Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy

Research in Democracy Support Grants

Research in Democracy Support Grants

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy provides research support grants of up to $7,500 for faculty or graduate students within the College of the Liberal Arts. These grants are designed to support research in topics related to democracy. 

Projects grounded in either the social sciences or the humanities are equally eligible for consideration. Research conducted with undergraduates is strongly encouraged. 

Priority will be given to proposals that coincide with the research agendas of the Institute’s two research centers: the Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD) and the Center for American Political Responsiveness (CAPR).  We especially encourage proposals that broadly address one of the following research clusters within the Institute: 

  • Democratic Dissent, Protest and Deliberation: addressing questions about how forms of dissent and protest—whether in social movements or institutions of governance—contribute to our understanding of democracy.
  • Political and Social Polarization, Discord and Division: addressing questions about polarization among elites and citizens, or excessive partisan conflict in general.
  • Political Participation, Civic Engagement and Democratic Responsiveness: addressing questions of political and civic participation, public demands and opinion, and how parties and politicians respond.
  • Guardrails of Democracy: addressing questions of how norms and institutions can guide and protect democratic politics from uses of power that threaten it.

Application Requirements

The application period is closed for 2023. Please check back in early 2024 for information about the next grant cycle.

In general, applications should include:

  • a brief narrative description of the project
  • justification of how the project advances one of the research clusters or Centers’ aims
  • a brief accounting of expected expenditures (up to $7,500)
  • a time frame for spending the requested funds (funds should be spent in the summer)
  • graduate student applications should be accompanied by a short note of support from the student’s adviser

Allowable expenses include but are not limited to: Salary for undergraduate or graduate research assistants; purchase of research materials including books (note: purchases of IT equipment are not permitted); Travel for research; Travel to present research findings or testimony to government or international agency groups. 

Final funding decisions will be made by the directors of the CDD and CAPR in consultation with the Institute’s faculty advisory board. 

2023 Grant Recipients

  • Jamie Henton, History Ph.D. student, for “Reclaiming the Sacred Heart: Choctaw Spaces and Places in the Segregated South, 1945-1970”
  • Jake Nabel, Tombros Early Career Professor of Classical Studies and Assistant Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies for “Democracy without Liberalism: Paradigms of Collective Self-Government from the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East”
  • Nitheesha Nakka, Political Science Ph.D. student, for “Race, Gender, and Digital Politics: Examining Subnational Political Elites on Twitter”
  •  Flora Oswald, Psychology Ph.D. student, for “A Visual Lens on Protest Depiction.”
  • James Piazza, Liberal Arts Professor of Political Science, for “Misogyny, anti-Democratic Attitudes, and Tolerance of Political Violence”
  • Dorothea Roumpi, LER Alumni Endowed Early Career Professor and Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management, for “Diffusion of Organizational Transgender-Friendliness Through an Interlocking Directory Network: The Role of Corporate Elite’s Political Ideology”
  • Daniel L. Tavana, Assistant Professor of Political Science, for The Kuwait National Election Study
  • Christopher Thrasher, History Ph.D. student, for “Against the American Confederacy: the American Revolution and the Native South”

2022 Grant Recipients

  • Daryl Cameron, Associate Professor of Psychology, for “Empathic Choices, Democratic Norms, and Moral Responsibility”
  • Gary Fong, Political Science Ph.D. student, for “Do Voters Perceive Politicians as Authoritarians?”
  • Edward P. Green, history Ph.D. student, for “Nation Building and the Development of Interdependent Sovereignty in the Choctaw Nation, 1700-1920”
  • Elizabeth Kadetsky, Associate Professor of English, for “The Tanesar Mothers: Ethics, Global Voices, and Museums”
  • Sara Liao, Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies, for “Contentious Politics: Digital Media and Transnational Feminist Activism”
  • Arif Memovic, Political Science Ph.D. student, for “Understanding How Individual Level Attributes of Those Committing Political Violence Affect Americans Attitudes Regarding Punishment”
  • AnneMarie Mingo, Assistant Professor of African American studies, for “Foundations for Political Freedom: Black Women’s Political Organizing in the Southern United States”
  • Fernando Ismael Quiñones Valdivia, Communication Arts and Sciences Ph.D. student, for “Undocumented Time: Rhetorics of a Colonial Moment”
  • Dara Walker, Assistant Professor of African American Studies, for “High School Rebels: Black Power, Education, and Youth Politics in the Motor City, 1966–1973”
  • Wayne Wapeemukwa, Philosophy Ph.D. student, for “Partisans of the Soil: Land, Race, Capital, and Indigenous Dispossession, 1870–1920”
  • Christopher Zorn, Professor of Political Science, for “Public Defenders in Pennsylvania: Resources, Results, and Ramifications”

