Our graduate students have extraordinary records of accomplishment and promise.  Training at UNC is comparable to that at the nation’s top PhD programs and we are proud to bring your attention to these students entering the academic job market.

For more information about any of our students, please see their individual web sites as listed below or contact Professor Frank Baumgartner, Placement Director

American Politics
Comparative Politics
International Relations
Political Theory

American Politics

John Lovett. American / Methodology Dissertation: Issue Leaders and Issue Challengers: How Individual Members of Congress Change Public Policy. (Baumgartner, Gross, MacKuen, Roberts, Stimson). My dissertation focuses on the role individual members of Congress play in policy change.  I argue that members of Congress use increased salience on specific issues to attempt to change the direction of policy in an issue area.  Success in policy change depends on the presence of extended salience, which weakens issue leaders’ ability to control specific public policies.  I test using self-collected datasets of member of Congress mentions in The Washington Post in nine issue areas between 1977 and 2012, as well as a 10th issue area (tax law) during the time period 1977 and 1986. Status: PhD Spring 2016. Visiting Lecturer of Political Science at Merrimack College. Publications: Political Communication (2014, co-authored); Political Research Quarterly (2015, co-authored); Policy Studies Journal (2015, co-authored). Teaching Interest Areas: Introduction to American Politics; State and Local Politics; Political Communication/Media and Politics; Political Parties; Campaigns & Elections; Congress; Public Policy; Agenda-Setting; Undergraduate-level Research Methods. Email: jlovett1982@gmail.com Web: http://www.john-lovett.com/

Steven Sparks. American Politics. DissertationConsequences of the top-two primary: How reform has reshaped campaigns and representation in California and Washington. The top-two primary modifies the typical two-stage process by placing all candidates into a single blanket primary. The two candidates that receive the most votes then proceed to a runoff election, regardless of party. Recently adopted in California and Washington, this system offers a context in which we can broaden our understanding of how institutions shape electoral behavior and representation. My dissertation finds that the top-two primary and the presence of same-party general election contests affect the influence of campaign spending, the positions candidates take when they run for office, and the methods and intensity with which they campaign. In short, my research reveals that the top-two primary produces several important consequences for representative democracy. Status: PhD (2019). Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oklahoma, 2019-2020. Publications: Political Communication (2019) and Electoral Studies (2018). Teaching Interests: State and local politics, parties and elections, political communication, interest groups, public policy, the American presidency, Congress, political behavior, women and politics, introductory American politics, research methods. Email: stevenwsparks@gmail.com Website: http://www.stevenwsparks.com

Comparative Politics

Cole Harvey. Comparative Politics / International Relations. Dissertation: The Machinery of Manipulation: A comparative analysis of principal-agent relationships and electoral manipulation in Russia, Ukraine and Mexico (Robertson, Carsey, Hooghe, Martinez-Gallardo, Wibbels). My research investigates how authoritarian leaders attempt to manage elections through electoral manipulation.  In particular, I investigate the principal-agent dynamic that occurs between leaders who wish to influence the election result and the individuals who are responsible for actually stuffing the ballot boxes, buying the votes, or forging the results. I argue that such principal-agent problems are not based purely on electoral competitiveness, as other models hold. While close elections may increase the risk for agents engaging in electoral manipulation, these risks are mitigated by deeper factors that need not correlate closely with the closeness of elections. In particular, two factors interact to affect the level and type of electoral manipulation observed. First, the consolidation of patronage networks controlled by high-level political patrons; agents are more likely to manipulate on behalf of a patron who controls a resource-rich, secure network of clients. Second, agents must evaluate the local risk of exposure and punishment for engaging in illegal forms of manipulation. Features that affect these risks–including opposition party activity, civil society, and courts–I call local constraints. Patronage consolidation and local constraints interact to influence the level of high- and low- risk forms of illegal electoral manipulation, such as falsification and vote-buying, respectively. Status: PhD Spring 2018. Publications: Electoral Studies (2016), Democratization (2017, co-authored with UNC grad student). Teaching interests: Intro to Comparative Politics, Russian / Post-Communist Politics, Varieties of Authoritarianism and Democratization. Email: harveyc@live.unc.edu. Website: http://colejharvey.web.unc.edu/

