The Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University is pleased to announce the 2012 class of Senior Honors Students. This marked the first year that CDDRL is officially an interdisciplinary honors program, allowing the Center to reach beyond the traditional international relations discipline and recruit students from computer science, economics, political science, history, and beyond.
The 2012 class is composed of 12 remarkable juniors with a global footprint and social conscious, who are interested in undertaking significant research in areas examining civil society in Sudan, Uganda's emerging oil economy, technology's impact on democracy, and transnational justice, among others. This diverse cohort was selected from among a competitive pool of applicants for the opportunity to join the CDDRL scholarly community for the 2011-12 academic year.
Honors students will spend four quarters participating in research seminars to refine their proposed thesis topic, while working in consultation with a CDDRL faculty advisor to supervise their project. In September, the group will travel to Washington DC for honors college where they will visit leading government and development organizations to witness policymaking in practice and consult with key decision-makers.
Please join CDDRL in congratulating the 2012 Senior Honors students and welcoming them to the Center.
Below are profiles of our 12 honors students highlighting their academic interests, what brought them to apply to CDDRL, and some fun facts.
Major: Economics, International Relations
Hometown: New Delhi
Perspective thesis topic: Relationship between income inequality and corruption in Latin America
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? I was lucky enough to grow up in several different countries, which I think gave me a very real awareness of how different economic development is across and even within countries. I want to better understand why the discrepancies exist and what can be done to help the people who suffer most from global inequity. I recognize that this is a multifaceted issue, with obstacles and potential solutions in government, civil society, the business sector, and elsewhere, and this is why I am interested in the combined field of Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? I am drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the Center -- an issue like development, in which I am particularly interested, cannot be solved through Political Science or Economics methods alone and so I can learn about the topic in a more well-balanced way. The chance to interact with professors and fellow students who are engaged in interesting work across all aspects of the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law, appeals to me as well.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Work in the field of development economics
Fun fact about yourself: I have never broken a bone.
Major: International Relations/ Human Biology
Hometown: Khartoum, Sudan; Savage, MN
Perspective thesis topic: How can youth movements in Sudan promote democracy and government accountability?
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? The process of democratization is one of the most studied and least uniform among any of political science's many subfields. It has been proven to be correlated with greater welfare, higher standards of living, peace and more responsive government. Yet despite these documented effects, a large portion of the world is living under faux-democratic or authoritarian governments.
More personally, my own family left Sudan in the early years of the Bashir regime because my father was a political activist, although we return for summers. Having seen the first-hand effects of such repression on individuals and communities I am very interested in how democracy can be spread to those places where it is least likely. I think my country of Sudan is a good place to start.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? CDDRL boasts some of the greatest scholars in the field of democracy. It will be an honor and a pleasure to tap the Center's resources and minds to further my own understanding and research in the field.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Perhaps working in journalism in Africa or the Middle East. Other options include working with an NGO or the UN in the aforementioned regions.
Fun fact about yourself: I love watching and practicing boxing, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts. I'm also a budding photography enthusiast.
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Annapolis, Maryland
Perspective thesis topic: Political Economy of Conflict and Transition in Sudan
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law?Throughout my time at Stanford I have been moved by both the remarkable successes and dramatic failures of economic development and political transformation across the globe. My work both inside and outside the classroom has forced me to confront the fact that today newspapers are filled with stories of both healthy political discourse and nation-sweeping political upheaval, of civil stability and civil war, of fabulous wealth and stunning poverty. The field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law has captivated my interest, therefore, not only because it is intellectually challenging but also because the questions that define it are critical to the well-being of people all over the world. Having the chance to explore these questions with the CDDRL program is an honor and a privilege.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? The opportunity to write an honors thesis with at CDDRL is an opportunity to explore, to engage, and to grapple. It is an opportunity to build upon the work I have done and to deepen my understanding of the work I will do. It is an opportunity to apply my love for critical thinking and problem solving, to journey further into the fascinating complexities of the developing world, and to face off with the awesome challenges of political and economic transformation. And because it provides me the privilege of utilizing extensive resources, working hands-on with leaders of the academic world, and sharing thoughts and theories on issues of global importance with other smart and passionate students, it is an opportunity that thrills me.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: After I graduate, I hope to work in the international development field. There are a number of organizations that are finding new and creative ways to stimulate emerging markets through investment and micro-finance, but the industry as a whole still suffers from structural inefficiencies, and there is great progress to be made both in terms of identifying viable and profitable enterprises and unleashing the enormous potential of the developing world.
