Welcoming the class of 2013 undergraduate honors students



The Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University is pleased to announce the 2013 class of undergraduate senior honors students. 

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, D.C. 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 2013 Senior Honors students and welcoming them to the Center.

Below are profiles of the nine honors students highlighting their academic interests, why they applied to CDDRL, and some fun facts.  


Keith Calix

Major: International Relations

Hometown: Astoria, NY

Thesis topic: What is the relationship between the coloured experience and youth involvement in gangsterism in Cape Town, South Africa?

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? Schools are one of the principal generators, justifiers and vehicles of radicalized thoughts, actions and identities. The challenge in a post-apartheid South Africa continues to be whether and how the roles, rules, social character and functioning of schools can reform to challenge the retrograde aspects of such formation and stimulate new forms of acknowledgement, social practice and acceptance. Ultimately, I hope my research will provide insight about how education reform can be used as a tool to promote democracy and improve human rights conditions.

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? In many ways my personal and academic experiences have led me from a more general interest in education development to a more specific interest in post-apartheid education reform as a form of retrospective justice, the institutional, social and economic barriers to education reform, and understanding education reform as a means of promoting democracy and respect for human rights. Pursuing this in the work in the CDDRL community alongside talented and experienced faculty and students from a wide array of disciplines, interests, and experiences will ultimately enhance my understanding of development and one day, I can hopefully use these insights and experiences as a practitioner.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: Human rights lawyer/fieldwork in education development.

What are your summer research plans: During the summer I will be working on my thesis in Cape Town, South Africa.

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve recently appeared on Italian television for an interview, bungee jumped from the world’s highest commercial bridge, and rode an ostrich.


Vincent Chen

Major: Earth Systems & Economics

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

Thesis topic: How democratic and autocratic systems affect the formation and efficacy of their environmental policies.

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? As the importance of climate and energy issues continue to rise in the global political agenda, both developed and developing nations are in dire need to identify individually tailored policy routes for sustainable development. With a wide array of political systems across countries, my research aims to shed light on the difference of environmental policy creation between democratic and autocratic governments and hopefully provide real world applications for policy makers in charting the most appropriate development route. In particular, I hope to provide insights for developing democracies to leapfrog the environmental impacts associated with democratization and avoid mistakes mature democracies have committed in the past.

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? My studies in environmental science ultimately manifested the important role social sciences play in solving our environmental challenges. In the center of this challenge lies the tricky balance between development and environmental stewardship. The CDDRL program serves as a great opportunity for me to explore the complex relationship between these concepts.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: Although I am interested in opportunities that span public, private and social sectors, I will definitely be working on issues pertaining to our environment.

What are your summer research plans: I will be spending my summer in Washington, DC with the climate and energy team of the United Nations Foundation, as well as conducting interviews for my research back home in Taiwan.

Fun fact about yourself: Spent five weeks on a uninhabited island the size of four square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean during my sophomore summer. 


Holly Fetter

Major: Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity (B.A.), Sociology (M.A.)

Hometown: Dallas, TX

Thesis topic: The influence of U.S. funding on the development of China's civil society

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? Organizations and individuals from the U.S. are eager to support democracy, development, and the rule of law in foreign countries. Through my research on the U.S. presence in China, I hope to understand how we can do this work more ethically and effectively. How can we avoid imposing our values and priorities onto a nation's bourgeoning civil society? How can we promote indigenous modes of fundraising and management training, thus avoiding any potential expressions of neo-imperialism?

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? I wanted a challenge, and I knew that writing an honors thesis in a foreign discipline would be a rewarding intellectual experience. The apparent support from faculty as well as the connections to experts on my topic were also enticing. And I'm looking forward to the big D.C. trip.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: I'd like to practice community lawyering in the U.S.

What are your summer research plans: I'll be in Beijing, China, interviewing folks at NGOs and grant-giving organizations, reading lots of books and articles, and eating good food.

Fun fact about yourself: I like to write and cause a ruckus, so I started a blog for Stanford activists called STATIC. You should check it out!


Imani Franklin

Major: International Relations

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Thesis topic: How Western beauty standards impact the preference for lighter skin in the developing world, with case-studies of India, Nigeria, and Thailand

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? This question matters for global development, in part, because it is an issue of public health. Researchers have long associated high rates of eating disorders and other mental health issues among American women with their continuous exposure to Western media’s narrow image of beauty. Given the unprecedented globalization of this image of beauty throughout much of the developing world, are non-Western women experiencing similar psychological health problems? From findings on skin bleaching cream in Tanzania to the rise of bulimia in Fiji in the late 1990s, a growing body of research attributes harmful body-altering practices to increased exposure to American consumerist media. I want to assess whether this causal link stands under empirical scrutiny, and whether this relationship shifts in different regional contexts of the world.

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? I am drawn to CDDRL’s honors program because of the intimate scholarly community of peers and mentors it provides. I believe this program will empower me to think more critically and scientifically about how one social issue impacts another.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: In the future, I hope to work with international policy to improve human rights protections in the Middle East and North Africa.

What are your summer research plans: I am currently studying Arabic in Jordan and will conduct primary research for my honors thesis in Amman.

