Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Current SIS PhD Students

Sonja E. Kelly

Sonja Kelly Profile Pic

Sonja E. Kelly is a third year PhD candidate at the School of International Service at American University. She specializes in comparative politics, looking at financial inclusion policy and regulation in low and middle income economies—a growing phenomenon that sits at the intersection of international development and international political economy. While a student at American University, Sonja has worked on areas as diverse as the US defense department, US aid and foreign policy, Islamic finance, and international trade. When she isn't researching or teaching World Politics on campus, she works as a Fellow at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion, a DC-based think-tank working on financial inclusion issues. For more information see

Previous Education

BA, International Relations and English, Westmont College

Previous Employment Experience

Fellow, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

International Education Coordinator, Proposal Writer at Opportunity International

Awards & Fellowships

  • Tinker Foundation Field Research Grant (2013)
  • American University Vice Provost Doctoral Student Research Award (2013-2014)
  • PhD Full Fellowship, American University (4 year recipient)
  • Phi Kappa Phi Top Student Award, Westmont College
  • President's Scholarship, Westmont College (4 year recipient)
  • Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship, Illinois State (4 year recipient)
  • Faculty Fellowship Award, Westmont College (2 year recipient)
  • Arthur W. Lynip Award for Excellence in English, Westmont College (3 year recipient)

Research Interests

Financial inclusion policy and regulation, international development, international political economy, financial Inclusion, financial sector development


My homepage

AU Faculty Profile

My LinkedIn Page

My Dissertation


"Banking the Bottom Billion: Why Financial Inclusion Policy, and Why Now?"


Stephen Silvia, American University School of International Service
Rachel Sullivan Robinson, American University School of International Service
Elisabeth Rhyne, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Selected Publications

  • Kelly, Sonja, and Elisabeth Rhyne. "Growing Income, Growing Inclusion: How rising incomes at the bottom of the pyramid will shape inclusion." Center for Financial Inclusion Publication No. 19. Washington, DC: Center for Financial Inclusion, 2013.
  • Kelly, Sonja, and Sharon Weiner. "Making Friends of Buying Influence? Rational Myths and the Congressional Debate Over Aid to Pakistan." Under review for publication.

Selected Presentations

  • Kelly, Sonja. "Income into Inclusion: The Connection Between Economic Growth by Quintile and the Use of Financial Products." Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, 14 April 2013. ″
  • Robinson, Rachel, Krista Tuomi, Aaron Boesnecker, Sonja Kelly, and Kate Tennis. "Couples Counseling: Strategies for Developing Productive Relationships with RAs and TAs." Presented at Ann Ferren Conference, American University, 2013. ″
  • "Turning Trust into Treasure: The Link between Social Capital and Economic Cooperatives" with Ann Kryzanek. Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, April 15, 2012, Chicago, IL.
  • "Women's Economic Participation in Pakistan: Examining the political, entrepreneurial, skilled crafts, business, agricultural, and informal sectors." Major honors project presented at Westmont College on April 29, 2008. Research conducted for USAID.