When Vaclav Havel, addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress in 1990, he described the road we are travelling: "democracy in the full sense of the word will always be no more than an ideal; one may approach it as one would a horizon, in ways that may be better or worse, but it can never be fully attained." The Democracy Fellows Program trains graduate students interested in becoming the next generation of scholars, researchers and analysts who help democratic processes move toward this horizon.
We are now living through a period of political ferment that is producing a shift toward democracy among the nations of the world. These nations are working to build democratic institutions, develop a democratic citizenry, and consolidate the democratic process. At the same time, the established democracies face new questions about ensuring equality of access, fair representation, and democratic legitimacy in a changing world. For example, the percentage of Americans who say they trust their government has dramatically decreased from 76% in 1964 to only 44% in 2000.
These events make democracy an important political issue, and have led to a dramatic surge of academic research on how nations and their citizens can make progress in developing a democratic society and polity.
In 1995 the National Science Foundation awarded a multiyear grant to UC Irvine to develop a Graduate Research Traineeship Program on Democratization and Democratic Politics. With philantrophic, foundation, and university support, this program has developed into one of the premier centers in the U.S. for the study of democracy. New support from the Podlich Fellowship on Democracy, the Brown and Brulte Fellowship on Democracy, Peltason Fellowship on Democracy, and the Aznar-Argyros Fellowship on Democracy have expanded and extended the Democracy Fellows program as a continuation of the NSF Training Program to provide research and fellowship support for graduate students in political science, sociology and economics who study democracy. Students with an interest in CSD and democracy studies should clearly indicate this interest on their application for Ph.D. studies in these three departments at UCI if they wish to be eligible for special CSD funding during their first year of study at UCI.
In addition, proposals are being made for a J.D.- Ph.D. program involving UCI's new Law School and various departments in the School of Social Sciences. While it will take until at least 2009-10 for a formal joint J.D.-Ph.D. program to be approved, students interested in attending the UC Law School who also have an interest in empirical democracy studies in the social sciences should clearly indicate this interest when they apply to the UC Law School.
Present educational programs in the social sciences are often ill-equipped to tap the dynamic forces restructuring the social and political world today. In addition, most Ph.D. programs represent an attempt to create narrowly-focused specialists. The study of democracy requires a broadening of training to address the fundamental issues of the cultural and institutional foundations of the democratic process that lie at the heart of current scholarship on political change in the newly emerging democracies of Eastern Europe, the Pacific Rim, and Latin America. Democratization is a continuum ranging from emerging democracies to the expansion of democratic politics in advanced industrial democracies. The objective of this program is to provide training that will enable Ph.D. students to better understand the principles of democracy and to contribute to improving democracy in the United States and internationally.