of Chicago, Department of Political Science
“Advisors, Aid, and Arms: Limited Intervention in Conflict”
“Advisors, Aid, and Arms: Limited Intervention in Conflict” examines when, and to what extent, states intervene in conflict by supporting local proxies and how they manage the politics of proxy war. Using a blend of game theory, original quantitative data, interviews, and archival research at eight physical and digital archives, the dissertation shows how intervening states attempt to shape the proxy’s war goals, conduct of war, political coalitions, and leadership over time. Military advisors emerge as a key means used by intervening states to shape proxy behavior through monitoring and influencing its military. Qualitative case studies focus on U.S. intervention in the Salvadoran Civil war under the Carter and Reagan administrations from 1979-89; Soviet intervention in Afghanistan from 1978-79; and US intervention in Syria against the Islamic State, and Russian intervention in the Donbas, from 2014 to present.
Alexandra Chinchilla is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Chicago. Her dissertation, “Advisors, Aid, and Arms: Limited Intervention in Conflict,” examines when states intervene in conflict by supporting local proxies and managing the politics of proxy war. Using a blend of game theory, original quantitative data, and case studies of US and Russian intervention, Alexandra shows how intervening states use military advisors to monitor and influence proxy militaries as a key means of shaping the proxy’s war goals, conduct of war, political coalitions, and leadership over time.
Alexandra’s work is published in International Politics and supported by the Notre Dame International Security Center, The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts, and The University of Chicago Social Sciences Research Center. Additionally, Alexandra is a Data Research Fellow at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST). Alexandra holds a MA in Political Science from the University of Chicago and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She speaks Polish and some Russian and held internships or fellowships with The RAND Corporation, the Political-Economic section at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, and the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
Silvia Danielak (USIP- Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
“Spatializing Peacebuilding: An Infrastructural Approach to Post-War Violence and Vulnerability in the City”
In her dissertation, Silvia examines the evolution of peacebuilding in the context of urbanization and climate-driven vulnerability. Based on a case study of current UN-led stabilization efforts in Mali, she investigates how civil and military actors engage in urban and environmental planning, as well as notably infrastructure development, under the mandate of peacebuilding. Focused on the transnational production and circulation of ideas and practices of peace, her approach combines a historical and institutional analysis with spatial and material theory to identify the ‘geography of peacebuilding’ that ranges from international policy to local interventions. Studying the technology and discourse underpinning the evolution of peacebuilding in the context of urban and climate-induced hazards permits a better understanding of the institutional logics that shape peace interventions; on a theoretical level, it also contributes to the conceptualization of peacebuilding in urban studies.
Silvia is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she studies socio-spatial planning in the context of violent conflict and disaster risk. Silvia’s dissertation examines the evolution of peacebuilding in the context of urbanization and climate-induced hazards, based on a case study of current UN-led stabilization efforts in Mali. Her research focuses on the production and circulation of peacebuilding ideas and practices and their relations with urban planning and particularly infrastructure development. Her previous research on infrastructure and mobility, natural hazards, and migration in urban conflicts is published in Peacebuilding, Third World Thematics, and the Journal of International Migration and Integration.
Silvia has more than five years of professional experience in international development, local governance and conflict prevention across Africa, Europe and Central Asia. Prior to joining MIT, she served as a conflict prevention advisor to the African Union Border Program in Addis Ababa, and worked on conflict mediation in Kyrgyzstan. Silvia holds a Masters in Design Studies, Risk and Resilience from Harvard University, a M.A. in International Security from Sciences Po Paris, and a B.A. in European Studies from Maastricht University.
Yumna Fatima (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate |The American University, School of International Service
“Post-Split Violence in Splinter Groups”
Yumna’s research explores political violence, the behavior of non-state organizations, and effective ways to mitigate armed conflict. In her dissertation, Yumna examines the aftermath of splintering in violent organizations, focusing on how splintering affects violent activity in emerging groups. This research draws on a quantitative dataset of rebel organizations as well as case studies based on interviews of former militants, security officials and other terrorism experts.
Existing scholarship suggests that splinter groups should be more violent than their parents. In reality, some splinter groups are ineffective while others become deadly threats. Yumna focuses on the motivations for splintering to explain what drives varying behavior in the emerging groups and differences in violence among them. She aims to understand the aftermath of splintering to comprehend group behavior and from a policy perspective, to realize when it is useful to induce splits or when it may be counterproductive.
