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About the Program

Program Structure and Requirements

Subfields and Faculty

Graduate Student Accomplishments

Program Structure and Requirements

The goal of our PhD program is to train individuals to be effective scholars and teachers of political science. The program begins with a broad introduction to the substantive issues and methodological approaches across political science, then increasingly allows the students to tailor their coursework and other learning opportunities such as collaborative research projects in accordance with their interests, and finally culminates with independent research. Particular attention is given in the program to providing students with opportunities for hands-on experience in both research and teaching, and the financial support and advising to be able to do so.

First Year. The first year program is designed to (re)introduce students to the main subfields of political science and to train them in the methods necessary for consuming and ultimately producing scholarship in the discipline. Students are therefore required to take at least three of the core seminars in the traditional subfields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory) and a sequence of methods courses (Introductory Research Methods and Intermediate Research Methods I & II). In addition to these required substantive and methodological courses, students take more advanced seminars in areas of their interest.

Second Year. In the second year, students begin to focus their coursework on their major fields and on the remaining required methodological coursework they may not have completed in their first year (Advanced Research Methods and Introductory Game Theory; or, in the case of first-field political theorists, a year of foreign language). Students produce a plan of study that identifies their three fields of study, the first two of which must be subfields in political science and the third of which may be a field either inside or outside of the discipline. In addition to pursuing their remaining coursework, they take a required two quarter research design seminar in which they undertake a major independent research project, culminating in a paper suitable for submission for publication.

Third Year. Students begin the third year with comprehensive examinations in their first and second fields. During the year, students complete all their required coursework. At the end of the year, students take an oral qualifying examination in order to advance to doctoral candidacy.

Fourth and Fifth Years. After successfully writing and defending a dissertation prospectus, students devote the majority of their time to independent research centering on their doctoral thesis. In addition, students at an advanced stage are given opportunities to do independent teaching.

Subfields and Faculty

American Politics

The study of American politics at Davis engages a broad range of questions central to understanding democratic processes and institutions in the US. Faculty research and teaching covers the major institutions of American national government, including the Congress, courts, presidency, and the political parties. The faculty in American politics includes recognized experts on the electoral process, with interests in the study of political behavior, citizen participation and engagement, and political representation. Faculty members employ a diverse range of approaches in their research including experimental, survey, archival, and formal methods. Students in the subfield are encouraged to develop their analytical and methodological skills, as well as a sophisticated understanding of the scholarly literature on political behavior and institutions. Current graduate students in American politics actively participate in the department's micro-politics group, the omnibus program of experimental research, among other faculty-graduate student research collaborations.

Comparative Politics

Many of the core questions in political science can be addressed particularly profitably within the broad approach known as comparative politics. Traditionally, scholars of American politics were best able to address systematically many of the central political science questions about the ways domestic politics operate because of the high quality of data in areas such as public opinion, elite and electoral behavior, and political institutions. As the quality and quantity of data on other countries increased, however, scholars in comparative politics have been able to provide some of the most compelling answers to the core questions in the discipline. The reason is simple: a frankly comparative approach introduces cross-national and cross-cultural variation into our research designs. At Davis, our view is that such an approach offers substantial advantages over a more "area-studies" focus. Accordingly, although most of our faculty members possess detailed knowledge of various countries and regions of the world, we have built our comparative politics program around an explicitly comparative orientation.

International Relations

When do states go to war? What affects trade and immigration patterns? Which counter-terrorism strategies work? Is the enemy of my enemy truly my friend? How does war affect leaders, public opinion, and elections? These are just some of the critical international politics questions studied at Davis. Traditionally, international politics focused exclusively on the influence of the international system. While arguments about the democratic theory have clearly challenged that approach, our perspective moves far afield from an international system outlook and instead focuses on the intersection of domestic and international politics, examining both international conflict and political economy. We employ a number of different approaches (such as rational choice, social networks, political psychology, and prospect theory). Faculty frequently publish with graduate students, and also work closely with other subfields. Our research employs a variety of empirical methods, including statistical analyses, mathematical models, experiments and case studies. Our goal is to ask questions that have relevance for the global future and answers from the international relations past, and to examine them creatively and rigorously.

Political Theory

In the political theory subfield at Davis we take a broadly textual approach to the history of political thought, focusing on major political philosophers from the ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary eras. We provide our students with training in textual analysis that is also sensitive to the broader philosophic issues and historical contexts necessary for understanding these texts. While we offer courses across the entire range of the history of political thought, including seminars focusing on a single thinker or text, our program is particularly strong in the early modern era. The faculty and students in political theory form an unusually active and cohesive group. In addition to regularly offered graduate seminars, we have a reading group that meets regularly, allowing students and faculty to explore topics in political theory of common interest.

