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Sabrina Arias

Assistant Professor

PhD in Political Science, University of Pennsylvania (2023)

MA in Political Science, Columbia University (2016)

BA in Political Science and Philosophy, Rutgers University (2014)

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Additional Interests

  • Climate politics
  • Agenda setting
  • Public opinion
  • Research methods
  • Text analysis

Research Statement

My research focuses on international organizations (IOs), diplomacy, and climate politics. In particular, I examine agenda-setting in IOs: which states control IOs’ agendas? How do different actors maximize their agenda-setting power? And through what pathways do critical issues like climate change reach the agendas of IOs and of other political bodies? Across these themes, I broadly focus on the political dynamics of the policymaking process, and especially which actors and strategies are most influential. To address these questions, I employ a diverse methodological toolkit, including text analysis, experiments, statistical methods, and elite interviews.


I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs for the 2023-2024 academic year. Beginning in Fall 2024, I will join the International Relations Department at Lehigh as an Assistant Professor.

Book Project

My book project examines why some small states—like Ireland, Costa Rica, and Liechtenstein—are effective at shaping the United Nations (UN) agenda, even in the face of powerful states’ opposition. I argue that while material power is important in explaining some of IO politics, individual diplomats play a crucial role as well. States can influence the early stages of policymaking—when agendas are set and coalitions are built—with diplomatic capital, a form of social power developed through skilled representation. Diplomatic capital can be actively pursued, or can be an unintended consequence of resource constraints, which limit diplomatic rotation. Just as individual effectiveness matters in domestic legislatures, diplomat effectiveness matters in IOs. By cultivating diplomatic capital, small states can be more influential than their size would suggest. I argue that by focusing on the late stages of policymaking—particularly voting on final resolutions—previous studies have overestimated the influence of powerful states. However, in the early stages of policymaking, it is harder to leverage economic and military resources because in these less public contexts, target state compliance cannot be as readily monitored. These insights about the role of diplomacy, power, and agenda control challenge our understanding of the relative importance of power and diplomacy in IOs, and the extent to which small states influence international politics.


  • "Who Securitizes? Climate Change Discourse in the United Nations." 2022. International Studies Quarterly 66 (2): 1-13. 
  • "Changing Tides: Public Attitudes on Climate Migration." 2022. Journal of Politics 84 (1): 560-567. (with Christopher W. Blair)