Friday, April 26, 2013

Student Spotlight: Abigail Trenhaile

For today’s installment of the Student Spotlight series, we’ve interviewed Abigail Trenhaile, first-year M.A. student and Rangel Fellow.  Abigail is concentrating in Korean Studies at SAIS, and she received a B.A. in economics from the University of Hawaii in Manoa in 2011.
Can you tell us about your concentration, and why you chose it?
I am concentrating in Korea Studies, which requires me to take three Korea-specific classes and three Asia-specific classes. Because I am from Hawaii, I was naturally inclined toward studying the Asia Pacific region, and I studied Japanese in high school and during my undergrad at the University of Hawaii. Despite my previous language background, I ended up participating in student exchange in Seoul, Korea, where I came to appreciate the accomplishments and the dynamism of Korea. When I was choosing a graduate program, I knew I wanted an education where I could continue my study of Korea and the greater Asia Pacific region plus a strong economics program, and SAIS excels in each of these areas.
How has language study at SAIS complimented your study of international relations?
The language program at SAIS was a determining factor in my decision to attend. Other schools I considered offered Korean, but only through classes through their main undergraduate program. SAIS offers a Korean program which is tailored to your level. Classes only have 3-5 students in them, so we are given an opportunity to sharpen our language skills. The professor who runs the Korean program is dedicated as well. In terms of how studying Korean has complimented my study of IR, through SAIS, I have learned Korean vocabulary associated with current events, economics, politics, etc., and so that has enhanced my ability to conduct research and has given me a new perspective when listening to views on Korea-related issues, especially North Korea.
You went on a Korea Studies-sponsored trip over your Thanksgiving break this year.  Where did you go, and what were some of the highlights of the trip?
The trip was in tandem with a research paper students produced for the U.S. Korea Institute’s annual yearbook. I wrote about the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and its relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership. While in Seoul, we were given the opportunity to meet with government officials, researchers, academics, etc., who were able to offer insight on our research projects and U.S.-Korea relations. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was when we made kimchi and delivered that kimchi to some of the Korean comfort women, an event organized through Dr. Suh, our professor. Through such a personal, moving experience, I feel like it added another layer of understanding to my understanding of Asian history and of modern Korea, because so much of what drives politics today in East Asia stems from historical memories.
What do you hope to do after graduation, and how has SAIS helped you prepare for your future career?
Because I am part of the State Department’s Charles B. Rangel Program, when I graduate from SAIS, I will join the Foreign Service, in which I hope to become an economic officer. SAIS has increased my understanding of economics, but also international relations and security studies–two added dimensions which I hitherto been unexposed. Of course, these new frameworks have been difficult for me to learn (and very much a work in progress), but the ideas proposed by professors, as well as discussions with other students, have given me new analytical tools, both qualitative and quantitative, which I believe will enhance my ability to serve effectively as an economic officer.
What are your plans for the coming summer?  Will you be doing an internship?
This summer I will be interning at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul in the economics section. Because of my interest in trade policy, I am looking forward to learning first hand how the the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is being implemented, as well as witnessing the developing economic policy of new Korean President Park Geun Hye.
Thanks for reading!
– Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Guest Blog Post: SAISers in Brazil

Today, we have a guest photo blog post from SAIS student Kari Hatcher, who we previously interviewed for our Student Spotlight Series, about her recent Spring Break trip to Brazil.


During spring break, March 16-24, 2013, seventeen Energy, Resources and Environment (ERE) students traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to study the challenges of sustainable urban development. The goal of the trip was to explore investments in urban sustainability in light of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. The areas of focus will include smart cities and environmental protection and clean up. The students met with local stakeholders including community organizers, elected officials, and non-profit and for-profit organizations. Notable visits included a trip to the Brazilian Development Bank, the Gramacho Landfill biogass collection site and a tour of the Salgueiro Caldeirao favela.

Instituto Baia de Guanabara, which does research on the bay to contribute to clean up and protection efforts.
Students in the meeting at the Instituto Baia de Guanabara.
Lunch in Niteroi, which is located about 30 minutes outside of Rio.
Inside the meeting at the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) offices in the center of Rio.
Outside the BNDES offices following our meeting about the bank’s investments in sustainability and the World Cup.
Some students at lunch in a well known restaurant in downtown Rio.
Students before a meeting at the Brazilian Sustainable Development Foundation.
Students visiting a Cooperative for Women’s seamstresses in Duque de Caxais outside of Rio.
Walking through the mud in the Mata Atlantica rainforest to the Waste picker’s Cooperative.
Brazilian school kids in Duque de Caxias.
Students sitting on the famous Escadaria Selaron in the Santa Teresa neighborhood in Rio.
After a meeting with Congressman Alfredo Sirkis in Ipanema.
A scene from the Escadaria Selaron.
Image of Rio de Janeiro and its well known favelas in the mountains.
The group of students outside the world famous Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer).
Thanks for reading!
– Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions

