2018-19 APSA Spring Minority Fellowship Program

The following students were named as 2018-2019 APSA Minority Fellowship Program recipients during the spring 2017 application cycle. These fellows are currently applying to PhD programs in political science. 

Marco Alcocer is a PhD student in the political science department at the University of California, San Diego. His research interests revolve around understanding how criminal groups affect political institutions in Latin America. Specifically, his research explores how criminal organizations undermine democracy and how institutional, political, and social dynamics shape politicians’ incentives to fight against or collude with organized crime. Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, Marco was a research assistant at the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office of the President, where he worked on international drug policy. Marco earned an MA in international security from George Mason University and a BA in political science and Spanish from Southwestern University.

Ayana Best is completing her first year as PhD student at the University of Southern California. Her fields of concentration include American politics, comparative politics, and research methodology. She received her BA in political science and international relations at the University of California, Riverside. As an undergraduate, Best was elected president of the Black Student Union for two consecutive years. She served as vice president of finance and membership relations for the UC Riverside Student Alumni Association. She also received the Alpha Phi Alpha Pi Epsilon chapter Black Empowerment Award for her commitment to serving her community in various leadership roles. Best recently was awarded a Saundra K. Schneider Scholarship to participate in the 2018 ICPSR Summer Program in quantitative methods of social research. Best researches the politics of race, ethnicity, and social class in the United States, particularly within the African American community. She is also interested in the effects of social movements on community outcomes. Best is currently coauthoring two projects: one concerning police brutality and accountability, and the other regarding the removal of confederate monuments.


Kesicia Dickinson is a PhD student in the department of political science at Michigan State University. She earned a BS in criminal justice at Jackson State University, where she graduated summa cum laude. Before joining the political science department at MSU, she worked for a Mississippi-based civic engagement organization where she led numerous campaigns to increase statewide voter participation and create economic development in rural communities. She also created and conducted youth seminars about civil liberties and community organizing in this capacity. Currently, she is a doctoral fellow at the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at MSU  where she works on surveys, grants, and experimental projects. She has presented at professional conferences and is a coauthor of a book chapter about candidate training programs (forthcoming 2018). Kesicia’s research focuses on race and politics, specifically representation, women of color, and elections. She plans to pursue a career in academia while remaining active in community engagement and social advocacy. She hopes to create and strengthen existing pipelines that connect persons of color to political science doctoral programs.

Dara Gaines is a first year PhD student at Northwestern University where she studies American politics. Concentrating on political behavior and participation, her research focuses on the intersections of race, place, and age. More specifically, Dara is interested in deepening the field’s understanding of Black Rural Consciousness and Millennial/Gen Z political activists. She hopes this work will add nuance to the discussion of both race and age as variables of interest in understanding political behavior and policy effects. Dara is deepening her understanding of both qualitative and quantitative methodology to offer well-rounded, multi-method research that can accurately describe these marginalized groups and their political attitudes. Dara anticipates giving these commonly understudied and under-voiced groups a platform for policy attention and change. Dara graduated with honors from the University of Arkansas in May of 2017 with her BA in political science and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Chandler James is a PhD student studying American politics at the University of Chicago. He is interested in celebrity, lobbying, and the American presidency. By concentrating on the confluence of these subjects, Chandler hopes to elucidate some of the major trends in American politics. Chandler holds a BA in political science from the University of Chicago. Prior to his doctoral studies, Chandler was a congressional staffer for Congressman Todd Young.


Eugene B. Johnson is a PhD student in the political science department at Louisiana State University. A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Eugene earned a BA in political science and a MA in the social sciences from Southern University and A&M College. His primary research interests include stereotyping and discrimination, race relations and political behavior, identity politics, and social movements and collective action. His current research focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement, where Eugene is conducting a qualitative content analysis focused on journalism and the news. Eugene currently works as a legislative assistant at the Louisiana State Senate, and he has prior experience as an organizer and as campaign volunteer coordinator. In addition to his graduate studies, Eugene will be an Urban Leaders Policy Fellow in New Orleans, LA during the summer of 2018. Upon completion of the PhD, Eugene is eager to pursue a career in academia while also continuing his involvement in community outreach and social activism.

