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PHD in IR-Comparative, Please Help Me Pick Schools


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Hi all,

I'm a senior ugrad PSCI major at Upenn applying to PHD programs (primary interest IR, secondary interest comparative) in the US this fall. I'm looking for a little help finding the programs/professors that best match my interests. I have a few programs I like at the top, but am having trouble picking from that multitude of second tier programs to round out my list and get 12-15 that I'll apply to, so I'm especially looking for help with second tier schools.


One of my interests is looking at current international relations cases, especially China and the Middle East, in comparative perspective. I'm interested in bilateral US-China relations, as well as the idea of the US as an "empire", the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (ie Unsettled States by Ian Lustick), and others as compared to historical case studies. Also, I'm interested in the interplay between domestic and international politics, i.e. how lobbies/leaders/media affect the foreign policy of great powers (ie The Israel Lobby" by Mearsheimer) such as the US. I guess you could call it comparative international relations or comparative foreign policy.


GPA of 3.6 (upward trend) and GRE scores of 1500+. I'm writing a senior thesis and have a few years of research experience. I'm not going to post my whole resume -- I'm more curious about what you guys have to say about where I would best fit in than where I could get into.

Thanks everyone. I appreciate it.

Edited by dmsilver89
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UC San Diego might be a good fit for you. Maybe look into WashU and Cornell.

If you have the time, I'd consider just making a list of the top X IR schools and looking through the faculty and student profiles. I was surprised at some of the programs that jumped out at me as I did this.

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A wise person at the desk next to mine made a post here once that was so full of horsesense that I steal it constantly. Peruse the journals and books that feature work that you really admire---subject, methods, etc. If they're currently assistant professors or young associates, you should add the school they attended to your list. If they're older associates or full professors, you should add the school they work at to your list.

In your particular case, it really depends a lot on what kind of work you hope to do. If you are interested in doing case studies or other low-n analysis, I would agree with Cornell. If you're looking for good China people, then consider Michigan, Stanford, and Harvard. The Middle East is harder to pick around.

For the interplay between domestic politics and IR, there are any number of directions you could consider. What kind of interplay? If you like to think about leadership broadly and abstractly, NYU and Rochester (apologies for the plug) would be good places. For more general quantitative domestic IR, you might consider the standard Peace Science-sort of places like Penn State, Rice, Illinois, etc. For public opinion's role in the course of international relations, consider Duke, Ohio State, or WashU.

But really, it sounds more like you're interested in doing traditional IR, so the paragraph above might not apply directly.

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