Faculty: Shalini SatkunanandanJohn T. ScottRobert S. Taylor

Affiliate Faculty: John G. Gunnell


Political methodology is a rapidly growing field in the discipline of political science.  The field generally deals with issues of measurement of interesting political phenomenon and developing, improving, and creatively applying statistical methods and formal models to political data.  At Davis, we have a strong commitment to training students to learn a variety of statistical methods and formal theory while at the same time teaching students to think carefully about the nature of the data and the assumptions of the models given the data.  Within statistics, we offer a variety of courses on a wide range of topics, including linear modeling, duration modeling, Bayesian statistics, time-series, hierarchical modeling, and discrete-choice modeling.  Likewise, in formal theory we offer courses that cover a range of areas, including game theory, social choice theory, formal and spatial modeling, and the empirical testing of formal models.

Graduate Student Accomplishments


Our graduate students have been highly successful in their scholarship and in gaining professional recognition. Some of the recent publications, fellowships, and awards our students have received during their graduate career at Davis are listed below. For the accomplishments of the graduates of our program, please visit the Placements page.


Christopher P. Donnelly, "Balancing Act?  Testing a Theory of Split-Party U.S. Senate Delegations," Electoral Studies, Forthcoming.


Jesse R. Hammond, "Using machine-coded event data for the micro-level study of political violence," Research and Politics (with Nils Weidmann)

Timothy W. Taylor, “The Electoral Salience of Trade Policy: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Welfare and Complexity,” International Interactions, Forthcoming.


Shareefa Al-Adwani, 2013 - 2014 Herbert F. York Global Security Dissertation Fellowship, UC Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation.

Richard Bairett, "Institutions and the Stabilization of Party Systems in the New Democracies of Central and Eastern Europe," Forthcoming in Electoral Studies (with Josephine T. Andrews).

Jesse R. Hammond, "Capitol Mobility: Madisonian Representation and the Location and Relocation of Capitals in the United States," American Political Science Review (with Erik Engstrom and John T. Scott).

Jesse R. Hammond, "An examination of the relationship between international telecommunication networks, terrorism and global news coverage," Social Networks and Data Mining (with George Barnett).

Jesse R. Hammond, 2013 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, University of Konstanz

Danielle A. Joesten, "Explaining Proximity Voting in 2006," Journal of Politics (with Walter Stone).

Richard A.I. Johnson, “Politics and Parasites: The Contribution of Corruption to Human Misery." International Studies Quarterly (with Randolph Siverson).

Timothy P. Jurka, "RTextTools: A Supervised Learning Package for Text Classication." The R Journal (with L. Collingwood, A.E. Boydstun, E. Grossman, and W. van Atteveldt).

Matthew Lesenyie, 2013 Dean's Prize for Best Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences for "Torts of Appeal: Do Elected Judges Rule Differently than Appointed Judges?" UC Davis Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Student Symposium

Aaron Shreve, 2013 - 2014 International Nuclear Security Fellowship Competition, UC Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation.

Andrey Tomashevskiy, "Trade and Democracy: Which Leads and How?" Forthcoming in The International Political Economy of Trade, ed. David Deese (Edward Elgar, U.K.).

Shaina Western, “Levels of Linkage: Across-Agreement v. Within-Agreement Explanations of Consensus Formation Among States” International Studies Quarterly (with Heather McKibben).


Richard Bairett, 2012 - 2013, Provost's Dissertation Year Fellowship in The Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

Chris Hallenbrook, 2012 - 2013, Research Fellowship, Mellon Research Initiative in Early Modern Studies.

Alicja Jac-Kucharski, "The Determinants of Human Trafficking: A US Case Study." International Migration.

Timothy P. Jurka, “maxent: An R Package for Low-memory Multinomial Logistic Regression with Support for Semi-automated Text Classification.” The R Journal.

Matthew Lesenyie, “Power to the People: Checking Special Interests in California,” The California Journal of Politics and Policy (with Stacy Gordon Fisher and Kimberly Nalder).

Tracy K. Lin, 2012 - 2013 Dissertation Fellowship and Research Support, UC Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation.

Matthew T. Pietryka, “Going Maverick: How Candidates Can Use Agenda-Setting to Influence Citizen Motivations and Offset Unpopular Issue Positions.” Political Behavior (with Amber Boydstun).