Helen Rabello Kras is a PhD student and teaching assistant at the University of Kentucky focusing on comparative politics and minoring in international relations. Prior to beginning her graduate studies in 2016, Helen graduated with an MA in international development from Western Michigan University and worked as a program associate for the Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. Her research analyzes the effects of violence against women on survivors’ political behavior and attitudes in her home-country, Brazil. Kras is interested in how institutions for survivors and services that prevent violence against women shape female citizens’ attitudes toward the government. She conducted field work in Brazil in 2017 where she interviewed service providers for victims of violence against women. Her current research focuses on Brazil, with an additional focus on El Salvador and Mexico. During her first year as a PhD student, Helen received a research assistantship from the Office for Policy Studies on Violence Against Women at the University of Kentucky. This research assistantship allowed Helen to work on a co-authored project regarding the role of women’s police stations in Brazil in shaping citizens’ attitudes towards the police.

Michelangelo Landgrave is an undocumented doctoral student at the University of California, Riverside and is a fellow with the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT). He crossed the border at the age of two. He holds a MA in economics from California State University. He studies local politics and public policy. Landgrave’s dissertation will address how to detect and mitigate discrimination in legislatures, bureaucracies, and other organizations. He regularly contributes to the Cato Institute and other national think tanks on issues as wide ranging as transportation policy to labor economics. His research has been cited by the Washington Post, The Hill, Vox and other major news outlets.

Jessica HyunJeong Lee is a PhD student in the political science department at UCLA. Her research interests are in the fields of race and ethnic politics, comparative politics, and American politics. She is broadly interested in the political behavior of Asian Americans, South Koreans, and refugees, with a focus on electoral and non-electoral political participation, political preferences, and minority representation. She is currently researching to what extent ethnic media influences modes of mass mobilization related to the undocumented immigration rights movement in the United States and how this varies between Asian Americans and Latinos. Jessica graduated from UC San Diego with a BA in international affairs / political science and economics. She also received a Masters of International Affairs from UC San Diego in public policy, international development, and nonprofit management. As a second-generation immigrant and a student of race, ethnicity, and politics, Jessica hopes to not only conduct research and teach at the university level but also to mentor other immigrant students, both documented and undocumented.

David Monda is a currently pursuing a PhD in political science at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY). He specializes in international relations and comparative politics. He is also an instructor of political science at Guttman Community College (CUNY). His research interests include diaspora migration, the intersection of foreign policy and national identity in developing contexts, securitization of migration policy and feminist construction of international relations. His unique experiences growing up in Kenya have shaped his passion to address the political and economic factors that affect migrant communities from the developing world. This summer, David will use the APSA MFP Fellowship to research the construction of national identity in developing contexts focusing on the Garifuna, an Afro-Belizean diaspora community. He hopes to broaden the understanding of normative and ideational structures that construct the societal identity of the modern Belizean state. More broadly, he hopes this research will add to the understanding of the construction of the foreign policies of developing nations.

Austin Nelson is a PhD student in the department of government and a JD student in the school of law at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include American public law, law and social science, and the philosophy of law. Nelson graduated from Hendrix College in 2015 where he was a National Merit Scholar, a National Hispanic Scholar, and an Arkansas Governor's Distinguished Scholar. He earned a BA summa cum laude in politics with distinction and in philosophy and religious studies with distinction, received three departmental awards, and won the Arkansas Political Science Association's award for his senior thesis on the Voting Rights Act and race-conscious redistricting. Nelson earned a MA in public policy and administration from Baylor University in 2017, and he received the Richard D. Huff Award for a distinguished master's student. After completing his combined degree program at the University of Texas, Nelson will pursue a career in academia.

