Group Photo of Spring 2023 Policy Research Internship Project “Superpower California: The Indispensable State?” with USC Center on Public Diplomacy
Group Photo of Spring 2023 Policy Research Internship Project “Superpower California: The Indispensable State?” with USC Center on Public Diplomacy

Spring 2023: “Superpower California: The Indispensable State?” with USC Center on Public Diplomacy

For the Spring 2023 semester, our POSC 395 Policy Research Internship students examined the various aspects of subnational power and how it interacts both with federal institutions and world bodies. The project covered multifaceted aspects of the dynamic relationships and how they manifest themselves in the 21st century physical and digital realm. Students sought input from multiple players at the local, regional, federal, and international levels. They presented their extensive research and recommendations to our partner, USC Center on Public Diplomacy and Dr. Markos Kounalakis, who leads the center.

Dr. Kounalakis is a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, a Senior Fellow at the Center on Media, Data, and Society at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, and an International Journalism Fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He is the Second Gentleman of California, husband of Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis.

Sari Tannenbaum, a junior majoring in Political Science, said this about her research experience:

“I had the honor of conducting scholarly research for Markos Kounalakis, who among countless accolades, is California’s Second Gentleman and a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute. My research evaluated California’s influence as a global leader in climate-forward, environmental policy with a technical focus on electricity. As a team, we identified opportunities for growth between areas in which the state leads the world, and where it falls short of its potential. This project was an incredibly special learning experience because I was able to use my academic interests to contribute to practical politics. I’d like to thank Markos and the CPF team for giving me the unique opportunity to apply my education to promoting the future of California politics!”

Project: Superpower California

USC Students: Teya Hisel, Raegan Lusk, Jonathan Niebuhr, Sari Tannenbaum, and Ara Yacoubian

Research Questions: What is the global role that California, a subnational entity, plays in the international system? What are the ways in which California, as a nation-state is leading the world and where is it lacking?

Policy Recommendations:

  1. Demographics

    • Expanded access to education is key to raising declining population growth

    • Address housing shortages with state funding and greater job opportunities in the trade sector

  2. Environment

    • Tackle energy insecurity with new sources and stricter enforcement of climate neutrality benchmarks

    • Capitalize on existing infrastructure to upgrade and meet climate goals with our electric grids

  3. Agriculture

    • More funding/support for climate smart agriculture programs

    • Reduce use and demand for harmful products in the industry

  4. Technology

    • Increase public investment in programs to support climate technology startups

    • Create public consulting board to educate potential investors on emerging climate technologies

  5. Legal Opportunities

    • Mobilize advantages of international agreements and outside partnerships to circumvent domestic legal roadblocks

    • Continue use of state agencies to create incentives for immigration and combating climate change

Read the group’s full research presentation.

Watch the video presentation on “Superpower California: The Indispensable State?