Mark Buntaine

BUNTAINE headshotI am currently Assistant Professor at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I research and teach about environmental policymaking in developing countries. I completed a Ph.D. in environmental politics at Duke University and previously taught in the Government Department at the College of William & Mary. My interest in the environmental challenges facing developing countries began when I was a student at Wake Forest. After taking courses on Chinese politics, I applied for a scholarship that would support independent research on economic and environmental change in China. I was fortunate to receive it. Combined with a more traditional study abroad program, this research exposed me to previously unimaginable pollution, and the challenge of balancing the costs and benefits of development.

Armed with new language skills, I took a position with the China program of the Nature Conservancy. I led the community outreach portion of the project and was responsible for designing and conducting household surveys. My time in China convinced me that social science research can add real value to the hard decisions faced by policymakers, firms, and communities. Since that time, I have pursued a variety of projects on environmental policymaking in developing countries , with a particular emphasis on the targeting and impact of foreign aid. I have completed or am currently implementing projects across Asia, Africa, and South America. These projects address the allocation practices of aid donors, the participation of citizens in environmental policymaking, the relationship between public and private financing of new environmental technologies, the processes that lead to lasting government reform, and the evaluation of environmental programs, among other interests. I am very fortunate to have received the mentorship and research opportunities at Wake Forest that launched me down this path. [posted November 2013]

Joel Cohen

Joel_low_res (3)Doing a brief bio for the WFU Dept. of Politics and International Affairs is a special pleasure as it is an opportunity to reflect on the amazing courses and professors that introduced me to political thought and encouraged me to always strive to broaden my perspective.  A particular thank you to my profs and classmates, many of whom I still count as close friends.

After Wake, I worked at the DHS in Washington, DC helping to shape domestic policy seeking to prevent terrorism in aviation.   There, my colleagues and I wrestled with the difficulties of developing effective policy and then conforming such a policy to the political and legal reality of the day.   Wresting with the legal issues, in particular, was good prep for me, as I would soon be transitioning into the legal field.

After completing a JD and Masters in International and Comparitive Law at Duke (you probably know it as “that other NC private school”) I went to work in private practice at a leading international firm called Skadden, Arps.   At Skadden, my practice focused on cross-border transactions and mergers & acquisitions.

After working in private practice, I have taken a career shift back in the direction of education and contemporary thought.   Currently, I’m in the process of launching a new media and online education company with some outstanding lawyers – Talks On Law (“TOL”).   TOL is a platform where top thinkers and practitioners speak on contemporary and controversial legal issues of the day to inform the debate and inspire change.  And for the rest of us, it’s another great place to learn.  Feel free to follow us on twitter: @talksonlaw or facebook:  I very much hope to continue to hear from other Wake Politics grads in the future. [posted August 2013]

Kezia McKeague

KeziaI pursued my interests in Latin America and U.S. foreign policy through a double major in Political Science and Spanish.  I also took advantage of Wake Forest’s study-abroad opportunities, from a program in Havana (my mother’s hometown and the inspiration for my passion for all things Cuban) to a semester in Venice and an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid.  Most importantly, I undertook an independent research project in Buenos Aires with the support of a Richter grant.  In 2005, I returned to Argentina for my last semester as an exchange student at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, which is known for its excellence in the social sciences.  Buenos Aires is a difficult city to leave; those initial three months turned into three wonderful and very formative years.  I became a research associate at a local think tank, the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL), and enrolled in the master’s program in International Studies at Di Tella.  Following a brief stint in New York for an internship at the United Nations Secretariat, I completed the degree at Sciences Po in Paris.

These peregrinations ultimately led me to Washington, DC.  From 2008 to 2011, I was a Legislative Assistant on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I contributed to multiple staff studies that helped shape debate on U.S. policy towards Latin America.  I also enjoyed a unique vantage point for learning the mechanics of Congress and observing the role of the legislative branch in foreign policymaking.  In March of 2011, the Council of the Americas recruited me to be Director of Government Relations in the Washington office.  Based in New York since its founding by David Rockefeller in 1965, the Council is a cross between a think tank and a business association.  Its membership consists of leading international companies across a range of sectors, with a common commitment to economic and social development, open markets, the rule of law, and democracy throughout the Western Hemisphere.  As the organization’s chief liaison to the U.S. government and the diplomatic community, I led our advocacy efforts in support of congressional passage of the free-trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.  I continue to manage the annual Washington Conference on the Americas, co-sponsored with the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, as well as the activities of the Council’s Trade Advisory Group.  Since 2012, I have worked with Ambassador John Negroponte, Chairman of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, on an initiative focused on fostering a public-private dialogue around improving management of the U.S.-Mexico border and highlighting the economic opportunities in the bilateral relationship.  I also write on occasion for the blog of the Americas Quarterly.

