Current Students


These are the students for whom I serve as the principal academic advisor and as dissertation chair for those who have completed candidacy requirements. We share broad interests in the comparative politics of violence and conflict, the politics of constructing authority (“state-building,” conflict and post-conflict, including on the part of rebels) and international responses to conflict.  Over the years, we have conducted joint field research in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Uganda, Nigeria, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan.  These collaborations involve often lead to coordinated applications for external funding and depending on coincidence of interests, to joint publications.





Nathan Dial


Nathan Dial has been an officer in the United States Air Force since 2010. He is a graduate of the Uuro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Course and was assigned to fly the EC-130H at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. He is a US Air Force Academy graduate and earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.  He is interested in the place of the US military in American society. Since he arrived just recently, we will let him get his feet on the ground.



Rana Khoury


            Rana Khoury focuses on the politics of refugee mobilization in the context of wider conflict.  She is investigating patterns of mobilization

Among refugees of the Syrian conflict, and has identified different patterns in their organization and relationships to home communities in the course of the current conflict. Her argument identifies drivers of major shifts in refugee mobilization in recent years in the weakening of state authorities in the states of origin and in host states. These changes have undermined international regimes concerning refugee populations. Like other actors associated with contemporary conflicts, refugees also have to adapt to new conditions.  Rana already is an accomplished researcher and is the author of As Ohio Goes: Life in the Post-Recession Nation (Kent State University Press, 2016). In this book, Rana tells the stories of average Americans living in a moment of record income inequality and declining standards of living.  Rana received an SSRC Predissertation Fellowship in 2015, and in 2016 she received an American Center for Oriental Research pre-doctoral fellowship and a ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius field research grant to support her dissertation research in Jordan and Turkey.



Sasha Klyachkina


Sasha Klyachkina is interested in how the organization of violence in the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Caucasus region created new patterns of authority and shaped the subsequent institutionalization of order.  She identifies a post-conflict interaction between the mobilization of rebels, criminal gangs, and counterinsurgency and policing that leads to distinct patterns of local management of order. This involves the intercession of informal practices and institutions alongside the development of formal institutions. This tailor-made maintenance of order adapts practices and institutions from the political center, while simultaneously shaping them to deal with local challenges of monitoring the activities of diverse and often insular communities and regulating behavior and relationships that formal rules and institutions do not anticipate. Her research in the Caucasus received support from the ZEIT-Stiftung’s Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius fieldwork grant, as well as a Harriman Institute Research Grant to produce an original set of surveys in Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia. She is a Postdoctoral Fellow for 2019-2020 at the Center for Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is a Carnegie Corporation-funded project to strengthen the study of Russia in US universities and to facilitate engagement with Russian academic communities; goals that Sasha shares.



Jesse Humpal


Jesse Humpal is a Major in the United States Air Force.  He comes to us from Cannon AFB near Clovis, New Mexico. Jesse’s research focuses on issues related to contemporary modes of warfare, such as the tactical and operational implications of fighting in urban environments. Is the urban environment simply an extension of a conventional battlespace into a new built environment, or do armed groups integrate urban environments into new ways of fighting?  His research provides insights into how new organizational features of armed groups affect how they integrate urban battles into their tactical and ultimately into their strategic repertoires.



Lamin Keita


Lamin Keita came to us from the University of Wisconsin. He also has considerable experience as a journalist in Gambia. His research focuses on the local politics of radicalization in the West Africa region.  He explores why critics of incumbent religious establishments, other religious networks, and state authority decide to pursue violent strategies in some circumstances, while people with similar critiques choose non-violent political mobilization.  His work includes consideration of the relationships of global political ideas and local grievances, purposeful political action, and the development of social movements in West African societies. In the broad picture, Lamin’s work touches on the question of the causes of violent collective action against established authority and the relationship of contemporary jihadism to historical modes of revolt.



Salih Noor


Salih Noor comes to our program from University of Gothenburg, Göteborg. His tentative title for research is “The Legacies of Liberation: Critical Junctures and Regime Development in Post-liberation Africa”. The objective of this project is to examine the impact of the organizational structures and practices of successful armed liberation movements on structures of governance after they acquire state power. He has identified several mechanisms through which armed group organization affects the post-conflict pathways of political development. Salih has conducted preliminary research in southern Africa for this project. Several products of his research appear at He was awarded a Social Science Research Council Dissertation Prospectus Development grant and spent the summer of 2018 in Southern Africa to develop his dissertation project.



David Peyton


David Peyton comes to us from Wheaton College by way of the National Defense University. He studies relationships between business groups and municipal authorities in eastern Congo. He seeks to explain why varied social orders develop across municipalities in this region of persistent instability and very weak formal state authority. David suspects that mutual concerns to protect commercial operations and assets represent an alternative to classical ideas about how and why state authority becomes institutionalized in ways that provide an increasing array of public goods. In a nutshell, David finds that this urge to protect commercial resources can replace external threat as a mechanism that pushes actors to construct state-like institutions, including ones that protect and mobilize people outside of these narrower business interests. David won a Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship from SSRC (2013), a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (2015-16), Boren Fellowship (2016-17), and Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowships.



Mike Povilus


Lt Col Mike Povilus (United States Air Force) came to us from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama.  He served as Chief of the Arms Control Implementation Unit at the US Embassy in Moscow in the mid-2010s and earlier was a member of the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing Theater Security Cooperation group in Kyrgyzstan.  He holds a Master’s in East European Studies from Freie Universität Berlin. Mike’s dissertation research focuses on the politics of hybrid warfare. His particular interest lies in the challenges that unconventional tactics in aggressive actions pose to global norms of warfare and the conduct of international relations more generally. He identifies an underlying dynamic in which revisionist challenges build upon accepted norms with the intent of creating a free-rider situation in which systematic norms violations are accepted within existing practices.