Megan BeckerWelcome!

I am an Associate (Teaching) Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at USC, where I am a co-PI of the Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab. I am also the PI of the NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program “Data Science and the Political Economy of Security.” I received my PhD in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 2015. Since coming to USC in 2016, I have received recognition for my teaching as recipient of the 2017 Craig L. Brians Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research and Mentorship awarded by the American Political Science Association, a 2019-20 Faculty Fellowship with the Project on Teaching Integrity in Emprical Research, and the 2021 CQ Press Award for Teaching Innovation from APSA.  My scholarship has been published in PS: Political Science and Politics and the Journal of Political Science Education and I received the 2020 Kendra Koivu Award for Best Paper in Qualitative Methods presented at the APSA annual meeting. My full CV can be found here.

My IR research agenda considers who fights in civil wars and how they are funded. I am particularly interested in those who fight on the side of the government, but who are not a part of official government military forces.  My interests have led me to study the role of Private Military Companies (PMCs) in African civil wars, but also to think more critically about the fundamental relationships underpinning civil-military relations and national security. I also have a strong interest in understanding the resource curse as it pertains to conflict–when do natural resource fuel and fund civil wars? Abstracts of my current working papers are available on the IR Research page and drafts are available upon request.

My pedagogical practice is informed by my own experience as a first-generation college student and has motivated me to make my classroom a welcoming place for students from all backgrounds.  I teach introductory courses in International Relations and Research Methods and upper-division courses on civil war, international negotiation, and international security. Prior to coming to USC, I taught at UCSD, Tufts University, and Dartmouth College. You can find course descriptions, syllabi, and related materials on the Courses page.

I also serve as a Co-PI, along with my colleagues Ben Graham and Jonathan Markowitz, of the Security and Political Economy (SPEC) Lab. At SPEC, we are dedicated to recruiting, training, and mentoring students from groups that are underrepresented in academia. In the Lab, I lead the research team on Resources, Climate, and Conflict, as well as managing all education and outreach activities. For more information, see the SPEC Lab page or visit the main SPEC Lab website. If you are interested in applying to our Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program on “Data Science and the Political Economy of Security,” please look at the SPEC NSF REU page.

As part of my passion for working with undergraduates, I not only mentor undergraduate research, I also study undergraduate research and resarch methods education, trying to determine best practices that will aid not only my own students, but also help other interested faculty members. I am also interested in developing pedagogical strategies to make Political Science more equitable and inclusive. My work in this area has been published in PS: Political Science and Politics and the Journal of Political Science Education. You will find details on the Pedagogy Research page.