Our Story: APSA’s Ralph Bunche Summer Institute

“If you want to get an idea across, wrap it up in a person.”
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche

For more than 30 years, the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI) has inspired nearly 600 undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds to consider pursuing academic careers in political science by exposing them to graduate-level coursework in research methodology and racial and ethnic politics.

Picture from the first APSA Summer Institute in 1986.
APSA scholars (left to right) Robert Long, Audra Jackson, Kenneth Winters, Venita Martin, Obed Wheaton, and Yolanda Smith with American Political Science Review editor Samuel Patterson (third from right) and LSU graduate student Sharon Shierling (far right) at the first APSA Summer Institute in 1986.

Established in 1986 and originally called the APSA Summer Institute for Blacks in Political Science, the RBSI was a jointly sponsored program run by Southern University and Louisiana State University. Between 1988-1989, the program was renamed for Ralph J. Bunche, the first African American to earn a PhD in political science.

The program has moved over the years, first to a five-university consortium which included Spelman College, Clark-Atlanta University, Emory University, Georgia State University and Morehouse College in 1990; then to the University of Virginia in 1995; and has resided at Duke University since 2000.

Rising college seniors from across the country participate in a intensive 5 1/2 week program intended to simulate the graduate school experience through hands-on experience with an introduction to political science inquiry and scholarship, and research methodology. Since 2000, RBSI has hosted up to 20 undergraduate students at Duke each summer and provided training in research methods and critical thinking. A strong ethics component is added with readings, cases, debates and lectures on issues within an academic setting.

The Ralph Bunche Summer Institute class of 2012, pictured at Duke University.

The Institute also provides a GRE prep course and transferable credit courses in quantitative analysis and race and American politics. Representatives from a number of leading PhD-granting institutions from across the country (many of whom are program alumni) participate in a recruitment fair at RBSI to discuss their doctoral programs. Students prepare original, empirical final research papers. Each year, students who excel at the Institute and on the final project are invited to present research posters at the APSA Annual Meeting.

RBSI and APSA are proud of the RBSI scholars and the impact they have and will continue to have on the future of the discipline and our society.

Learn more about the RBSI program, RBSI alumni, and current RBSI scholars by visiting apsanet.org/rbsi.