About the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute Program

The Ralph Bunche Summer Institute Program (RBSI) is an annual, intensive five-week program held at Duke University. It is designed to introduce aspiring political scientists to the world of doctoral study. The program is open to students interested in broadening participation in political science and pursuing scholarship on issues affecting underrepresented groups or issues of tribal sovereignty and governance. Participants in the RBSI are drawn from a competitive national applicant pool. The RBSI Selection Committee reviews applications and makes decisions during the month of February. Applicants are informed of their status via email. Each summer, up to 20 students are admitted to the program, which includes two transferable credit courses -- one in quantitative analysis and one in race and American politics – and a comprehensive introduction to the intellectual demands of graduate school and political science research methods. For a final project for both courses, students prepare original, empirical research papers; top students are given the opportunity to present their research at the American Political Science Association's Annual Meeting, all expenses paid.

Classes are held on the Duke University campus, where students have access to a fully equipped computer laboratory, library collections, and other university facilities. Educational activities range from formal classroom settings to informal dinners and lunches with prominent political scientists and Duke University faculty. A strong ethics component is included with readings, cases, debates, and lectures on issues within an academic setting. 

RBSI Director Dr. Paula D. McClain (Professor of Political Science, Duke University) teaches classes as do several of her colleagues from Duke University. Bunche students have uniformly praised the exceptional mentoring that they receive from Dr. McClain and other Bunche faculty. Since good performance on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is key to admission to and funding for graduate school, Graduate Record Exam test-taking strategies are provided by Princeton Review. At the end of the Institute, representatives from a number of leading PhD granting institutions participate in a recruitment fair to present information about doctoral study and admissions with Bunche students. The successful applicant to RBSI receives full tuition, health insurance, transportation, room and board in a dormitory double room, books, and instructional materials. Participants also receive a food allowance and a weekly stipend.

APSA RBSI Program Quick Links


Additionally, some political science departments offer application fee waivers to students enrolled in APSA Diversity and Inclusion Programs. Students should inquire with the graduate program they are applying to about the possibility of an application fee waiver.