Peace Studies senior wins Political Science essay award

Author: Hannah Heinzekehr

Dinah Lawan, a Balfour scholar and a graduating University of Notre Dame senior majoring in political science with a minor in peace studies, was awarded the 2022 Gary F. Barnabo Political Science Writing Prize by the Notre Dame Department of Political Science. Each year, this award recognizes the best paper that addresses a current national or global issue, and provides a plan for specific actions and a non-violent resolution.

Lawan’s essay, “Addressing Terrorism Effectively: Strategic Peacebuilding in the Case of Boko Haram in Nigeria,” expolores strategies for dismantling Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Northern Nigeria, using a strategic peacebuilding framework. Since 2009, Boko Haram has killed over 350,000 people and displaced 3 million others in Nigeria. 

Lawan examines why countless efforts to mitigate the ongoing conflict have been unsuccessful, including work by the Nigerian government, civil society and community leaders, other state actors in the region, and international organizations. 

“[I found] that one of the biggest problems with Boko Haram is that the responses to the insurgency have been highly securitized,” wrote Lawan. “The Nigerian government has used military approaches as the primary strategy to end Boko Haram, which is limited because it fails to address the deeper roots of the insurgency. In order to effectively dismantle Boko Haram, the Nigerian government should adopt a strategic peacebuilding approach.”

Ernesto Verdeja, associate professor of political science and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, served as Lawan’s faculty advisor for the thesis writing process. Verdeja was Lawan’s professor for her “Introduction to Peace Studies” class, and then for two additional courses during her time at Notre Dame, "Human Rights and Wrongs" and "Introduction to Political Theory." 

Verdeja describes Lawan as one of “the most resilient and committed undergraduate students” he’s worked with during his time at Notre Dame. 

In the fall, Lawan will start a Ph.D. program in Comparative Politics and International Relations at the University of California, Berkeley, and hopes to continue studying the issues of terrorist insurgency in Nigeria.

Learn more about the Undergraduate Program in Peace Studies at