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START student wins two prestigious fellowships


START student wins two prestigious fellowships

May 13, 2020Elena Levan

Senior Taiwo Mustafa was recently awarded two prestigious and highly competitive fellowships — an American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship and a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.  


Taiwo Mustafa

Mustafa is a senior government and politics major with a concentration in international relations, and a member of the University Honors Program. Last spring, he interned at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, where he worked specifically on a project related to international crisis behavior. At START, he researched cases related to African conflict and coded each case to specific categories to be analyzed.

Mustafa moved to the United States from Nigeria when he was five and says he feels lucky to be at UMD and is truly making every minute count. His own background, along with his reflections about the state of Africa, drive his passion for comparative politics and international relations.

“Recently there’s been a lot of migration within Africa because of climate change, flooding, some renewed conflict in the area,” he says. “So I thought to myself, migration in a new comparative sense, is going to be a really important topic to research in the future.”

As part of University Honors, Mustafa has worked on a thesis focusing on ethnic discrimination and violence against refugees. This past October, he was invited to an Emerging Scholars Conference at the University of Michigan to present his thesis.

Outside of his work in University Honors, Mustafa pushes himself to excellence in his field. As an undergraduate, he took several graduate-level government and politics courses and completed several internships related to his major.

Mustafa also worked at the Do Good Institute as an undergraduate assistant for the Center for International Security Studies, and was named last year as a Gillman Scholar. With that opportunity, Mustafa was able to study abroad in London for the semester.

In his free time, Mustafa is part of an informal writing club, and enjoys running and playing games friends (chess and Uno are personal favorites).

This spring, Mustafa was awarded an American Political Science Association Minority Fellowship. 

“Winning an APSA Award for a political scientist is really big,” Mustafa says. “Employers in the future will see that this is the organization that sponsors political scientists, and that I won this award at an early age. That will help to distinguish me.”

The fellowship will not only propel him into his future profession, but will also provide him with support and connections in the field. Mustafa hopes to use this opportunity to further his research in migration and conflict.

Mustafa says, “Complex problems require complex solutions. I am motivated to study this with a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach. I don't want to be fixated on one particular approach to solving issues.”

Mustafa says looking forward, his primary goal is to one day be an academic, researching and teaching about migration, African politics, refugees and political mobilization. After receiving many bids for top Ph.D. programs, Mustafa will begin a doctorate program at Stanford University this coming fall. He was also selected as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow.

“I feel very fortunate to have come here to study,” says Mustafa. “I will be forever connected to Maryland.”


Story by Elena Levan, PSYC '20, and photo appear courtesy of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences