As Mitchell Scholar, Yale senior to study democracy reform in Ireland

Rabhya Mehrotra, a Yale senior majoring in computer science and political science, is one of 12 future leaders selected for graduate study in Ireland.
Rabhya Mehrotra
Rabhya Mehrotra

Rabhya Mehrotra, a Yale senior majoring in computer science and political science, is one of 12 American students selected to study next year in Ireland as 2023 Mitchell Scholars, a one-year program that supports graduate study for students who are considered future leaders.

Mehrotra, who is interested in reforming democracy to empower citizens, will study political communication at Dublin City University. Specifically, she will examine successful citizens’ assemblies in Ireland.

She is especially interested in Ireland’s “We the Citizens” project, a participatory democracy initiative created in 2011, which prompted three citizen assemblies that led to change on same-sex marriage and abortion. She is also eager to use her coding skills for democracy reform. She is from Bethesda, Maryland.

Sponsored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, the Mitchell scholarships are named for diplomat and politician George J. Mitchell, a former senator from Maine who, as a U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland from 1995 to 2001, was a primary architect for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that helped broker peace in Northern Ireland following decades of political violence between Catholics and Protestants.

The 12 recipients of 2023 Mitchell Scholars were chosen from 306 applicants. They were selected following virtual interviews by a selection committee that included Geraldine Byrne-Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the United States, and Monica Bell, a Mitchell Scholar alumna and associate professor of law and of sociology at Yale.

For her dual-major senior thesis, Mehrotra is using natural language models to analyze Icelandic political discourse around the constitution. The Yale senior, who spent the summer of 2021 studying Iceland’s 2010 constitutional reform process — which employed citizen drafters in the place of politicians — as part of the Yale Program in Grand Strategy, is now preparing articles about her findings.

Living in Dublin, which has emerged as a technology hub in Europe, will allow her to explore the burgeoning field of e-democracy, she said.

An interest in learning how people create and deliberate opinions, she said, has inspired many of her Yale activities, including serving as the co-opinion editor at the Yale Daily News and creating the first independent editorial board for the student newspaper. She competed for the Yale Debate Association in American parliamentary debate and helped run the team’s annual high school tournament. She also spent a gap semester reporting for the New Haven Independent.

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