Over the last three years, I have been honored to serve on the Reynolds Scholarship Committee.  The trips back to campus have reinforced the depth of my gratitude to Wake Forest’s faculty and administration, particularly the Politics and Romance Languages departments. [posted July 2013]

Commencement 2013


Wake Forest University holds its Commencement ceremony on Hearn Plaza on Monday, May 20, 2013. Class president and Politics and International Affairs major Tre Easton (’13) gives the greetings from the class of 2013.






Senior Showcase 2013



Lani Domagalski, Politics & International Affairs, for “Wisconsin and Michigan Collective Bargaining and Breaking the Unions,” nominated by Professor Hank Kennedy, was featured in the 2013 Library Senior Showcase





West Point Academy 2013: David Banerjea

West Point (1)

This past fall I had the privilege of attending the 64th Student Conference on US Affairs (SCUSA 64), hosted by West Point Military Academy. This year’s theme was “Leading in Lean Times: Assuring Accountability and Assessing American Priorities in an Age of Austerity.” The conference featured 16 round tables where students discussed, debated, and drafted policy papers on national security issues pertaining to the United States. The challenge was framing these policy papers within the context of austerity; how to face global challenges while consolidating the United States debt. I sat on the round table “Can’t Stop Da Bomb: Arms Control and Proliferation” where we discussed Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the threat nuclear weapons pose to United States national security.

In between round table sessions I attended panel discussions, keynote addresses, and toured the West Point campus. Aside from the formal proceedings, I was also fortunate to interact with many cadets on a more personal level. I stayed in the barracks with cadets where I experienced firsthand the unique routine that cadets follow on a daily basis. Be it the 6:00 am daily wake up, the full day of classes, or the mandatory workouts and conditioning, I was thoroughly impressed by how much these cadets take on and how well they balance all of their duties. Having connected with them on a personal and academic level, I feel safe and blessed knowing these fine men and women will be the future officers of the United States Army.

Meenu Krishnan

Meenu Krishnan won the Carl Moses Excellence in Research Award for her senior paper “Democracies at Risk: Divergent Approaches to Press Violence in Colombia and Mexico.” She will be pursuing an MPhil in International Relations and Politics at Cambridge University in the UK.


In 2013 Dan Stefany was awarded the C.H. Richards Award for Excellence in Politics and International Affairs. Dan will attend the University of Virginia’s School of Law in fall 2013.

Fulbright Scholars and Gilman Scholarship 2013

Fulbright Pic

Sal Badillo

I was awarded the Fulbright to assistant teach in Santander, Spain. I will be an English assistant teacher and also direct the school’s Global Classrooms Program, which is a Model U.N. like extracurricular activity. Starting date is 15 September 2013.


Elizabeth Cannon

I will teach English in South Korea for children in secondary education.

Renee Slawsky


The goal of the Fulbright award to Russia is to serve as an ambassador between Russia and the US. With the English Teaching Assistantship, I will divide my time working in the classroom with high school or middle school students, serving directly with the English language teachers, providing private tutoring, and working on an individual project. My project will be compiling profiles on average Russian citizens and publishing their photos and a short paragraph about them on a blog. I am hoping that this will dispel some misconceptions Americans have about Russia. I am also hoping to work with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to promote this blog. I am not sure what city I will be in (I could be anywhere in Russia!) or what my living situation will be like, but I know that I am extremely excited to undertake such an adventure and help deepen understanding between Russia and the United States.

Ken Meyer was offered a Fulbright award to teach in Turkey during 2013-14. He declined as he had committed to the Cambridge MPhil program.

Rising senior and major Jeremy Hefter earned a federal, competitive language/culture grant, the Gilman, for study SP ’13 in Hong Kong. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress 2013: Dan Stefany


The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress was an incredible experience for me. Having the honor of representing Wake Forest at an academic conference was very exciting for me, but it was the experience of meeting other fellows from across the country and sharing ideas that was the most memorable. Just being in the room with some of the speakers and honored guests (i.e Former Justice O’Connor) who attended our fall and spring conferences was a once in a lifetime experience. I was very fortunate in that I found a topic that was really fascinating to me with drone warfare. As I researched and wrote my paper, there were more articles coming out daily about the latest developments in the drone warfare debate. With the help of a CSPC mentor in Washington and several WFU professors, putting together the research paper for the spring conference was actually very rewarding. I have nothing but positive things to say about the entire fellowship experience–the people I met were outstanding and the opportunity to engage with minds young and old about today’s biggest political issues was as rewarding an experience as any I’ve had as a Wake Forest student.

