Security Studies Ph.D. Students Chosen For Prestigious Fellowship

Two graduate students with a deep interest in global conflict recently received a financial endorsement for their work toward a dissertation.

The 2023 Peace Scholar Fellowship Program supports the work of Salah Ben Hammou and Erika Ricci, both of whom are pursuing a Ph.D. from the School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs. The Peace Scholar Program offers financial and academic support to Ph.D. candidates currently writing a dissertation on conflict management and peace building.

Ben Hammou’s dissertation discusses civilians’ role in military coups and their engagement in post-coup political trajectories. His work is influenced by the Arab Spring, a series of anti-government protests in North Africa and the Middle East. Ricci’s dissertation examines terrorism and individual choice within terrorist organizations, with a case study approach exploring the Red Brigades, a far-left Italian extremist group active in the late twentieth century.

One of the biggest advantages for the two future policymakers is the access this program opens to movers and shakers in the Washington D.C. area.

“We’re put into contact with policymakers, folks who have influence over policy and people who have worked either in the military or in government more generally,” Ben Hammou said.

Additionally, a driving factor for the pairs’ applications was the financial burden relief. With scholarship funds from the program, they will be able to focus on just their dissertations without additional duties such as teaching or being teaching assistants.

“It gives me peace of mind to finish my dissertation on the right timeline. Especially as an international student, money is certainly something I consider when I apply for these kinds of programs,” Ricci said.

The prestige of the award also opens doors.

“when I go on the academic job market, this allows me to have external validity on the quality of my work. People in my field know that this fellowship produces quality candidates who can go into a variety of positions,” Ben Hammou said.  

Ricci agrees: “Working with a credible organization like this will help me in the process of getting a job. It shows good quality of work and determination.”

Ricci and Ben Hammou have worked closely in their programs and decided to apply together for the Peace Scholar Fellowship. Aware of the selectivity of this award, the two were hopeful that they would both receive it but ultimately supportive of one another if only one were to be granted the fellowship.

“I could not believe it,” Ricci describes her overwhelming feeling of awe when the news of them both receiving the fellowship was announced.

Ben Hammou attended UCF for his undergraduate degree in Political Science. He then went directly into his graduate studies at UCF earning his M.A. in political science, and now is in the security studies program for his Ph.D.

Ricci did her undergraduate and master’s studies in Italy at the University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Post graduation, she had an internship in India with the Delhi Policy Group, which focused on security strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, and also worked for an European organization in Milan. Now, she is at UCF completing her Ph.D. while doing an internship with NATO.

To other students who are interested in applying for prestigious programs such as the Peace Scholar Fellowship, Ricci advises to “not be intimidated by how difficult it might be to get the award. Some may look at the application and be discouraged, but it is well worth it to apply.” 


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