Fun fact about yourself: In my free time, I enjoy learning the dance moves from High School Musical movies and attempting to make peach cobbler from scratch.


Mariah Halperin

Major: History

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Thesis topic: The development of democracy in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP)

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? Turkey has taken a unique path to democracy, beginning with Ataturk, yet many scholars worldwide have presented Turkey as a model for the rest of the Islamic world. The AKP, the party in power for the last decade, has in many ways changed the path Turkey had been on previously. With these changes and the recent uprisings in the Middle East, my thesis will hopefully speak to the viability of other countries following Turkey's example. 

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? The CDDRL undergraduate honors program is an amazing opportunity to deepen my studies of a topic that interests me so much. Working with a small group of dedicated, like-minded students will be a great way get feedback to develop and strengthen my thesis. Additionally, the outstanding faculty (and staff!) of the CDDRL are so supportive and eager to help students pursue their interests in any way they can.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: Either diplomacy or journalism in Turkey and the Middle East.

What are your summer research plans: I will be in Turkey for over two months this summer, conducting interviews with a wide range of people who can lend their perspective on my topic.

Fun fact about yourself: I am an extreme San Francisco Giants baseball fan.


Thomas Alan Hendee

Major: Human Biology

Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil / Grand Rapids, Michigan

Thesis topic: I will be looking at the social determinants of health in Brazilian informal settlements and how they affect child health. 

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? By 2050, seventy-percent of the world will be living in cities, and the World Bank estimates that 32.7% of urban dwellers in developing regions will be living in slums. These informal urban settlements pose a significant problem for economic development, governance, and public health. 

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? This program will allow me to spend my last year engrossed in a topic of interest, and put my Brazilian heritage and Portuguese language skills to academic use by adding to the dialogue of a field that I hope to enter. I look forward to being surrounded by a group of peers from whom I can learn, and at the same time have the chance to be mentored by some of Stanford’s most renowned faculty.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: I am still debating if medical school is a part of my future; however, I am confident that I will be involved with some kind of internationally focused health work.

What are your summer research plans: I will be doing a tremendous amount of reading in order to get a better understanding of what has already been said; furthermore, I plan to perform as many Skype interviews as possible with involved individuals in Brazil.

Fun fact about yourself: In the summer of 2011, I spent one-week on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) participating in an ecotourism consulting job.


Lina Hidalgo

Major: Political Science

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Thesis topic: What allowed citizen resistance to turn against the state in Egypt in 2011, but not in China.

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? I hope that my project will offer some hints as to why citizens faced with economic and social grievances fail to challenge - through their protests - the state structure that perpetrates those grievances. This can provide a lens through which to study other developing societies that fail to rise against oppression.

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? I have been able to see development challenges firsthand growing up and am honored to have the opportunity to learn from experts in the Center about the ideas and approaches taken to tackle these issues.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: I hope to learn more about development challenges globally by working in the Middle East or Asia, and eventually help implement better development policy worldwide through an international organizations, government work, or activism.

What are your summer research plans: I will be in China interviewing factory workers about their perceptions of inequality and speak with scholars about the broader issues I plan to address in my thesis. I will then travel to Egypt to interview political party leaders about how they saw long-standing grievances translated into the political sphere.

Fun fact about yourself: I've broken my two front teeth.


Kabir Sawhney

Major: Management Science and Engineering

Hometown: Morristown, NJ

Thesis topic: The effect of regime type on a country’s propensity to default on its sovereign debt obligations.

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? The link between a country’s regime type and its sovereign debt is crucial to further understanding the differences in the choices democracies and autocracies make in regards to their sovereign debt. Debt itself is important, because sovereign debt crises can have many negative consequences, including setting economic development back many years in some countries.

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? I took Professor Diamond and Professor Stoner-Weiss’ class in my sophomore year, and I really loved the course content and wanted to engage more with these topics. For my honors thesis, I really wanted to have an interdisciplinary experience, combining my interests in democracy and development with my academic focus in finance and financial markets, and the CDDRL program was a great place to do that.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: I’d like to work in financial markets; my long-term career goal is to one day run my own hedge fund with a mix of investment strategies.

What are your summer research plans: Since my thesis doesn’t require any field work, I’ll be working on refining my quantitative analysis and gathering relevant data from databases and other sources, to be able to carry out my analysis in earnest starting in fall quarter.

Fun fact about yourself: Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies! I like making all sorts of different kinds of foods, but my favorites have to be Thai, Indian and Chinese.


Anna Schickele

Major: Public Policy and Economics

Hometown: Davis, CA

Thesis topic: Determinants of farmer participation in agricultural development projects in rural Peru.

Why is this topic important to the field of democracy, development, and the rule of law? If non-governmental organizations are to implement successful development projects, they must figure out how to effectively engage would-be participants.

What attracted you to the CDDRL undergrad honors program? I'm attracted to the academic community. Though writing a thesis is a solitary activity, I hope the other students and I will support each other and form friendships as we go through the process together.

Future aspiration post-Stanford: I'd like to find a way to perfect my Spanish, improve my French, and maybe learn Arabic.

What are your summer research plans: I'll be in Peru at the end of August. If all goes well, I plan to make a second trip in December.

Fun fact about yourself: I've eaten alpaca, camel, guinea pig, and snails.