Before beginning her doctoral studies, Yumna worked as a journalist in Pakistan, where she is currently engaged in fieldwork. In Pakistan, she taught self-designed courses on comparative politics, political violence and research design. Her research was supported by the AU’s School of International Service and the Office of the Provost.
Yumna holds a MA with distinction In International Relations from Queen Mary University of London, UK, where her dissertation researched how covert drone warfare engages with the traditional legal-normative framework of war. She also completed a BSc in Politics and Economics from LUMS University, Pakistan.
Kristin Foringer (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of Michigan, Sociology Department
“Symbolic Reparations and Collective Memory in Post-Conflict Colombia”
Kristin’s research focuses broadly on the intersection of politics and culture in post-conflict contexts using qualitative sociological methods. Her dissertation, “Symbolic Reparations and Collective Memory in Post-Conflict Colombia,” examines the policies and practices surrounding symbolic reparations—broadly defined as non-monetary benefits aimed at ensuring the preservation of historical memory—and their impact on state-sponsored collective memory projects in Colombia including museum exhibitions, academic investigations, and public art projects. She bases this analysis on in-depth interviews with various institutional actors and memory “producers,” site visits, and archival analysis. Her research contributes to a broader academic conversation about the nature of interactions between the state and civil society in the construction of historical and cultural narratives about violence in post-conflict settings. Ultimately, her findings aim to illuminate the impact of symbolic reparations policy on culture and position Colombia’s case within the broader global community of post-conflict societies pursuing similar paths to peace.
Kristin is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Michigan, where she focuses on the intersection of politics and culture using ethnographic and comparative-historical methods. Her dissertation, “Symbolic Reparations and Collective Memory in Post-Conflict Colombia,” examines policies and practices surrounding symbolic reparations in Colombia and their impact on state-sponsored historical memory projects including museum exhibitions, academic investigations, and public art projects.
Kristin previously researched the political construction of “victimhood” in the legislative debates leading up to the passage of Colombia’s Victims’ Law of 2011. Her work was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the University of Michigan’s Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, and the University of Michigan’s International Institute and Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Kristin holds a MA in Sociology from the University of Michigan and a BA in Policy Studies and Hispanic Studies from Rice University.
Meghan Garrity (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of Pennsylvania, Department of Political Science
“Disorderly and Inhumane: Explaining 100 years of Mass Expulsion”
Garrity’s dissertation examines why and how governments expel groups. She developed an original database of mass expulsion episodes throughout the world during 1912-2012, including information on the expelling country; region; duration; population expelled; ascriptive attributes; destination of expulsion; and regime type. From this data she details the evolution of mass expulsion over a century. The quantitative historical analysis is complemented with four paired-comparison case studies of expulsion and non-expulsion to deduce the enabling conditions that facilitate expulsion in some cases, while constraining it in others. The evidence for this project comes from secondary historical sources and primary archival research at the International Committee for the Red Cross, League of Nations, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and British National Archives. The dissertation proposes a new theoretical framework for understanding government motivations for mass expulsion and offers evidence-based policy recommendations to identify and deter its use.
Meghan Garrity is a Political Science PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include forced migration, ethnic conflict, nationalism, genocide and human rights. Her dissertation, “Disorderly and Inhumane: Explaining 100 Years of Mass Expulsion,” investigates why and how governments expel unwanted populations. The project takes a longue durée approach, identifying variation in expulsion patterns in the century after 1912. It explains the motivations behind governmental decisions to expel as well as the enabling conditions that facilitate expulsion and the constraining conditions that prevent its use.
Garrity has over ten years of experience as a humanitarian and development practitioner, having worked throughout Africa and the Middle East, and continues to engage in annual consultancies. Her research was supported by the University of Pennsylvania’s Browne Center, Perry World House, the Center for the Study of Ethnicity, Race and Immigration, and Penfield and Teece Dissertation Research Fellowships. She was awarded the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by Graduate Students and the Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students. Garrity received her M.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania (2018) and her B.A. in International Studies from Macalester College (2008).