US Naval Academy 2013: Thomas Walker

WalkerThis April, I had the privilege to represent Wake Forest at the Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference in Annapolis.  Over the course of three very full days, we heard from politicians, military leaders, journalists, and academics, we discussed foreign policy in breakout groups, and we learned what it was like to be a Midshipman at the Naval Academy.  We were also able to fit in an afternoon of sailing and touring “the Yard.”

The theme of this year’s conference was “A Time of Transition” so we addressed the rebalancing toward Asia, the immediate threats to the United States, and what our nation’s long-term course of action should look like.  Some of the speakers were former Dep. Sec. State Richard Armitage, Ambassador Dennis Ross, and Admiral McRaven.  It was truly fascinating to hear the perspectives of those who shape and enact foreign policy.  Probably, my biggest takeaway from my conference experience was the time that I spent with the Midshipmen.  I found the Midshipmen to be just as intellectually engaged and dynamic as students at Wake Forest.  And after getting to know many Midshipmen, I am happy to know that our country will be served by such fine military officers.  Overall, I am very thankful for this experience and it is one of my greatest academic memories from my time at Wake Forest.

2013 Co-Recipient of the Carlton P. West Phi Beta Kappa Award

Into Africa: Katherine Wycisk

Alumna turns her passion for caring for orphans in Uganda into a nonprofit.

By Kerry M. King (’85) Wake Forest Magazine

Katherine Wycisk (’12) and Aid4Uganda co-director Shane Falconer with a child from a Ugandan orphanage.

Katherine Wycisk (’12) is volunteer co-director of Aid4Uganda, a nonprofit in Melbourne, Australia, that supports orphanages in Uganda. “It’s the only kind of work I could ever imagine doing, and it is the most incredible job in the world,” she says. All of the money raised by Aid4Uganda goes directly to care for children. She is currently raising funds to more than double the size of an orphanage just outside the capital city of Kampala to house 100 children.

Why are you so passionate about this cause?

I wish I knew! I just know that my purpose in this world is to try and make it a little better – cleaner, happier, less hungry – than I found it. I do not have any grand illusions about changing the world, because no one person could ever do that. Rather, I believe in joining the ranks of those idealistic people who keep fighting to make a vision of a better future reality, because I am sure that if enough people do join them, sooner or later, the world will become a better place.

When did your interest in Africa begin?

It actually dates back to high school; that was when I learned about the insurgency raging in northern Uganda and started getting interested in the country’s – and the region’s – politics and culture. As my interest grew, I began reading East African newspapers and started getting involved with organizations such as Gulu Walk and the Enough Project that worked for peace and development in East Africa.

How did you pursue that interest at Wake?

I majored in political science, with an unofficial focus on African Studies and international development. I wrote every research paper I could on Uganda and the surrounding region, and I started thinking about traveling to the area. I finally got my chance in the summer before my senior year, when I used funding from the Richter Scholarship to spend two months in Uganda, splitting my time between volunteering in the capital city district and doing research in the northern city of Gulu.

The trip was absolutely incredible; I got to talk American foreign policy with people actually affected by it. I got to play with kids, travel the country, and do field research. I got to try my hand at cooking Ugandan dishes, sleep in an orphanage, and tour NGOs working to rehabilitate the northern region. I came home not only with an enhanced understanding of Uganda and the East African region, but with a career.

What professors inspired you while you were at Wake Forest?

Katherine Wycisk and Shane Fulcmar with children at an orphanage in Uganda.

Dr. Thomas Phillips (’74, MA ’78) was my single greatest inspiration; he pushed me to travel, to research and to experience as much of life as I could. He helped me craft summer research projects, encouraged me to take classes I never would have considered for myself, and got me reading some of the most interesting books I have ever encountered. His mentorship helped me grow enormously as a person and a scholar, and it helped me figure out what I wanted from my life and my career.

How did you become involved with Aid4Uganda?

While I was in Uganda (through the Richter Scholarship), I met Shane Falconer, who was building an orphanage in a small suburb outside the capital city of Kampala. Shane was interested in expanding his work and creating a small charity focused on supporting orphanages throughout the country. It was an inspiring idea, and one that intrigued me. I could see that investing in children was the way to put the country’s people on the road to prosperity. Shane and I joined forces and established Aid4Uganda.

