Research Themes

The Kellogg Institute for International Studies is committed to the pursuit of scholarly excellence and to value-driven research that helps to advance human welfare around the world. Two of the most critical issues facing humanity, democracy and human development, are at the core of the Institute’s research agenda. Of particular interest is research that explicitly links the themes of democracy and human development.



The broad umbrella of democracy studies includes research on:

  • The founding, institutionalization, and quality of democratic regimes, including the quality of public life;
  • Democratic governability and accountability and the expansion and consolidation of human rights and the rule of law;
  • Public policies for social justice, with an emphasis on how government can foster social well-being and on linkages between government, business, and civil society; 
  • The relationship between religion and politics, examining the impact of religious belief on public life and the role of religion in civil society;
  • Civil society and social movements, including their formation, activity, and inclusion in the political process, with a focus on conceptions of citizenship and political regimes types;
  • Citizen participation, such as the role of indigenous languages in the issue of participation;
  • Varieties of democracy, including conceptualization and measurement;
  • Democracy’s past and legacy.


Human Development

At the Kellogg Institute, our conceptualization of human development emphasizes above all the centrality of the human person as agent of development, and it focuses on understanding and promoting the conditions that allow people to participate in shaping their own futures and to live with dignity and freedom.

Research on this theme includes:

  • Public policies for social justice and ecological responsibility, examining the way social policy, market activities, and social change combine to affect the distribution of wealth, opportunity, and quality of life.
  •  Economic growth, development, and human welfare in a globalizing economy, considering the roles of economic institutions, government policies, market structures, distributional issues, international trade and finance, and economic geography;
  • Political, social, and cultural institutions of development, and the way in which culture, social movements, and religious beliefs influence social change;
  • The concept and content of “development,” as informed by engagement with local communities and investigating the harms of development paradigms and projects that inadequately account for local contexts, cultures, and traditions;
  • Human rights and their relationship with improvements in human welfare, human vulnerabilities, and basic needs;
  • Global health, including issues of public health, health delivery, and policy and practice at local, regional, national, and international levels;
  • Education, examining policy, institutions, innovative programs, and practice at the macro and micro levels;
  • Technology and the environment, examining the impact of technological adaptation and the complex interactions between development and growth, natural ecologies, and environmental concerns.

Strategic direction

Reaffirming Our Identity, Setting New Paths Forward

Kellogg has long followed a strategy of identifying a few themes of exceptional importance to our world. Through a year-long strategic planning process, the Institute recently rearticulated its research themes. 

As we move forward, we aim to integrate the five themes that have long been central to the Institute by placing democracy and human development at the core of our efforts. While building on geographic strengths in Latin America and increasingly in Africa, this framing allows Kellogg to engage energetically in these themes across the globe, particularly in the developing world.

Democracy and human development—the twin aspirations of effective political participation and improved human welfare—are two of the most critical and challenging issues facing humanity in the 21st century. These two themes resonate with the normative questions that inspire our Catholic university and both have long been central themes in the Church’s teachings about human dignity.

Click below to see the pdf version of the 2017-2022 Kellogg Institute Strategic Plan

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