Andrew (Andy) Goodhart (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | The Ohio State University, Department of Political Science
“Designing International Orders that Endure: How the Thickness of Social Purpose Affects the Durability of Order”
Andy's dissertation is titled “Justifying the International Order: How Principles of Legitimacy Unite and Divide the International Community." It asks why some powerful countries emphasize the domestic political arrangements of other countries when they seek partners. Some leading countries, like the United States, find it easier to cooperate with similar countries, missing out on opportunities to cooperate with dissimilar ones (e.g., “losing China” during the Cold War), and expending remarkable resources to reform countries that govern themselves differently. He hypothesizes that this attraction toward similar partners is not universal, however. It increases when countries believe they are under threat. This approach produces positive results over the short-term because it enables deeper cooperation with a few countries but, over the long-term, it forecloses opportunities for mutual gain and generates resistance by countries who resent the attention to their internal affairs.
Andy Goodhart is a PhD candidate in Political Science at Ohio State University, majoring in International Relations and minors in Political Methodology. He is currently a predoctoral fellow with Ohio State’s MESO Lab (Models of Emergent Social Order), which is led by Bear Braumoeller.
Andy’s primary research interest is the effect that international orders have on patterns of conflict and cooperation. His dissertation is titled “Justifying the International Order: How Principles of Legitimacy Unite and Divide the International Community," and it focuses on the trade-offs hegemons face when they establish the rules and goals of their order. Relatively more permissive membership rules allow the hegemon to expand its order, but they dilute the consensus needed for cooperation toward shared goals. His mixed methods dissertation uses a unique dataset, case studies and agent-based modeling to investigate how these trade-offs affect global patterns of conflict.
Andy’s work is supported by the Charles Koch Foundation and Ohio State University’s MESO lab. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Andy served as a Defense Strategist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His 2020 piece (with Jami Taylor) titled “LGBT Military Service Policies in the United States” is forthcoming from Oxford Research Encyclopedia.
Patrick Hunnicutt (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of California, Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management
“Services for Stability: How International Aid and Public Services Affect Recovery after Conflict”
Patrick’s dissertation includes two research projects outlining how the delivery of different services, like clean water and electricity, affects political stability across different moments of the post-conflict period. His first research project examines the strategic use of small public goods projects, called “Quick Impact Projects” (QIPs), by United Nations’ peacekeepers. Following critiques that QIPs destabilize the peacebuilding process, he relies on novel data to assess whether QIPs contribute to additional violence in Mali. He argues that QIPs have the greatest potential to reduce violence when deployed in ways that do not directly compete with armed groups’ political objectives.
His second research project relies on data collected during fieldwork in Liberia to explain how government failures to provide basic services spark violent protest. He argues that persistent shortages in certain services like electricity erode citizens’ perceptions of government responsiveness, thereby increasing the likelihood of protest even well after conflict has ended.
Patrick Hunnicutt is a Ph.D. Candidate at UC-Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, where he studies domestic and international actors’ provision of public services in countries emerging from violent conflict. Patrick also studies broader issues related to natural resource governance, citizen monitoring, and peacekeeping. His work has been published in International Peacekeeping and the Journal of Public Administration and Theory.
In addition to the United States Institute of Peace, the Folke Bernadotte Academy and the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation fund his dissertation research. Patrick received a BA with research distinction from Duke University prior to attending the Bren School.
Rehan R. Jamil (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Brown University, Department of Political Science
“Social Policy and Changing Citizenship Boundaries in Pakistan”
What are the political conditions under which programmatic social welfare expansion occurs in new democracies in the Global South? What consequences do these programs have for citizens who are engaging with state services for the first time? Rehan’s dissertation seeks to address these questions by analyzing the political origins and citizenship consequences of Pakistan’s largest safety net: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). His dissertation examines the political origins and design of BISP, then analyzes the effect of the transfer on beneficiaries’ citizenship practices and rights claims. Rehan uses a mixed methods research design, including an original household survey, qualitative interviews, focus groups and historical process tracing of social policy expansion over time. Rehan’s dissertation contributes to the study of social policy expansion in South Asia, as well as a broader audience interested in the consequences of social policy interventions for democratic outcomes in the Global South.
Rehan Rafay Jamil is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Brown University. His research interests include the politics of poverty alleviation, social policy and citizenship rights in South Asia. Rehan’s dissertation, “Social Policy and Changing Citizenship Boundaries in Pakistan”, examines the political origins and citizenship impacts of Pakistan’s social safety net: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) one of the largest cash transfer programs targeted exclusively at women in the Global South.
Rehan’s research received support from the Brown Global Mobility fellowship, the Watson Institute, the Center for Contemporary South Asia, Pembroke Center, and the Association for Pakistan Studies. Rehan holds a Masters degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in History and Politics with High Honors from Oberlin College. Prior to starting his Ph.D., Rehan worked in Washington, D.C. with the World Bank on Social Protection & Labor.