I know you worked for a year before you graduated with another Wake Forest graduate, the Rev. Taylor Field (’76), pastor of Graffiti Church in New York City. How did that experience affect you?

Graffiti was a wonderful experience because it showed me how powerfully beneficial grassroots charity work can be. Graffiti works primarily with the underprivileged population of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, providing services such as GED classes, a clothing closet for job interview attire, computer classes and a soup kitchen. Being involved in such an on-the-ground organization helped me see how investing in individuals and meeting them where they’re at is the best way to influence and develop a community.

Co-Recipient of the Carlton P. West Phi Beta Kappa Award


Major: Political Science

Minors: Economics, Middle East and South Asia Studies

Hometown: Randolph, NJ

After graduation, Ken Meyer will head to the United Kingdom to study for a masters in international relations and politics at the University of Cambridge. His thesis will compare and contrast political polarization in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Q: What’s different about you since your first year on campus?

A: During orientation I probably drove my first-year roommate and my new hall mates insane as I spewed politics endlessly for the first few days. It’s a miracle that many of them are still my friends. I’ve always had a love affair with American politics. My vision for my life tracked toward managing campaigns and government offices at the national level. Though I’m still fundamentally the same bleeding-heart Democrat that walked onto campus four years ago, my time at Wake Forest and in North Carolina taught me to listen, to talk across geographic divides and to see the common humanity beneath our politics.

Q: What activities did you enjoy outside of the classroom?

A: I never planned on working in newspapers. I never wrote for my high school paper. I never wrote for my town paper. Newspapers seemed like a dying medium. When I followed a friend up to the newspaper office my first week at Wake, it was supposed to be a simple trade off. If I went with her to the first Old Gold & Black newspaper meeting, she would come with me to the first mock trial meeting. Four years later, she never once wrote for the paper, but I started working with the staff in graphic design and eventually made my way up the newspaper ladder to serve as the first-ever managing editor for online content. We built out a new online program for the Old Gold & Black that included a new website, new social media accounts, and a new mobile application. For someone who never planned on working in newspapers, I’m very proud to say that our staff and this program won Best of Show for Online News at the 2012 North Carolina Statewide College Media Awards. I’m also personally proud to say that this experience allowed me to volunteer my fall semester serving the White House as an intern in its Office of Digital Strategy.

Q: Did you study abroad?

A: Since coming to Wake Forest I’ve had the privilege of spending time in 10 different countries. The Outdoor Pursuits club took me backpacking during my first spring break through the Spanish island of Mallorca.  The city of Fez in Morocco opened its doors to me to conduct a research project on urbanization comparing its old and new halves. The fall semester of 2011 I attended the University of Cambridge through a Wake Forest study abroad program. The face of the world has changed even in my short lifetime. That’s why I was so happy to take advantage of Wake Forest’s commitment to send students abroad to learn about the world beyond our shores.

Q:. How have your major and minors worked together?

A: In my politics thesis, “Spring is for Parties.”  I argue that the Arab Spring in Egypt enfranchised the country’s citizens by creating a new multiparty democracy out of the former single-party autocracy. This thesis tied together each of the strands of my undergraduate education: the party research pulled together my political science major; the focus on Egypt closed my Middle East Studies minor, and the illustration of a revolution in a developing country anchored my economics minor.

Q: Who has most influenced you during your time at Wake Forest? 

A: Dr. Tom Phillips in the Wake Forest Scholars program has embodied this University’s dedication to mentorship. He’s been a constant adviser, aide-de-camp, ally and friend. I’ll always be grateful to him for the help he’s offered me in putting together research programs during each summer I’ve been at Wake Forest, guiding me through the rigors of academia, and finally, looking for post-graduate opportunities. Thank you, Dr. Phillips, from the bottom of my heart.

Q: What is your favorite campus spot?

A: The fifth floor of the Benson University Center. It’s a place that not many Wake students ever find if they’re not involved in campus media, but at night it offers one of the most incredible views of the Winston-Salem skyline.

Q: Your best advice for an incoming first-year student?

A: Don’t be afraid to spend time in Winston-Salem. Go to the Reynolda House; volunteer or speak at a local high school, or head downtown even for just an afternoon. For the rest of my life, I know I will always count the city beyond Wake Forest’s gates as a home to which I will look forward to returning.