Katharine Aha. Comparative Politics/International Relations/Methodology. Dissertation: Ethnic Heterogeneity and Party Politics in Eastern Europe (Vachudova, Hooghe, Martinez-Gallardo, Maxwell, Robertson). The three articles of my dissertation demonstrate that ethnicity, long argued to be an important cleavage in post-communist politics, continues to structure how parties compete with one another in many party systems across the region. This structure of political competition varies depending on whether or not a country has a politically salient ethnic minority group, and when present, the minority group’s previous position within the former communist state. In the countries that do have ethnic minority parties, these parties have become enduring members of the party system. Mainstream formateurs have found them to be a constant ally in governing coalitions: ethnic minority parties are more likely to be asked to join a coalition than mainstream parties, even when controlling for other factors, like ideology, that we may expect to contribute to a party’s appeal as coalition partner. Additionally, after serving in government, ethnic minority parties are not punished at the polls for poor performance, despite consistent punishment of mainstream incumbents. This hints that the ethnification of party systems is here to stay, as ethnic minority parties continue to be successful at mobilizing voters and earning spots in government. Status: PhD Fall 2018. Currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Middlebury College. Teaching interests: Comparative Politics, European Politics, Central/East European Politics, Ethnic Politics, Party Politics. Emailkaha@middlebury.edu  Website: www.katharineaha.com

Political Theory

 

International Relations

Daniel Gustafson. International Relations. Minor: Political Methodology. DissertationCompounding Grievances: Economic Stress and Self-Determination Movement Contention (Stephen Gent, Navin Bapat, Mark Crescenzi, Graeme Robertson, Dave Siegel). In my dissertation, I develop a theory that highlights the combination of economic stress factors and state repression as the key determinants of contentious strategies for both self-determination movements and governments. While conflicts between self-determination movements and governments are most often defined by the domestic opposition’s long-term aspirations, my dissertation asserts that groups’ and states’ behaviors are subject to short-term concerns. I argue that in order to understand the patterns of violent and nonviolent tactics used by the actors in self-determination disputes, we must focus on short-term grievances caused by poor economic conditions and the use of violence. Specifically, my dissertation research suggests that as economic stress factors worsen and governments engage in repression, self-determination movements become more violent. Knowing that repression might trigger anti-government violence, governments can observe economic indicators in their strategic evaluations of the decision to violently crackdown. I argue that these dynamics do not only apply to the contenders in self-determination disputes, as economic conditions and the use of violence shapes public opinion over the disputants. I test these hypotheses using an original dataset of self-determination movement events in Africa. My dissertation generates new insights into the ways in which short-term grievances affect the long-term strategy of self-determination movements, and it offers important policy implications for conflict prevention and the protection of human rights. Status: Ph.D. Expected Spring 2019. Teaching Interests: Civil conflict, contentious politics, the politics of self-determination, quantitive methodology, and Bayesian modeling. Email: gustafson@unc.edu Website: http://gustafson.web.unc.edu

Mitchell Watkins. International Relations/Political Economy. Dissertation: My dissertation focuses on three questions pertaining to the impact of foreign aid on political institutions and governance in recipient countries. The first paper of my dissertation examines the effect of Chinese development assistance on recipient country compliance with Western aid conditionality in Sub-Saharan Africa. The findings suggest that development assistance from emerging donors might deter policy reform, particularly in high conditionality sectors such as governance, energy and natural resources, and macroeconomic policy. The second paper examines the effect foreign aid on the incidence of political budget cycles in developing democracies. The third paper investigates how foreign aid projects impact citizens’ perceptions of institutional trust and government legitimacy using geolocated data on project locations and multiple rounds of the Afrobarometer survey for three Sub-Saharan African countries. Status: Ph.D. expected in May 2019. Teaching Interests: International relations, international political economy, international institutions and global governance, politics of development. Email: jmitchellwatkins@unc.edu. Web: https://mitchellwatkins.com/

Rob Williams. International Relations Minors: Political Methodology,.Dissertation: The Geography of Secession (Mark Crescenzi, Santiago Olivella, Stephen Gent, Navin Bapat, and Patricia Sullivan) In my dissertation I ask why some rebel groups fight for secession and independence, while others are willing to use violence to secure more autonomy and self-governance within an existing state. I argue that because rebel groups are strategic actors, they realize that military victory or plebiscite is not the end of their political struggle; If they gain independence, they must then create a new state. States are territorial entities, and so the trajectory of any new state will be greatly influenced by the resources and challenges its territory holds. Knowing this, rebel groups whose territory is more conducive to governance and administration will push for independence, while groups whose territory is less suited will fight for autonomy within the state. However, governments are aware of which groups inhabit territories most suitable to secession and employ various measures to try and stop these conflicts before they can begin. To test these arguments, I focus on rebel movements tied to ethnic groups with defined homelands. By doing so, I am able to exploit geospatial data on population and government activity to compare the governability of subnational territories cross-nationally. I also explore the temporal dynamics of these phenomena in smaller scale studies focusing on different government preemption tactics. Status: PhD Expected Spring 2019.Teaching Interests: Conflict processes, terrorism and political violence, quantitative methodology, research methods, spatial modeling. Email: jrw@live.unc.edu Web: http://jrw.web.unc.edu