08:15 AM

UHD’s Leena Thacker-Kumar Receives International Affairs Fellowship from the Council on Foreign Relations


By Mike Emery

Dr. Leena Thacker Kumar, University of Houston-Downtown Professor of International Politics, has received the International Affairs Fellowship for Tenured International Relations Scholars from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). This award facilitates practical experience in the foreign policy-making field, providing a 12-month placement at a U.S. federal government agency or with an international organization. CFR is an independent, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to informing the public about the foreign policy choices facing the United States and the world.

Thacker-Kumar, the first UHD faculty member to earn this prestigious fellowship, will spend a year working with the Center for Conflict and Violence Prevention within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Fellowship will directly complement  here ongoing scholarly activities including recent research efforts addressing COVID-19's impact and subsequent governance issues on fragile nations in the Middle East.

“I hope to understand how USAID develops and implements strategies to deal with increasing radicalization in states that face a capacity, security and legitimacy gaps and how it helps establish governance structures that lead to strong state building,” she said. “The fragile states in the Middle East are already strained for resources and are now burdened with dealing with the pandemic. They face the growing influence of terrorist organizations stepping in to provide services that they themselves are unable to provide and in doing so, these terror groups are challenging the authority of these states and setting themselves up as viable alternatives. This has raised major governance issues and fears that the bolstering of terrorist groups will lead to further destabilization in the Middle East.”

According to Thacker-Kumar, the fellowship is unique as it provides scholars with the hands-on experiences in an area of research.

“It bridges the knowing-doing gap by enabling faculty members to work in the field on projects involving practical policy making and implementation,” she said.

Thacker-Kumar is optimistic that her time as a Fellow will yield future opportunities for UHD and its students.

“The relationships and contacts built in international organizations like USAID have the potential to open new doors for UHD students for internships and jobs and widen the eminence of the University,” she said. "I am really excited about the opportunity and proud to be part of an institution like UHD that supports my fellowship with Council on Foreign Relations.”

Established in 1967, the International Affairs Fellowship is the hallmark fellowship program of CFR. It aims to bridge the gap between the study and making of U.S. foreign policy by creating the next generation of scholar-practitioners. Fellows are selected based on achievements and promise, depth and breadth of professional experience, firm grounding in foreign policy and international relations, and the quality of their submitted applications.

About the University of Houston-Downtown

The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.

U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.