Sooyeon Kang (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of Denver, Josef Korbel School of International Studies
“From Reform to Resignation: Explaining Why Some Protest Movements Escalate Their Demands”
Using a combination of quantitative analysis and qualitative case studies of historical protest movements in South Korea and Hong Kong, the dissertation aims to understand why movements sometimes intensify their claims and analyzes what happens between asking something of the government to demanding that it must go. In the summer of 2019, thousands took to the streets in Hong Kong to protest a proposed extradition bill that would allow criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China. However, even after Carrie Lam announced the formal withdrawal of the controversial bill, protests continued with some calling for greater democracy and others demanding her resignation. This case, far from being unique, is indicative of an unresolved puzzle of why some movements that begin with reformist demands (seeking redress in a certain policy space) escalate to maximalist claims (demanding the ouster of a national leader or the entire regime).
Sooyeon is a Ph.D. candidate at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, and a pre-doctoral fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her dissertation titled, “From Reform to Resignation: Explaining Why Some Protest Movements Escalate Their Demands,” focuses on the interaction between mass movements and the government, answering the question why movement goals sometimes evolve. Her general research interests include mass mobilization, political violence, political psychology, and all things North Korea.
Prior to her doctoral studies, Sooyeon developed content for a HarvardX/ Harvard Humanitarian Initiative course, “Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster”; employed various methodologies to assess physical and political conditions in North Korea for think tanks and international organizations; and evaluated grant acquisition and management strategies for an international humanitarian relief organization. Her work is published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Washington Post – Monkey Cage, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. She holds an MA in International Affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a BA in Government and Psychology from Dartmouth College.
Rabea Kirmani (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Georgetown University, Department of Government
“Surviving: How Persecuted Communities Respond to Repression through Migration, Mobilization and Identity Obfuscation”
Rabea’s dissertation looks at how persecuted communities’ divergent responses to state repression are constrained by the mutability and perceptibility of their identity and the presence or absence of societal repression. Her research asks, how do communities survive extreme, targeted political violence; what tactics do they use, how and why? Recent scholarship shows that even under life-threatening situations, people make choices. However, little is known about the diversity of choices beyond protest and migration. This project demonstrates that peoples’ responses expand beyond fight or flight and are fundamentally constrained by the mutability and external perceptibility of their persecuted identity. Communities are more likely to engage in identity obfuscation when they can, but if state repression is accompanied by societal repression, it bolsters the state’s ability to target dissidents, closing all survival options except migration.
This project looks at the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan and the subsequent experiences of ethnic and religious communities physically divided by arbitrarily drawn geographical borders. Extensive archival research and data from oral histories, official censuses, household surveys and newspapers are used to compare how similar communities responded differently to repression over time.
Rabea Kirmani is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. Her research focuses on state repression, identity politics, and mass migration movements with a regional focus on South Asia. Other projects examine attitudes towards refugees, impact of land ownership on migrant experiences and state-led identity formation through official census categories. Rabea’s research has been supported by the APSA Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs, the Georgetown Graduate School of Arts and Science and the Hayek Fund for Scholars.
Before coming to Georgetown, Rabea was a non-resident research associate at the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government in Dubai and a senior research associate at Gallup Pakistan. She is a Fulbright Scholar and holds an MA in political science from Columbia University and a BSc from the Lahore University of Management Sciences. You can find more information about Rabea’s research and teaching at www.rabeakirmani.com and follow her on Twitter @rabeakirmani.
Dylan Maguire (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Northeastern University, Department of Political Science
“Strategic Partnerships: The Impact of Ideology on Militia Engagement with External State Support”
The conventional wisdom holds that a militia which receives support from an external statefunctions as its proxy and has limited agency. Some militias receive support from a single state while others have simultaneous diplomatic, military, and financial ties to multiple states. If militias are proxy actors with limited agency, why do some militias partner with several states at once? Conversely, if militias value their autonomy, why do some militias have one enduring state partner? Militias, just like states, have agency in strategic decision-making. The interaction effects of each actors’ ideology and threat perceptions shape the durability and number of potential partnerships.
These effects produce two types: enduring partnerships and diversified partnerships. Militias will form enduring partnerships with a single state when ideology and threat perceptions align. Militias will diversify their support networks through short but intense partnerships with multiple states when a shared threat exists but ideological congruence is low.