Fun fact about yourself: Last summer, I rode my bike across the country from New Jersey to California to raise money for the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, a San Francisco based organization that is building a school in Southern Sudan.
Major: Political Science and Classics
Hometown: Corte Madera, CA
Perspective thesis topic: Tax Evasion in Greece (more specifically: what social, political, and economic factors promote widespread tax evasion, particularly in the Greek context)
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law?
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? CDDRL provides an amazing opportunity to work closely with the leading scholars in the field, as well as to collaborate with other students who share similar interests.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Work in the international development field for the UN or a similar organization
Fun fact about yourself: I am a competitive sailor and have represented the US at 3 world championships.
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Tehran, Iran/ Vancouver, Canada
Prospective thesis topic: Transitional Justice: Assessing the Impact of Truth Commissions
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? The range of salient issues that the field encompasses and its potential to break new ground in theory, practice, and policy formation. I am particularly interested in the linkages between human rights and governance.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? I am looking forward to being part of a global network of talented scholars and practitioners whose insights and experiences will be an invaluable resource as I move forward with my research into democracy, development, and the rule of law.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Fieldwork in human rights
Fun fact about yourself: I am originally from the Qashqa'i tribe of Iran.
Major: International Relations (Minor in Modern Languages - Italian and Arabic)
Hometown: San Francisco, California
Perspective thesis topic: The International Criminal Court and Efforts at Localization of its Mission
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? My interests continue to center on the Middle East and Africa, two regions with the worst human rights records and most tragic histories of conflict, but ones that also offer clear opportunities for reform, growth, and inspirational transformation. The rule of law, most directly pertinent to my thesis topic, is and will continue to be a vital facet in encouraging domestic and global societies to respect the rights of their people. This field is filled with arduous challenges as well as tremendous opportunities that surface each day in the current events facing the world.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? The program at CDDRL offers a tremendous opportunity in the form of a smaller student group that is motivated for discussion, analysis, and research by the dynamic professors with whom they work, the great resources available to them by the Center, and their own personal desire to not only observe but also impact the world. I want a pragmatic and useful thesis that contributes to the creation of strong human rights protections and hope where there currently is none. CDDRL, its resources, and the faculty offer me such an opportunity.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: I would love to spend some more time in Italy (following my six months in Florence), but even more, I want to travel around the Middle East and Africa, both for personal interest and for career/academic opportunities. After that, I’m open to any opportunity that comes my way – whether that is law or graduate school, a job, or even the Peace Corps.
Fun fact about yourself: I live in a house called the Enchanted Broccoli Forest.
Major: History and the Law
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Perspective thesis topic: The Impact of International Diplomatic Pressure on Zimbabwe
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? As a history major focusing on Southern Africa, I'm constantly studying successful and unsuccessful democracies, failed development projects, and the complete absence of the rule of law. After studying these topics for the past three years and spending six months in South Africa, I want to use the CDDRL Honors Program to finally understand from a political science perspective why it is that democracy has or has not succeeded in Southern Africa, why corruption is so prevalent, and how we can improve economic growth in the region.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? I'm excited to join the CDDRL community because of the incredible resources, especially the brilliant faculty, that the Center offers. Nowhere else on campus can you ask a question about governance in Zimbabwe and receive a response from one of the leading experts on this topic. Just the opportunity to talk to the CDDRL faculty, let alone actually work with them and have them as advisors, is unbelievable. I'm beyond excited for the upcoming year.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: International human rights lawyer
Fun fact about yourself: I've never seen The LIttle Mermaid.