Jack Reilly, "Networks, Interdependence, and Social Inuence in Politics," The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, eds. Leonie Huddy, David O. Sears, and Jack Levy. New York: Oxford University Press (with Robert Huckfeldt, Jeery J. Mondak, Matthew Hayes, and Matthew T. Pietryka).


Matthew K. Buttice and Caitlin Milazzo. “Candidate Positioning in Britain.” Electoral Studies.

Kevin Evans and Elizabeth Simas, “Linking Party Platforms to Perceptions of Presidential Candidates’ Policy Positions, 1972-2000,” Political Research Quarterly.

Richard A. I. Johnson "Militarized Refugee Camps: Causes and Consequences", Journal of Refugee Studies.

Milosz Kucharski, “China in the Age of American Primacy.” International Relations.

Milosz Kucharski, “Balancing Unipolarity: Russian Responses to American Preeminence.” Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations.

Debra Leiter, 2011 – 2013 Bilinski Fellowship.

Debra Leiter, "Which Voting Subconstituencies Reacted to Elite Depolarization in the Netherlands? An Analysis of the Dutch Public’s Policy Beliefs and Partisan Loyalties, 1986-1998," British Journal of Political Science (with James Adams and Catherine De Vries).

Sarah P. Lockhart, 2011. "The Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement." In Migration, Nation States, and International Cooperation, eds. Randall Hansen, Jobst Koehler, and Jeannette Money. New York: Routledge (with Jeannette Money).

Caitlin Milazzo, “When Do You Follow the (National) Leader? Party Switching by Subnational Legislators in Japan.” Electoral Studies (with Ethan Scheiner).

Michelle Schwarze, 2011 – 2013 Bilinski Fellowship.

Michelle Schwarze, 2011 – 2012 UC Davis Graduate Student Research Mentorship Award.

Elizabeth Simas, “When Candidates Value Good Job Performance: A Spatial Model with Applications to Congressional Elections.” Journal of Politics (with James Adams, Samuel Merrill, and Walter Stone).

John M. Warner, "Sin City: Augustine and Machiavelli's Reordering of Rome," Journal of Politics (with John T. Scott).

Shaina Western, Best Graduate Student Paper Award for “A Social Explanation of Commitment: A Reevaluation of States' Commitment Against Torture,” International Studies Association – West.


Alexander K. Mayer, "Does Education Increase Political Participation?" Journal of Politics.

Alexander K. Mayer, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2008-2011).

Caitlin Milazzo, “Has the British Public Depolarized Along with Political Elites? An American Perspective on British Public Opinion,” Comparative Political Studies (with James Adams and Jane Green).

Elizabeth Simas, “Risk Orientation and Policy Frames.” Journal of Politics (with Cindy Kam).

James R. Zink, “Reconsidering the Role of Self-Respect in Rawl’s A Theory of Justice,” Journal of Politics.


Belgin San Akca, "Supporting Non-State Armed Groups: A Resort to Illegality?" Journal of Strategic Studies.

Matthew Buttice "Polarization, Attribution and Communication Networks in the 2006 Congressional Elections," in Jeffery J. Mondak and Donna-Gene Mitchell, eds. Fault Lines: Why the Republicans Lost Congress (Routledge) (with John Barry Ryan and Robert Huckfeldt).

Skyler J. Cranmer, "Demography, Democracy, and Disputes: The Search for the Elusive Relationship Between Population Growth and International Conflict," Journal of Politics (with Randolph M. Siverson).

Skyler J. Cranmer, "Do Governments of the Left Attract more Terrorism than Governments of the Right?" Conflict Management and Peace Science (with Michael T. Koch).

Nikolas Emmanuel, "U.S. Incentive Strategies in African Conflicts," in Mathew Hoddie and Caroline Hartzell, Enforcing Peace (Lynne Rienner) (with Donald S. Rothchild).

Kris Inman, NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Alexander K. Mayer, "Politics, Expertise, and Interdependence within Electorates," in Jan Leighley, ed., The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior (Oxford University Press) (with T.K. Ahn, Robert Huckfeldt, and John Barry Ryan).

Molly M. Melin, "Management and the Durability of Peace," in Sage Handbook on Conflict Resolution (with Scott Sigmund Gartner).

Carl L. Palmer, Journal of Politics Best Paper Award (with Cindy D. Kam).

Jennifer M. Ramos, "Sovereignty and Cognitive Dissonance," in Amy Eckert and Laura Sjoberg, eds., Rethinking the 21st Century: 'Old Solutions to 'New' Problems (Zed Books).

