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Graduate Student Profile: Marisella Rodriguez, Political Science

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019 (All day)

Meet UC Davis Graduate Student Marisella Rodriguez

  • Department
    Political Science
  • Program and year of study
    Ph.D., 6th year (International Relations, Political Methodology, and Comparative Politics 
  • Previous degrees and colleges
    MA Political Science, UC Davis
    BA Political Science, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with Minors in Women’s/Gender Studies and Sociology
  • Where did you grow up?
    San Luis Obispo, CA
  • Where do you live now?
    Davis, CA
  • What's your favorite spot in Davis?
    The Dumpling House, downtown. I could eat there every day!
  • How do you relax?
    By turning off my phone, buying a huge bag of popcorn, and watching the most ridiculous, action-packed movie playing at the movie theater.
  • What was the last book you read for pleasure?
    The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin, a captivating story with immensely complicated female characters and fantastic character development 
  • What TV show are you currently binge-watching?
    I am currently forcing my friends to binge The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with me twice a week.
  • Research interests
    My research broadly focuses on human rights abuses during conflict, particularly the use of sexual violence against noncombatants. I study the conditions under which sexual violence occurs and evolves in international, civil, and security conflicts. In my dissertation, I examine how and when conflict conditions are conducive for two different types of sexual violence, namely opportunistic and strategic.
  • Dissertation title or topic
    Women and Wartime Sexual Violence: Discerning Strategic from Opportunistic Abuses examines variation in the type and level of wartime sexual violence based on conflict conditions. I acknowledge that, to some extent, sexual violence during conflict is fundamentally opportunistic, or non-targeted. However, I argue that there are three conditions under which wartime sexual violence is targeted and strategic. First, sexual violence is an effective strategy during ethnic conflicts because sexual abuse terrorizes a community and, in theory, hinders a community’s reproductive capability. Second, sexual violence is also an effective state military strategy in asymmetrical warfare since it directly targets an opponent’s most vulnerable population: women and children. Lastly, armed groups are likely to practice sexual violence strategically when their own group or community has suffered such abuse. To test these arguments, I use a mixed method research design that includes case study analysis and a series of ordered logit regressions.
  • Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research
    In "The Persistence of Gender (In)Equality: Using Peacetime Measures to Predict Wartime Sexual Violence,” I have found evidence to suggest that women’s success in the labor force during peacetime leads to the targeting of sexual violence against women during wartime, predominantly by rebel forces. However, strong institutional protections for women’s rights prior to conflict can mitigate the positive relationship between female labor force and the sexual violence against women during conflict..
  • Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?
    Although there are many instructors who have inspired me, I am particularly reminded of Dr. Maliha Zulfacar and Dr. Jean Williams from their time at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Both of these instructors created significant learning experiences for me by assigning collaborative projects, writing assignments that focused on current events, and promoting reflective exercises that helped me think about how I learn best.
  • Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?
    The Logic of Violence in Civil War by Stathis N. Kalyvas. I appreciate how the author breaks down such nuanced details specific to civil conflict that leads to different types of violence against civilians and soldiers, ultimately claiming that such violence is in fact rational behavior given the actors and context of civil wars. I wish I had this author’s patience in analyzing and working through such challenging and complex details! 
  • What's the best thing about being a grad student?
    Being able to complete my work in coffee shops and sleep in on weekdays 
  • What's the worst?
    Feeling like success in academia is determined by luck and/or who you know, and being able to sleep in on weekdays
  • If you weren't a grad student, what would you be doing?
    I would want to be a music critic for magazines like The Wire, Pitchfork, or Vibes.
  • Finally, please ask yourself a question - "How can we support graduate students from underrepresented and/or marginalized communities?"
    I think higher education can better support minority graduate students by educating faculty on how to become effective mentors and encouraging departments to evaluate whether graduate student assessments are inclusive, such as seminar assignments, comprehensive exams, and qualifying exams (to name a few). I would also suggest encouraging collaborative research and seminar projects among graduate students and normalizing a sense of community within higher education.

Graduate student profile courtesy of the UC Davis College of Letters and Science.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.

UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.