Jennifer Seely, Ph.D.

Professor of politics; director of Peace Corps Prep program

Email:[email protected]

Department: Politics
African and African American Studies
International Studies

Program: Peace Corps Prep applied minor

Location: Landrum Bolling Center Room 233
801 National Road
Richmond, Indiana 47274

About me

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and always thought I wanted to be a teacher. In college I realized that I was fascinated by the developing world, so I joined the Peace Corps and spent two years in Cote d’Ivoire. It was a transformative experience and led me to graduate study in political science, focused on questions of democratization and development in Africa.

After earning my Ph.D. from Washington University I was awarded a Carnegie Mellon Fellowship from Brandeis University, and joined Earlham’s Politics Department in 2008. I teach courses in the subfield of comparative politics, seeking answers to questions about why some countries transition to democracy or are systematically able to improve the lives of their populations.

Since 2016, I have served as director of Earlham’s Peace Corps Prep Program, helping students prepare for international development work.

I love the mix of academic excellence and international awareness on this campus and have had the privilege to work with Earlham students in collaborative research projects on several subjects, including African citizenship law (later published as a peer-reviewed article), voter turnout and the struggle for democracy in Togo. In addition to my substantive academic areas of interest, I teach research design and I have actively encouraged my students to pursue ambitious research projects and present them in professional settings such as the Midwest Political Science Association conference held annually in Chicago.

I love to travel and have been lucky enough to visit many places in the US and around the world.  Some of my favorite places are San Francisco; Cape May, New Jersey; and Porto-Novo, Benin.  A silver lining of staying at home more now is developing my hobby of crafting miniature rooms and dollhouses.

The best thing about teaching at Earlham is working with our amazing students. Earlham students are willing and able to tackle difficult subjects and elevate their understanding through hard work. They care deeply about politics, international studies and real-world problems and are able to address them from an academic point of view, as well as act as agents for meaningful change.


  • Ph.D., Washington University
  • M.A., Washington University
  • B.A., Northwestern University

Professional memberships

Scholarly interest

My scholarly interests have traditionally been centered on democracy and development, especially in Africa. I have published on citizenship in Africa, democratic transitions, African elections and have recently completed an in-depth reference work on Togo. My field experience in Africa has been centered on French-speaking countries in West Africa, including Côte d’Ivoire, Benin, Togo, Mali and Senegal. 

More recently I have become interested in improving the use of instructional simulations in the classroom, by helping students better understand both course content in politics and improve cross-cultural negotiation skills. I have partnered with Ashesi University in Ghana to develop role-playing exercises appropriate to the Ghanaian context, and in so doing, improve the simulations used in the Politics Department at Earlham, as well.

Research projects

Fulbright Teaching Fellowship 2020-2021, Ghana: “Instructional Simulations in the African Classroom” (suspended due to pandemic)
Professional Development Grant 2018 (Earlham College) Africana Research at Boston University

Collaborative student research experiences

My students’ projects are as diverse as they are: the most recent politics capstone work I supervised focused on gender and development in Kashmir, refugee policies in Armenia, Latino civic engagement in the US Southwest and reducing air pollution in Mongolia, to name just a few. I help students develop projects like these into full-length research papers and then distilled the information into poster form and presented that research at Earlham’s own Annual Research Conference, as well as in the undergraduate poster sessions at the Midwest Political Science Association meetings in Chicago, Illinois.

Off-campus study experiences

In Fall 2020 I served as a visiting instructor at Ashesi University in Ghana (teaching online from the US), working with first-year Ashesi students in their foundational coursework and transition to college life and expectations. I am slated to co-lead a faculty development trip with Karim Sagna to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire in summer 2021 (conditions permitting) focused on the African educational experience, in hopes of promoting better cross-cultural understanding in the Earlham community and beyond.

In May 2013, in collaboration with faculty from the French and Francophone Studies Department, I led Earlham students on a three-week short term to Benin in West Africa. We zipped around on the local moped taxis and interviewed professionals on topics ranging from malaria prevention to women’s legal rights and microcredit systems. Students practiced French, visited historical sites, and enjoyed local cuisines like fresh fruits, grilled fish and vegetable sauce with sesame.

Published works

Historical Dictionary of Togo, 4th Edition.  Co-authored with Samuel Decalo.  Forthcoming 2021: Rowman and Littlefield, Scarecrow Press. 

“Second Class Citizens? Gender in African Citizenship Law” Co-authored with Emma Diambogne Diouf, Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, Maria Vaikath, and Kiah Young-Burns. Citizenship Studies 17, 3-4: 429-446 (June 2013).

“It’s All Relative: Modeling Candidate Support in Benin.” Co-authored with Martin Battle. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 16: 1 (January 2010).

The Legacies of Transition Governments in Africa: The Cases of Benin and Togo.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

“A Political Analysis of Decentralization: Co-opting the Tuareg Threat in Mali.” Journal of Modern African Studies 39:3 (September 2001).

We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.
We continue to monitor the effects of an industrial fire 1.1 miles from campus.