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Political Science Graduate Students Awarded Fellowships

Author: Carrie Gates

Geoffrey Layman Geoffrey Layman

In recognition of their research, three graduate students from Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science have been awarded prestigious fellowships.

Ph.D. student Sandra Botero won both an International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and a Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Michael Hartney received a dissertation fellowship from the National Academy of Education (NAEd) / Spencer Foundation, and Ryan Anderson received a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Heritage Foundation.

“External fellowships, like those won by Sandra, Michael, and Ryan, are always very positive developments for our Ph.D. program,” says Professor Geoffrey Layman, director of graduate studies for the Department of Political Science.

“They are great for the students’ development as scholars and provide them with important external validation of the quality and importance of their work. For the program, they offer a stamp of approval on the excellence of our students and also free up funds for recruiting more outstanding students.”

High Courts in Latin America

Sandra Botero Sandra Botero

Sandra Botero, a Ph.D. candidate in Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science and a Ph.D. fellow in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, says that the SSRC and NSF grants made possible her field research in Argentina, which complements her earlier fieldwork in Colombia.

“I interviewed government officials, politicians, litigants, human rights activists, lawyers, and researchers, as well as current and former justices and staffers in both high tribunals,” Botero says.

Drawing on data from local archives and interviews, Botero’s dissertation investigates the impact of recent high court rulings on socioeconomic rights in Latin America by examining the policy outcomes of landmark rulings on health, environmental, and social welfare issues in Colombia and Argentina.

“Receiving the two awards was a tremendous honor,” she says. “Together, they have allowed me to carry out exactly the kind of fieldwork I dreamed of when I first drafted my research project.”

The SSRC fellowship offers up to 12 months of support to Ph.D. candidates to conduct dissertation research outside of the US, particularly work informed by interdisciplinary and cross-regional perspectives. The NSF grant allows doctoral students to undertake significant data-gathering projects and to conduct off-campus field research.

Opportunities in American Education

Michael Hartney Michael Hartney

Ph.D. student Michael Hartney’s research agenda is to better understand how politics influence primary and secondary education policymaking, and ultimately, student achievement.

“Political scientists have learned a great deal about the workings of legislative, executive, and judicial institutions simply by asking ‘Who gets what, when, and how?’ from government,” Hartney says. “Similarly, my research uses the lens of American politics to show that the choices citizens make about how to organize and govern their schools have direct implications for the overall quality of American education.”

Hartney chose to focus on American education politics, he says, because schooling is unique among U.S. social policies in its reliance on universal access to quality public education as the chief mechanism for creating equality of opportunity and social mobility in society. “Unfortunately, inequality in educational opportunity too often keeps the American Dream from becoming a real possibility for kids whose families reside in the wrong neighborhood,” he adds.

He credits the faculty in the Department of Political Science with supporting him throughout his research and the fellowship application process.

“I was fortunate to have an excellent dissertation committee—Professor David Campbell and Associate Professors David Nickerson and Christina Wolbrecht—whose advice and careful evaluation of my dissertation proposal helped me craft a competitive grant proposal,” he says. “That ultimately won me the dissertation fellowship award. The faculty have really gone the extra mile for me at Notre Dame.”

The NAEd Spencer Fellowship seeks to encourage scholars from a wide range of disciplines to undertake research relevant to the improvement of education. The grants are awarded to individuals whose dissertations “show potential for bringing fresh and constructive perspectives to the history, theory, or practice of formal or informal education anywhere in the world.”

Religion in Public Policy

Ryan Anderson Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy whose research spans the natural law tradition in conversation with classical and contemporary liberalism. His dissertation focuses on debates about social justice and is tentatively titled, “Beyond Private Property and Social Welfare: Economic Justice and Economic Rights.”

As the William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, Anderson researches and writes about marriage and religious liberty. He also focuses on justice and moral principles in economic thought, health care, and education, and examines bioethics and natural law theory.

His recent work at Heritage focuses on the constitutional questions surrounding same-sex marriage. With Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis of Princeton University, he is co-author of the book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.

Anderson joined The Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society in 2012. The center examines the role of religion, family, and community in society and public policy, while endeavoring to shape a healthy discourse that appreciates the significance of religion and moral virtue in American life.

An Impressive Track Record

In addition to the fellowships received by current Ph.D. students, several recent graduates of the political science program have earned competitive post-doctoral fellowship positions, including Paul Avey at MIT, Ashleen Kelly at Princeton University, Javier Osorio at Cornell University, and Faisal Baluch at College of Holy Cross.

“These post-doc positions are similarly welcome,” Layman says. “They offer a clear indication that we are producing high quality students who do interesting and important work and they generally lead to tenure-track faculty positions for the students just down the road.

“The track record of our political science students in securing both external fellowships and post-docs shows that we are recruiting excellent Ph.D. students, highlights the outstanding training they are receiving in our program, and has helped us to develop an impressive record of placing our graduate students in tenure-track academic jobs.”

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