Monday, April 15, 2013

Student Spotlight: Cameron Thomas-Shah

For this Student Spotlight, we’ve interviewed Cameron Thomas-Shah.  Cameron is a second-year M.A. student concentrating in American Foreign Policy, and he spent his first year at the SAIS Bologna Center.  Cameron is a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow, and received his B.A. in International Studies from Morehouse College in 2011.
You applied for the Pickering Fellowship during your sophomore year of college, so you decided on a career path early on.  Why did you choose to pursue a career in the Foreign Service?
I learned about the fellowship from my mentor who is both a Morehouse College and SAIS alum. The Foreign Service seemed to embody everything I loved: travel, learning about new cultures, and service. Since then I’ve understood the value of US diplomacy in international affairs.
How has the Pickering Fellowship helped prepare you for your future career?
Included in the fellowship are two internships, one abroad and one domestic. These experiences provided me with a first hand experience of how the Foreign Service really works. The fellowship also used to include an intensive 7-week economics, statistics, and policy analysis summer institute, which occured between junior and senior year of college. With these three experiences I was not only prepared to SAIS’ rigorous curriculum, but also well prepared and informed to begin a career in the Foreign Service.
Can you tell us about your summer internship?  How did your first year of study at SAIS Bologna enhance/contribute to your internship experience?
I interned in the Public Affairs section of Embassy Hanoi. While there I worked closely on public diplomacy projects relating to Fulbright, cultural affairs, press relations, exchange programs, and the American Center. In the American Center, which is a US embassy sponsored cultural center used to educated foreign audiences about the US, I led the departments first soft skills seminar and professional development program in South East Asia and did a fair bit of editing for the mission. The writing I did during my first year in Bologna prepared me for all the writing and editing I did in Vietnam. Also living abroad for a yea prepared me for the decentralization that sometimes occurs when working abroad.
How has the language program at SAIS complemented your study of international relations?
Working toward proficiency certainly helps with cultural competency. Learning French and having a limited background in Chinese makes my understanding of both cultures much easier.
You’re only a few weeks away from graduating – what are you doing for your capstone project?
One of the advantages of the American Foreign Policy program in Bologna is the option to finish your master thesis during your second semester. So last year, I wrote my thesis on US-Pakistan relations. However, this year, I am undertaking a study examining African-American political thought and American Foreign policy.
Thanks for reading!
— Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions
To read previous entries in our Student Spotlight series, please click here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Student Spotlight: Haitham Jendoubi

This week, we’ve chosen to interview Haitham Jendoubi, a second-year M.A. concentrating in Japan Studies.  In 2008, Haitham received his B.A. in Cognitive Science from Yale. Prior to enrolling at SAIS, Haitham taught English in Japan, served as Education Director for a tech startup, and was a researcher and translator for a Japanese newspaper.
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Your academic and professional background isn’t in international relations; why did you choose to pursue a career in international affairs?
Although I studied cognitive science in undergrad, I developed an interest in foreign policy during my time teaching English in rural Japan after graduation. The experience of communicating with other communities at a grassroots level was edifying, and brought into focus my interest in foreign languages and communities. I decided I wanted to contribute to the formulation of U.S. policy as its relationships with traditional allies and trade partners continue to evolve, and made the decision to apply to policy-oriented Master’s programs.
Can you tell about your concentration, and why you chose it?
My concentration, Japan Studies, represented a chance to take a series of in-depth courses about Japan’s diplomatic and economic ties with the United States and its neighbors. At SAIS, I’ve been able to explore contemporary Japanese policies, keep up my Japanese through advanced language courses, and bolster my knowledge of international economics in a range of areas. I am also specializing in International Finance, which has included a range of courses in corporate finance, financial regulation in developed and emerging markets, and development finance, taught not only by professors but also practitioners from the legal and finance professions.
We heard you spent your spring break in Japan - how did your spring break trip compliment your SAIS experience?
I was in Tokyo during spring break conducting research interviews for the capstone paper in my U.S.-Japan Relations course, which I’m writing about the impact of Japan’s new monetary policies on its bilateral relationship with the United States. The opportunity to interview government sources and civil society observers has been invaluable, and brought to life the concepts I’ve studied in both my regional and international economics courses.
What type of work do you hope to do after graduation?
I hope to work in the public policy sphere in an international financial regulation or macroeconomic analysis role. I was fortunate enough to intern at the East Asia Office of the Treasury Department last year; a similar role would be an ideal first step after SAIS.
What are some of the skills you’ve learned at SAIS that will help you in your future career?
I think the hard skills I have acquired through economics courses–time-series econometrics, financial modeling, etc.–will be the most relevant in my chosen field, but I am also grateful for the extensive group work and public speaking that many of my classes have required, which have honed my communication and teamwork skills and should prove quite useful as well. I’ve also had the opportunity to study Chinese and Portuguese at SAIS, which I hope to apply to my career in the future.
Thanks for reading!
— Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions
To read previous entries in our Student Spotlight series, please click here.