2021 Grant Recipients

  • Austin Gaffin, Comparative Literature and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Ph.D. Student: Homophilia as Filiation: The Then and There of Democratic Inclusion in Postwar France
  • Simon F. Haeder, Assistant Professor of Public Policy: Politics and Medicare Advantage:How Privatizing Medicare Affects Public Opinion Among America’s Seniors
  • Tom Hogan, Professor of Practice, School of Labor and Employment Relations: Virtual Transformational Leadership Development Experience
  • Jia Li, Political Science Ph.D. student: Mark Dictators’ Calendars: Election Schedule sand Political Participation in Autocracies
  • Catherine Mendel, Anthropology Ph.D. student: Unseen Moral Ecologies and Conservation: How Inclusion in Natural Spaces Impacts Engagement
  • Bumba Mukherjee, Professor of Political Science: Party Systems, Financial Crisis and Right-WingAuthoritarian Populists in Developing Country Democracies
  • James Piazza, Liberal Arts Professor of Political Science: Elite Incivility, Political Polarization, Trust in Political Institutions and Support for Political Violence in Democracies
  • Eric Silver, Professor of Sociology and Criminology: Public Sphere Polarization:A Focus on Moral Intuitions, Political Ideology, Systemic Racism Beliefs, and Christian Nationalism
  • Pamela VanHaitsma, Assistant Professor Communication Arts and Sciences and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies: The Erotic as Rhetorical Power for Civic Engagement: Teaching, Speaking, and Writing by Romantic Friends, 1848–1922


2020 Grant Recipients

  • Eliana Hadjiandreou, Psychology Ph.D. Student: Empathic Response and Prosocial Intentions Between Political Outgroups
  • Jens-Uwe Guettel, Associate Professor of History and German: Radical Democracy in Germany 1871-1918
  • Michele Kennerly, Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences: Automatic Athens: Technology, Place, and Democratic Promise, 1820-2020
  • Cyanne Loyle, Associate Professor of Political Science: Rebel Rules: The Impact of Rebel Group Judiciaries on Democracy and Rule of Law
  • K. Bailey Thomas, Philosophy Ph.D. Student: Insidious Ignorance
  • Joseph Wright, Professor of Political Science: Technology and the Personalization of Politics
  • Wayne Yeung, Comparative Literature Ph.D. Student: The Nation and its Discontents: Ethnographies of the People from the Peripheries


2019 Grant Recipients

  • Brendan Bolte, Political Science Ph.D. student: Rebel Electoral Competition and Local Economic Reconstruction After Civil War
  • Kerby Goff, Sociology Ph.D. student: Protestant Missionaries, NGO formation and Contemporary Civil Society
  • Sophia McClennen, Professor of Comparative Literature and International Studies: The Revolution will be Satirized
  • Michael Nelson, Associate Professor of Political Science: Do Incumbents Benefit from Attacks on Democratic Institutions?
  • Eric Plutzer, Professor of Political Science, and Joe Phillips, Political Science Ph.D. student: Negative Emotions, Hope, and Political Mobilization
  • Vineeta Yadav, Associate Professor of Political Science: Elite Religiosity and its Consequences for Democratic Institutions and liberal Civil Liberties: A Comparative Study of Indi