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Sabina Satriyani Puspita

PhD Candidate in Political Science

Sabina Satriyani Puspita

Pursuing a PhD is a years-long marathon. It’s important to focus on caring for ourselves and maintaining a collaborative—not competitive—attitude when interacting with our fellow graduate students.”

Sabina Satriyani Puspita is a PhD candidate in political science in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on the politics of gender equality in Indonesia. Sabina was named an Arryman Scholar by the Indonesian Scholarship and Research Support Foundation (ISRSF) and received a grant that covers up to six years of study toward a PhD at Northwestern. She also was a visiting research fellow with the Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies in 2014-2015. 

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?

My dissertation project examines the politics of gender equality in Indonesia. Specifically, it aims to explain the consequences of Indonesia's regime transitions from 1945 to the present on Indonesian women's struggle for gender equality.

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?

I was doing fieldwork in Indonesia for my dissertation project between June 2019 and May 2020. While there, I was fortunate to be able to directly apply my knowledge of women's rights, gendered politics, and Title IX in the U.S. I accepted the Indonesian Education and Culture Ministry’s request to support the minister’s Expert Team in formulating strategies for eradicating sexual violence within Indonesian higher education. 

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.

While growing up in Jakarta as the daughter of a single mother, I experienced difficulties—not to mention the social stigma for having parents of different faiths. Those experiences have led me to ask: why do policies and government practices that discriminate against Indonesian girls and women, particularly of religious minorities, persist (and maybe increase) over time, despite the country's economic development, modernization, and democratization?

Whom do you admire in your field and otherwise, and why?

I admire so many people in my field. However, if I have to choose, I honestly admire Dr. Laura Garcia so much. Laura has not only been an inspiring mentor and colleague, but she also showed analytical depth in her work on the politics of redistribution and economic inequality in the Latin American context. I admire her discipline as she was working on her dissertation, too. Despite her busy schedule, she always makes the time to discuss my work and provide feedback. 

What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?

The biggest potential impact of my work would be advancing our knowledge about women's movements' struggles and their interaction with state-making in the postcolonial context. I seek to not only contribute to the literature on social movements and democratic institutions in the field of comparative politics but also to converse with Indonesian women's rights activists and policymakers.

Why Northwestern?

Northwestern has many political scientists who have produced superbly well-written and engaging theories and books. Plus, its campus is beautiful and located in an environment that is conducive to studying. Last but not least, my scholarship program—the Arryman Program—is hosted by Northwestern. 

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?

Pursuing a PhD is a years-long marathon. It’s important to focus on caring for ourselves and maintaining a collaborative—not competitive—attitude when interacting with our fellow graduate students. Doing so is key to conserving our energy and surviving our doctoral studies.

Tell us about a time when things did not go as you planned, what did you learn?

I was supposed to return to the U.S. in June 2020 to finish writing my dissertation. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed my research and writing plans drastically. I have learned that staying in touch with my fellow graduate students and closest friends is key to remaining psychologically and physically fit while I adjust to heightened uncertainties.

Published: January 5, 2021

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