Dylan Maguire is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Northeastern University. His dissertation, “Strategic Partnerships: The Impact of Ideology on Militia Engagement with External State Support,” examines transnational political-military partnerships between militias and states through a focus on the Lebanese and Syrian civil wars. His research interests include grey zone conflict, intrastate political violence, and the domestic drivers of foreign policy.
Prior to returning to graduate school, Dylan served in the Middle East & North Africa Division at the International Republican Institute. He was also a supporting researcher at the Atlantic Council and the National Defense University and held an experiential fellowship at the U.S. Department of State. He contributed analysis for War on the Rocks and is published in the Proxy War Project Conflict Series and the Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy. Dylan holds a M.A. from Boston University in International Affairs and a B.A. from John Jay College in Government. He was born in New York but spent his formative years in France eating croissants and exploring European battlefields.
Cameron Mailhot (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Cornell University, Department of Government
“Blueprints for Peace: International Missions, Domestic Commitments, and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding Reforms”
The international community plays an increasingly central role in countries’ endeavors to transition out of conflict, yet some international peacekeeping missions succeed at building lasting peace, while others fail. Why? In his dissertation, “Blueprints for Peace: International Missions, Domestic Commitments, and Post-Conflict Reforms,” Cameron seeks to answer this question by drawing explicit attention to the causes and effects of the substantial disconnect in the peacebuilding activities in which peacekeeping missions engage and the peacebuilding activities outlined in the peace agreements they are mandated to enforce. In doing so, he builds a theory around the increasingly programmatic nature of international peacebuilding initiatives and examines the effect that peacebuilding missions have on state-society relations when they become embedded in post-conflict countries. His dissertation research combines analyses of an original dataset of all post-Cold War regional and UN peacekeeping missions with archival research, interviews, and a public survey in Kosovo.
Cameron Mailhot is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Government at Cornell University. His research focuses on the role of the international community in post-conflict countries. In his dissertation, “Blueprints for Peace: International Missions, Domestic Commitments, and Post-Conflict Reforms,” Cameron examines variation in the international enforcement of peace agreements and effects this has on peace outcomes.
Cameron’s research, fieldwork, and training have been supported by American Councils, the Cornell Department of Government, the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Purdue Peace Project, and the US Department of State. During his time in Kosovo, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Political Courage. Beyond his dissertation, his research interests include nation- and state-building, the origins of sociopolitical trust, and transnational linkages of white nationalism in the U.S. and Europe.
Prior to starting his Ph.D., Cameron worked in the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota, where he conducted research on transitional justice and contributed to a consortium dedicated to increasing public awareness of the patterns of disappearances in northern Mexico. Cameron is from Crosby, Minnesota, and holds a B.A. from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Hilary Matfess (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Yale University, Political Science Department
“Frontlines and Home Front: Women's Wartime Mobilization and Post-Conflict Political Representation”
The post-conflict legacies of women’s wartime mobilization — into armed groups or non-violent civil society organizations — remain poorly understood. This project addresses two questions: 1. Does women's participation in rebel groups increase the likelihood of a successful rebel to party transition? and 2. Do different forms of women's wartime mobilization produce different forms of political representation after war? To address these questions, this project examines rebel groups and post-civil war politics between 1979 – 2019, contributing to the study of rebel-to-party transitions, rebel governance, and the dynamics underlying changes in women’s political rights and representation. This mixed methods project relies on hypothesis testing on an original dataset of non-state armed groups involved in civil conflict and the associated post-conflict political outcomes, as well as qualitative case studies built from qualitative fieldwork and archival research.
Hilary Matfess is a PhD Candidate in Yale University’s Political Science department, where her research examines gender and conflict, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Her dissertation, “Frontlines and the Home Front: Women's Wartime Mobilization and Post-Conflict Political Representation”, examines whether variance in women’s post-conflict rights and representation can be traced to different types of wartime activities. The project also examines the degree to which rebel groups are marked by a gendered division of labor and the significance of such a division for the trajectory of a rebel group.
Women and the War on Boko Haram, Hilary’s first book, was published by Zed Books in 2017. Her academic research is published in International Security, Security Studies, and African Studies Review; she writes for Newsweek, the Washington Post’s ‘Monkey Cage Blog,’ and World Politics Review. She previously worked as a consultant for USIP’s RESOLVE network, Strategy for Humanity, the International Republican Institute, and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, among others. Hilary graduated with a joint BA/MA from Johns Hopkins and SAIS in 2015.
