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Political Science Ph.D. Student Awarded SSRC and NSF Grants

Author: Elizabeth Lawton

Sandra Botero

Sandra Botero, a Ph.D. student in Notre Dame’s Department of Political Science, has won two prestigious fellowships to support her research on the policy outcomes of judicial decisions in Colombia and Argentina.

Botero received an International Dissertation Research Fellowship from the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and a Dissertation Research Improvement Grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for her project, “High Courts and Socioeconomic Rights in Latin America.”

As a Ph.D. fellow at the University’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Botero is studying under what conditions courts in new democracies produce effective political and social change—and why some rulings have greater policy impact than others.

“Receiving the two awards is 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.”

“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.

“Decisions of this nature can have—and in many cases are having—far-reaching budgetary, political, and social consequences, most of which we do not fully understand,” she says. “I am particularly interested in how a court’s interaction with civil society groups shapes the effects of its rulings.”

The SSRC and NSF grants have made possible Botero’s current field research in Argentina, which compliments earlier fieldwork in Colombia.

“My fieldwork has been a fascinating and challenging experience, allowing me to learn about the way high courts, the government, and civil society interact by observing them and by speaking with people who are directly involved in the cases I study,” she says.

A Colombia native and current Ph.D. candidate in political science, Botero earned a B.A. in history from the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá and an M.A. in Latin American studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

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.

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