German Petersen

Guadalajara, Jalisco, México

Degree program:
PhD in Government

The University of Texas at Austin

Advisor: Dr. John Gerring

How did you first learn about the ConTex fellowship program?

Through a newsletter from the University.

Tell us about your research and the reasons it is important to you.

I do research on the political consequences of corruption scandals in Mexico. Specifically, I study the impact of corruption on confidence levels –confidence in institutions and interpersonal, on whether the electorate punishes those involved in corruption scandals, and on the fiscal consequences of corruption. I believe that this research is important because we have not fully comprehended the multiplicity of potential repercussions of corruption scandals. In the Mexican context, in which there have been so many corruption scandals recently, the question seems even more relevant.

What have been the biggest challenges and the greatest satisfactions of studying at the University of Texas at Austin and living in the United States?

There have been important academic and personal challenges. Academically, expectations are very high. The PhD classes demand a lot of effort, time, and attention; and on top of this we must add the work as a teaching assistant and, of course, the research projects. All this takes place in an English-speaking context, and since I am not a native speaker, it requires a cultural adaptation. Now, in return, there are many satisfactions. The degree in which your knowledge is expanded, your skills are strengthened and, above all, the  change in your way of thinking, is fascinating. If you work hard enough, sooner or later you will see the benefits in terms of publications and opportunities.

Tell us about how your other experiences abroad have helped you during this stage of your academic journey in Texas.

Having had the opportunity to visit other parts of the world, before and during the doctorate, helps prepare you to be up to the challenge. Now, what a PhD in a prestigious university demands is considerable, so even when these tools are useful you are still required to put in a lot of intellectual effort, personal sacrifice, and work.

In what ways do you expect your research to contribute to improving the relationship between the United States and Mexico and the well-being of people in both countries?

Corruption is one of the main problems in Mexico, if not the biggest problem. In order to turn the fight against corruption into a national priority, it is necessary not only to understand corruption in itself but also as a cause of other problems. At this time, I am focused on identifying and estimating the effects of corruption on trust, electoral dynamics, and tax collection. The consequences seem to be greater. These findings point to the fact that, besides the urgent task of ending corruption, it is also necessary to address the harm that such corruption has already caused in matters of trust, electoral processes, and on the ability of the state to collect taxes.

What advice would you give to other Mexican students who are considering studying in Texas?

The University of Texas System offers many opportunities for Mexican students, now expanded thanks to ConTex. I would suggest to those who want to take advantage of these opportunities to plan ahead and to be organized in the implementation of their plans. In general, these processes are slower and more complicated than one usually imagines at the beginning, so patience and strategy are required. Even when the process is burdensome, the satisfaction of being admitted to a leading university worldwide and the many opportunities and achievements that come along the way make the effort worthwhile.