About me

I am currently a researcher and previous holder of the University Distinguished Fellow (2011-2016) in Political Science at Michigan State University. My research interests focus on democratization in African countries, particularly the role of international factors in transitions, such as the African Union, subcontinental regional organizations (EAC, ECOWAS, and SADC), and international NGOs.

I completed a BA in International Affairs with Honors at The George Washington University, receiving the 2009 Elliott School of International Affairs’ Distinguished Scholar Award. From 2007-2008, I was a visiting student at Oxford University. I subsequently was in the Teach For America corps from 2009 to 2011, teaching Social Studies and English Language Arts in the Boston Public Schools. I began my PhD studies at Michigan State University in 2011.


Fieldwork experience

Over the past five years of PhD work, I have conducted fieldwork in eight African countries: Botswana (2013), Côte d’Ivoire (2015), Ethiopia (2015), Kenya (2013, 2014, 2015), Nigeria (2015), South Africa (2013, 2014), Tanzania (2012), and Zimbabwe (2014). Fieldwork focused on African regional organizations (African Union, EAC, ECOWAS, and SADC) and recent disputed elections in Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Over 400 interviews were conducted for the dissertation project.


Research interests

African regional organizations

Understanding how they influence democracy and political conditions

Democratization and election quality

Measuring and explaining developments in election quality

Leaders, Leadership, and Political Parties

Developing methods to capture and track the opinions of political leaders over time

Fieldwork and Qualitative Methods

Developing strategies to collect qualitative data in a transparent way

Life outside political science


I enjoy…
Amateur astronomy
 Casual running
Football (soccer): Chelsea (Premier League), Aston Villa (Premier League), Kaiser Chiefs (PSL South Africa)
American football: Michigan State Spartans, New England Patriots


E-mail: ppenar@msu.edu
Twitter: @PPenar
YouTube Channel: Peter Penar
LinkedIn: Peter Penar

Interviews & Media


About me