Naomi Nashell Nubin-Sellers is a PhD student at the University of Houston in the department of political science. Her broad research interests are in the fields of American politics and public policy, with an emphasis on incorporating intersectionality into our current understanding of the political process, minority representation, and minority political behavior. Naomi is currently researching how intersectionality affects support for redistribution policies and whether legislative infrastructure affects how often African American female candidates run for office in state legislatures. She earned a BS in administration of justice and political science and an MPA, both from Texas Southern University, where she also worked as a research assistant. Naomi is excited to pursue an academic career where she can successfully teach and continue to pursue her research agenda.

Michelle Ramirez is a second year PhD student at the University of North Texas where she studies American and comparative politics. She completed her undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, where she began her research in religion and racial and ethnic politics. Michelle is currently conducting research on the effects of religious and ethnic fractionalization on public opinion and political behavior in Western Europe. She has also conducted research on marginalized religious and ethnic groups in the United States and abroad. After completing her PhD, Michelle plans to pursue a career in academia where she can continue her research and share her passion for politics with students.

Marcel Roman is a PhD student in the political science department at UCLA. His areas of interest are race and ethnic politics, discrimination, policing, and the political participation of marginalized groups. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BA in political science with honors and conducted fieldwork in Fiji for an undergraduate senior thesis project on ethnic violence and support for co-ethnic parties. He is currently working on two projects: one on the relationship between officer-involved shootings, political participation, and public trust across several US cities, and the other on the long-term effects of housing discrimination on a variety of outcomes, including the political incorporation of underrepresented groups.

Richie Romero graduated summa cum laude from the University of Texas at El Paso(UTEP) in political science and history. He received an MA from UTEP before joining the PhD program at Arizona State’s School of Politics and Global Studies. During his undergraduate years, Richie served as both a teaching and research assistant for several faculty members leading to two co-authored works and multiple conference presentations. As a graduate student, he has helped teach methods and stats, American politics, and introductory politics courses. At Arizona State, Richie is focusing on international relations and American politics. He is currently working on developing a research agenda around American foreign policy dynamics and is interested in foreign policy decision-making as a whole. He hopes to develop a course on American political processes at home and American foreign policy actions abroad. Richie’s major goals for the next year include furthering his quantitative skills and developing a prospectus.

Daisy Vazquez Vera is a PhD student in the political science department at UCLA. She is a Eugene V. Cota-Robles and 2018 Ford Predoctoral Fellow. She graduated from UC Irvine with a BA in political science and Chicano/Latino studies. Daisy is broadly interested in immigrant representation and integration with a focus on state legislative politics and policy. Her current work studies how advocates and non-profit organizations mediate the representation process for immigrant constituents and how legislators respond to the needs of immigrant constituents. Her previous work examines the impact of institutional practices that support educational equity for undocumented immigrant college students and the legislative process and implementation of state-level immigrant policies. Daisy is eager to continue her passion for teaching and mentorship while conducting research that will empower immigrant communities.

Andrene Wright is a first year political science PhD student at Northwestern University.  As an Americanist, she is most interested in political behavior as it relates to marginalized groups, system-involved-youth, and juvenile justice. She co-authored a paper with Dara Gaines and Justin Zimmerman which explored racialized attitudes towards gun control in the 1960’s. They presented their paper titled “Race, Power and Policy: The Making of the Mulford Act” at the National Conference of Political Scientists (NCOBPS) in March 2018. Wright graduated from the City University of New York (CUNY) John Jay College of Criminal Justice in May of 2017. She majored in political science, minored in Africana studies and was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar under the mentorship of Dr. Samantha Majic. She presented her McNair research “Decoding the Clubhouse: an Intersectional Analysis on Efforts to Engage Girls in STEM” at the 2017 MPSA conference in Chicago, Illinois. She was a Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP) participant at Northwestern University, working under the mentorship of Dr. Alvin Tillery.