Bunche Fellows Program Returns, Bringing Young Political Scientists

bunche fellows

The Ralph Bunche fellows will be part of the next generation of political scientists. Photo: Jared Lazarus/Duke University Photography

The Ralph Bunche Summer Institute returned to Duke this summer.

Successful in attracting a new generation of scholars to political science, the institute is a five-week program that helps students interested in graduate study in political science to develop and improve their research and writing skills and gets them ready for a graduate career.

Named in honor of the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in political science in 1934, the Institute simulates the graduate school experience, and encourages promising students from underrepresented backgrounds to apply to Ph.D. programs in political science. Bunche also won the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize and is a former president of the American Political Science Association.

"The most important lesson that I learned from this program is that I am capable of attaining a Ph.D. and pursuing a career in Political Science," said Phillip Menard, a 2014 Bunche fellow. "While the path may be difficult, there are many benefits to joining the academy and becoming a producer of knowledge on topics that I am passionate about.” 

The RBSI program began on the campuses of Southern University and Louisiana State University in 1986 and changed locations several times before moving to its current location on the Duke University campus in 2000. Graduate School Dean Paula D. McClain, a professor of political science, directs the institute.

RBSI was cancelled in 2013 following the passage of the Coburn amendment, which restricted National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for political science programs. The restrictions limit NSF funding to programs or projects that are related to national defense, or that provide clearly defined economic benefits for the United States. Before the Coburn amendment was passed, RBSI had been jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the American Political Science Association (APSA), and Duke University.

In July 2013, APSA announced the creation of the APSA Ralph Bunche Program Endowment Fund, “which will ensure the long-term existence of Ralph Bunche Summer Institute and additional programming.” Duke University and APSA have continued to provide financial support to RBSI, and in 2014 twelve students from across the United States were admitted to the RBSI program.

More than 480 students have attended the Institute since the program’s launch.

To learn more about the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, visit the program page on the APSA website here.