John Barry Ryan, "Polarization, Attribution and Communication Networks in the 2006 Congressional Elections," in Jeffery J. Mondak and Donna-Gene Mitchell, eds. Fault Lines: Why the Republicans Lost Congress (Routledge) (with Matthew Buttice and Robert Huckfeldt).

John Barry Ryan, "Politics, Expertise, and Interdependence within Electorates," in Jan Leighley, ed., The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior (Oxford University Press) (with T.K. Ahn, Robert Huckfeldt, and Alex Mayer).

Marc Scarcelli, "Exceptional Cases: The 'Boat Peoples' of Cuba and Haiti," in David Kyle and Rey Kozlowski, eds., Global Human Smuggling: Comparative Perspectives, 2nd Edition (Johns Hopkins) (with David Kyle).

Marc Scarcelli, "Religion and Civil Conflict in Africa," in Edmond Keller, ed., Religious Ideas and Institutions and Transitions to Democracy in Africa.

Zeynep Somer-Topcu, "Survival of the Fittest? Cabinet Duration in Post-Communist Europe," Comparative Politics (with Laron Williams).

Zeynep Somer-Topcu, "Timely Decisions: The Effects of Past National Elections on Party Policy." Journal of Politics.

Zeynep Somer-Topcu, "Do Parties Adjust Their Policies in Response to Rival Parties' Policy Shifts? Spatial Theory and the Dynamics of Party Competition in Twenty-Five Postwar Democracies," British Journal of Political Science (with James Adams).

James R. Zink, "Courting the Public: The Influence of Decision Attributes on Individuals: Views of Court Opinions," Journal of Politics (with James F. Spriggs II and John T. Scott).

James R. Zink, "The Language of Liberty and Law: James Wilson on America’s Written Constitution," American Political Science Review.


Ronni Abney, Andrea Morrison, and Gary A. Stradiotto, "The Stability of Representation: A Cross-National Analysis of Party Policy Dispersion," Representation.

Richard Bairett, UC Davis Graduate Scholars Fellowship Recipient.

Nikolas Emmanuel, "Economic Aid and Peace Implementation: The African Experience," Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding (with Donald Rothchild).

Molly M. Melin, "Potential Peacemakers: Establishing a Population of Third Parties Considering Mediation," in Jacob Bercovitch and Scott Sigmund Gartner, eds., Empirical Studies in International Mediation: New Approaches and Findings (Routledge) (with Scott Sigmund Gartner).

Carl L. Palmer, "Reconsidering the Effects of Education on Political Participation," Journal of Politics (with Cindy D. Kam).

John Barry Ryan, NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant.

Aimee A. Tannehill. 2008. "Negotiating with the Dragon: The Peopleâ€&™s Republic of China and International Dispute Settlement Duration." Tamkang Journal of International Affairs (with Scott Sigmund Gartner).

Jennifer R. Wilking, "From the Gap to the Chasm: Gender and Participation among Non-Hispanic Whites and Mexican Americans," Political Research Quarterly (with Cindy D. Kam and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister).


Leo Blanken, Best Dissertation Award from the Western Political Science Association.

Monti Datta, "Of Paradise, Power and Pachyderms," Political Science Quarterly (with Miroslav Nincic)

Gregory Love, "Who Rides the Storm? Political Institutions and Trade Adjustment," Business and Politics (with Daniel Y. Kono).

Molly M. Melin, Folke Bernadotte Academy Research Grant.

Carl L. Palmer, Pi Sigma Alpha Award for best paper presented at the 2006 Midwest Political Science Association meeting (with Cindy D. Kam).

Jennifer M. Ramos, "Crisis, Charisma and Consequences: Evidence from the 2004 US Presidential Election." Journal of Politics (with Jennifer Merolla and Elizabeth Zechmeister).

Jennifer M. Ramos, University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation Dissertation Fellowship, 2007-2008.

John Barry Ryan, Paul Lazarsfeld Best Paper Award by the American Political Science Association Organized Section on Political Communication (with Robert Huckfeldt and T.K. Ahn).

Gary A. Stradiotto, "The Nature and Direction of Economic Reform in North Korea," Political Studies (with Sujian Guo).

Gary A. Stradiotto, "Market Socialism in North Korea: A Comparative Perspective," Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy (with Sujian Guo).

Jennifer R. Wilking, "Beyond the 'Narrow Data Base': Another Convenience Sample for Experimental Research," Political Behavior (with Cindy D. Kam and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister).

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