Ana María Montoya (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Duke University, Department of Political Science
“Restoring the Rule of Law in the Aftermath of Civil War: The Judicial Enforcement of Land Restitution Orders in Colombia”
Ana María’s dissertation project explains why public authorities, both politicians and bureaucrats, comply with judicial decisions enforcing land property rights of victims. She proposes a new typology of distinct patterns of compliance based on the combination between different levels of state capacity and the public authorities’ political will to implement judicial decisions. To pursue this goal, she leverages original data that range from primary sources to household surveys, and combine diverse methodological methods, including quantitative methods and extensive fieldwork.
Ana María Montoya is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Duke University. She is passionate about understanding the key factors that lead to the emergence and maintenance of the rule of law in post-conflict settings. Her research has received financial support from both internal grants at Duke and an external research grant awarded by the Women's World Banking Network.
Before coming to Duke, Ana María worked as a full-time research assistant for three years at the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) at Vanderbilt University. Currently, she is affiliated with the DevLab@Duke where she collaborates on the design and evaluation of international development programs. To date, she has conducted a performance evaluation of the USAID/Colombia’s Land and Rural Development Program (LRDP, 2013-2018).
Benjamin Naimark-Rowse (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Tufts University, The Fletcher School
“Bridging Relationships in Pro-Democracy Social Movements”
In an era of political polarization, it is important to highlight not only how social movements deconstruct political institutions by organizing and mobilizing to undermine governments’ pillars of support, but also how they construct and participate in political institutions like negotiations and elections. This dissertation is comprised of three essays that detail how relationships between leaders across “enemy” lines affect the arc and outcome of social movements. The first essay details why and how South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Movement leaders sought to liberate their enemies as part of their resistance strategy. Whereas this first essay explores the development of bridging relationships, the second essay explores the dismantling of them. It explains why the 2019 nonviolent uprising in Sudan faced systematic and widespread repression, but uprisings in 1964 and 1985 did not. The third essay explores why and how institutional donors in the U.S. support nonviolent, pro-democracy, social movement building in non-democracies.
Benjamin is the Topol Fellow in Nonviolent Resistance at The Fletcher School where he teaches and researches social movements. His dissertation is comprised of three essays: “Dollars and Dissent: Foundation Support for Social Movement Building,” “Liberating the ‘Enemy’ in South Africa’s Anti-Apartheid Struggle,” and “Surviving Success: Nonviolent Rebellion in Sudan.” Benjamin is a Visiting Scholar at SciencesPo, a Term Member in the Council on Foreign Relations, a Truman National Security Fellow, and an ICNC Research Fellow. Throughout 2021, he will be a Graduate Research Fellow at the Harvard Program on Negotiation.
Benjamin holds a M.P.A. from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School and a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago. He served as a Program Officer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, an electoral observer with The Carter Center, and a board member of the University of Chicago’s Human Rights Program. He co-directed Darfurian Voices, the first public opinion survey of refugees from Darfur on issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation. His publications include “Nonviolent Resistance” and “The Founding Myth of the United States of America.” His teaching includes “From Gandhi to the Arab Spring: Theory and Practice of Nonviolent Resistance.” He is the father of twin girls.
Paul Olander (USIP-Minerva Peace and Security Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Loyola University Chicago, Department of Political Science
“Private Military Corporations in Civil Wars”
This project aims to address why states fighting civil conflicts hire Private Military and Security Corporations (PMSCs) and if doing so helps to hasten state victory. Over the past thirty years, many states have turned to PMSCs for assistance defeating rebel groups; yet, broad understanding of the causes and outcomes of this choice lacks. Olander builds upon insights from principal-agent theory to explain when states willingly delegate military and security tasks to PMSCs during civil conflicts, and what conditions affect when PMSCs help states achieve victory. The results suggest that states’ work with PMSCs vary depending on what types of tasks PMSCs perform, but factors associated with threat levels from rebels and state capacity appear to be the most important. In addition, the results suggest that working with PMSCs delays state victory. These results offer insight into a growing field of research as well as important policy implications.
Paul Olander is a PhD. candidate at Loyola University Chicago. His dissertation, “Private Military Corporations in Civil Wars”, which evaluates states’ hiring of private military and security corporations (PMSCs) in fighting civil conflicts and the effects of this choice on how quickly states win civil conflicts. Paul’s broader research interests include international conflict resolution, and the role non-state actors play in these processes.
