Graham Sustainability Institute

Jenna Bednar

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Associate Professor of Political Science
  • Literature, Science, & Arts
    • Political Science

Her research combines positive political theory and systems theory to study how formal institutions, such as laws, electoral rules, or constitutions, remain effective in complex environments. She considers institutions not in isolation but as part of a system, with a focus on three questions: (i) how institutions may complement one another to impove their functionality, (ii) how institutional features enable systemic response to perturbations and avoid failures, and (iii) how the interplay between culture and institutions contributes to the production of social goods. She applies these models of multi-institutional analysis to research in three broad categories: first, numerous articles and a book (The Robust Federation, Cambridge University Press, 2009) that address the robustness of federal systems; second, theoretical and experimental work on cultural evolution and institutional performance; and the third contains essays, an empirical paper, and public policy related projects that push her ideas into more applied realms such as campaign contributions, transboundary water systems, and environmental sustainability.

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

My work contributes directly toward solving the United Nations SDGs listed below. Learn more.

Clean Water and SanitationSustainable Cities and CommunitiesPeace, Justice and Strong Institutions


The affiliations listed below show engagement with the Graham Sustainability Institute.

  • Education Programs
    • Dow Programs
      • Distinguished Faculty Fellow
    • Reviewer
  • Water Center
    • Event Participant