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Woodside, CA
Perspective thesis topic: The Implications of Uganda's Emerging Oil Economy
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? I am most interested in the emphasis on policy-making and the constantly evolving scholarship in this very contemporary area of academia.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? I am so excited to have the opportunity to work one-on-one with the wonderful researchers in the CDDRL community and to be a part of the international effort to promote improved governance and substantive rule of law in some of the world's darkest places.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Chaplain in US Army.
Fun fact about yourself: I play on the baseball team at Stanford - but I also love musical theater and opera.
Major: International Relations
Perspective thesis topic: What is the genesis, evolution and apparent trajectory of Chinese philanthropy, non-profits and social enterprise in China?
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? I think that often democracy, development and the rule of law are considered as independent entities but they are deeply interconnected with one another. As we promote any one of them, it is essential that we consider the causal effects on the other two.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? I am really excited about engaging with people who are all working on different areas of study and are willing and interested to share their research with each other. As we embark on trying to understand the complexities of democracy, development and the rule of law, it is fascinating to reflect upon cross-disciplinary approaches to issues, innovation of thoughts and ideas whilst at the same time appreciating consensus and respecting divergence of views.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: I am very interested in the integration of business with societal issues which leads to fields such as philanthro-capitalism, social entrepreneurship, micro-finance and venture philanthropy. I am particularly interested in models of organization which facilitate cooperative research and develop metrics of success in the developmental field. I intend to find a role for myself somewhere at the forefront of creative development which will have an impact on the world.
Fun fact about yourself: When I was 12 years old, I spoke on behalf of the Baha’i faith on the importance of protecting the environment for Commonwealth Day at Westminster Abbey. Before the event I was talking to Desmond Tutu and he gave me a high five for being cheeky! Recently I met him again at the Skoll World Forum and reminded him of our last encounter. This time he gave me two high fives and a hug!
Major: Computer Science
Physical Hometown: Singapore
Perspective thesis topic: How technology (mobile phones, email, twitter/fb) is changing the way social consciousness is formed- and how that affects democratic processes.
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? I may be majoring in a very different field, but the issues and questions that DDRL constantly visits are ones which come up constantly in my mind. If there was more time, I would have double majored in Political Science and CS- but right now, I'm focused on learning all I can and seeing how I can use technology to make things better.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? The conversations, and the chance to bounce ideas and thoughts off people who have so much domain knowledge in these areas. Just the chance to learn from them, and refine my ideas is invaluable in itself.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Entrepreneur-in-Government, or startup
Fun fact about yourself: I am a machine which turns coffee into code (and hopefully, a thesis paper)
Major: International Relations
Hometown: Mountain View, California
Perspective thesis topic: United Nations Electoral Assistance
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? This field works to answer some of the most pertinent questions of our time and can have widespread implications for the greater world.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? It is a great community of scholars that is working on incredibly interesting projects. CDDRL has shown me that research does not mean looking down from an ivory tower, and I am looking forward to learning more.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: Going to grad school
Fun fact about yourself: I play the harp
Major: Public Policy and Economics
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Perspective thesis topic: Regulatory Development and Stock Market Effectiveness in Ghana
What interests you about the field of Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law? Development is, in my opinion, the central challenge of our time. I'm very excited about having the chance to help contribute to our knowledge of this field and ultimately to help accelerate the development process, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Given the interconnections between development, governance, and accountability, being at a center that looks at all three is particularly interesting.
Why you are excited about joining the CDDRL community? Honestly, it was the T-shirt that really got me ("Democracy Never Looked So Good"). No, more seriously, I'm very excited to have a chance to build more relationships across the different disciplines of democracy, development, and governance and to see how research can help to drive policy.
Future aspiration post-Stanford: After Stanford, I want to enter the policy-making community around development. I'm interested in the intersection of development and security, so I'd ultimately love to have a position on the National Security Council helping to coordinate development policy. (Professor Jeremy Weinstein's current position on the NSC is a model for the type of position that I'd like to hold.)
Fun fact about yourself: I spent my seventh grade year living in Paris, France - the second most time I've spent outside the country is last summer, which I spent in Accra, Ghana.