From fall 2014 to spring 2020 Paul worked as a graduate student aid in the Political Science Department at Loyola University Chicago. During this time, he received Graduate Student Tuition Awards, as well as the Loyola University Chicago, Political Science Tuma-Gravett Award for Academic Excellence. Paul also coauthored a book chapter, titled, “Supply Side Incentives for Mediation—Which Actors Mediate International Crises?” with Dr. Molly Melin, for The Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises.
Nahrain S. Rasho (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | University of California, Davis, Department of Political Science
“Ethno-federalism and Subnational Ethnic Conflict: The Consequences of Regional Autonomy on Conflict Among Regional Ethnic Minority Groups”
Nahrain’s dissertation, “Ethnofederalism and Ethnic Conflict: The Consequences of Regional Autonomy on Local Ethnic Conflict”, examines whether territorial autonomy increases conflict among local ethnic groups. Regional autonomy offers a solution to managing disputing claims for ethnic nationalism within a multiethnic state. However, autonomous regions always comprise of ethnic minorities of their own. Nahrain’s dissertation argues the regional power distribution between ethnic majority and ethnic minority groups increases the marginalization of regional ethnic minorities and creates opportunities for local ethnic conflict. Her dissertation uses a mixed-method approach rooted in case-study analysis and statistical modeling. Nahrain studies the consequences of regional autonomy in Iraq to demonstrate how Kurdish regional autonomy increased demands for autonomy by ethnic minorities within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. She tests the effects of ethnofederal arrangements on regional ethnic conflict using regional-level data on ethnic groups around the world to examine whether ethnofederal arrangements increase local ethnic conflict.
Nahrain S. Rasho is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of California, Davis. She studies comparative politics and international relations with an emphasis on nationalism, ethnic conflict, and state-building strategies. Her dissertation examines whether territorial autonomy increases regional conflict among local ethnic groups, utilizing case studies within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. From this research, she tests the effects of ethno-federal arrangements on regional ethnic conflict around the world.
Nahrain’s research interests include addressing nationalism and ethnic conflict through institutional design. She researches political solutions to ethnic conflict at local levels of society by using the case of Kurdish Regional Autonomy in Iraq. To date, she’s completed fieldwork in northern Iraq where she interviewed civilians, political activists, and politicians from ethnic minority communities within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Her research has been funded by the Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Educational Foundation, the Rothchild Memorial Graduate Research Award, the Institute of Social Science, and the Suad Joseph Graduate Student Research Award on Middle East and/or South Asia Studies. Nahrain graduated with an MA in global politics from Loyola University Chicago and a BA in political science from the University of Illinois Chicago.
Daniel R. Thomas (USIP Peace Scholar Fellow)
Ph.D. Candidate | Columbia University, Department of Political Science
“Conflict and Social Integration: How do Violence and Status Shape Social Behavior?”
Daniel Thomas’ dissertation studies the social integration of internally displaced people (IDPs) into new settings following conflict and mass displacement. Globally, millions of civilians bear the brunt of conflict by being displaced from their homes. Moreover, many experience violence personally, while also losing access to their assets and systems of support. However, we know little about how these factors reshape local social networks and communities outside the direct scope of the violence. To examine this, Thomas employs a multi-method research design in areas of active conflict in Myanmar and Ukraine, focusing on the effects of personal experiences of violence and socioeconomic status on social integration. The project develops a theory of social integration after displacement and tests it empirically using original surveys, social network analysis, causal inference strategies and qualitative interviews. The research contributes to the understanding of social cohesion among IDPs and host communities and post-conflict recovery.
Daniel R. Thomas is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at Columbia University. His dissertation, titled “Conflict and social integration: How do violence and status shape social behavior?” explores the ability of internally displaced people to successfully socially integrate into new settings during conflict. The research for this project takes place in Myanmar and Ukraine, using original surveys, social network analysis, causal inference strategies and qualitative interviews.
His research was supported by several organizations, including the International Growth Centre, Innovations for Poverty Action, the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund, and several institutions at Columbia University. He has also been a visiting researcher at the Higher School of Economics in the summer of 2017 and a PhD intern at Facebook Core Data Science in the summer of 2020. He contributed to projects on rural electrification in India with co-authors from the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins SAIS, where he is a student fellow. Before beginning his PhD, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a BA in Political Science.