Undergraduate Fellows Program

We are excited to announce the Undergraduate Fellows Program 2020-21 as a joint initiative of the Institute of International Studies and the Center on the Politics of Development. The program is a year-long fellowship that presents a unique opportunity for a highly selective group of undergraduate students to work side-by-side with IIS/CPD affiliated faculty and graduate-level research associates on conducting original research. Fellows will acquire key skills such as statistical programming, map-making, and the knowledge necessary to study the analysis of international affairs, and/or the politics of developing countries. In addition, they will get access to workshops where scholars from UC Berkeley and other top universities present their projects which provides unique insight into the theories and methods used by experts, and exposure to the larger interdisciplinary research community. Fellows will attend seminars including MIRTH, Global History, Global Security Policy and Comparative Politics Colloquium. Each fellowship comes with a $1000 stipend.

Eligibility: Applicants must currently be enrolled at UC Berkeley and have completed at least one semester of study in residence. All majors are eligible and encouraged to apply. More detail on specific research projects and related required qualifications can be found below.

To Apply: The selection process for the 2020-21 cohort has been completed. Therefore, we are currently not accepting applications. Please check back next summer for information regarding the 2021-22 Undergraduate Fellow Program.

Meet Our 2020-21 Fellows


AY 2020-21 Mentors/Projects:

Nicholas Kuipers: Ethnic Inequalities in The Civil Service in French Indochina 1900-1940During the nineteenth and twentieth century colonization of what was once known as Indochina–Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam—the French relied heavily on recruiting members of the indigenous population into service in the colonial bureaucracy. Unique for its time, the French recruited civil servants from across the region almost exclusively through the use of examinations. This project aims to provide systematic evidence that these meritocratic procedures perpetuated ethnic inequalities in the region: on the exams, wealthier and thus better educated Annamese and Tonkinese systematically outperformed the less educated Cambodians, Cochinchinese, and Laotians. These privileged ethnic groups thus consolidated bureaucratic representation in ethnic catchments outside their own—fostering resentment on the populations over which they lorded.

Johnathan Guy: Energy Planning and the Developmental State in Southeast Asia. Countries currently pursuing state-led development strategies face challenges their predecessors did not, namely adapting to climate change and managing an energy system transition in the face of domestic and international pressures to simultaneously decarbonize and expand energy provision. This project aims to better understand political responses to these challenges by uncovering the political determinants of energy planning in developmental states, particularly in South and Southeast Asia.

Surili Sheth: Women’s Self-Help Groups and Political Participation in India. State governments in India have implemented different forms of women’s self-help groups (SHGs) in rural areas, with a focus on economic empowerment. How do these programs relate to mass political attitudes and behavior and women’s elite political participation? This project aims to understand the relationship between SHG programs and political outcomes, particularly for rural Indian women.

Juan C. Campos: State Capacity, Drug Violence, and Oil Theft: Evidence from Mexico. Driven by generating profit, Mexican drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) constantly look for new ways of diversifying their activities when faced with threats from rival criminal organizations and the state. Instead of depending solely on the production, transport, and sale of illicit drugs, DTOs also kidnap people for ransom, assassinate politicians that they disagree with, extort local businesses, and—among other things—steal oil from PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned oil industry. As such, this project seeks to answer the following question: what causes DTOs to diversify their activities and why do some of them tap into Mexico’s oil industry as a potential solution to their problems?

Adan S. MartinezInfrastructural Decision-Making Across Latin American Municipalities. Towards the end of the 20th century, international institutions and domestic policymakers considered a variety of different approaches to “urban problems” (e.g. urban environmental pollution, solid waste management, utilities infrastructure, etc.) in low- and middle-income countries. Most academic and policy debates centered on whether the state or private entities were better capable to handle service provision, highlighting key advantages and disadvantages of certain models. Since then, academic scholarship has recognized that identical policy prescriptions can yield various results across countries and sub-national units. Scholars have pushed for greater recognition of pre-existing conditions (e.g. levels of inequality, institutions, civil society groups, etc.) in articulating certain solutions to these problems. Do some preexisting factors matter more than others? Do all cities, of similar size, focus on the same set of problems? What explains certain decisions to focus on certain issues, like policing, rather than public health care? Do previous debates on the state’s role versus privatization still matter?

Alexander Stephenson: Foreign Intervention and State Security Sector Design. This project examines the effect of foreign intervention and influence on domestic state security sector design. It seeks to answer the question of why some leaders are successful at building loyal and effective armed forces while others fail despite ample resources? Methodologically, the project leverages historical data on coup attempts and security force composition.

Oren Samet: Civil Society and Political Parties on the International Stage. When and how do opposition groups around the world engage international actors in their efforts to challenge authoritarian governments? This project looks at two critical sets of actors – civil society groups and opposition political parties – and aims to develop a better understanding of their role and interactions at the international level. How do civil society groups conceive of and publicly project their relationship to politics and politicians? How do political parties work through international networks to help them achieve their goals at home?

Pranav Gupta: Aspiration, Assertion, and Anxiety – Rise of Right in India. Theory and evidence from India. What has led to the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral dominance in India? This project intends to explain the ideological expansion of the BJP in India, focusing on evolving social and conservatism. Alongside this, I am constructing a micro-level data across more than 300,000 polling stations to empirically examine determinants of BJP expansion. Specifically, I intend to create and consolidate numerous large individual and village level datasets for profiling Indian villages.

Anirvan Chowdhury: How do Political Parties Mobilize Women? Theory and Evidence from India: Political participation is of fundamental importance in democratic settings, but many democracies have suffered from low rates of women’s participation. This study focuses on the role of cultural norms and welfare policies in determining women’s political participation in India.