Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alumni Profile: Alan Causey

Name: Alan Causey
Program/Class: MIPP 2016
Affiliation: Conflict Management
Hometown: New Orleans
Current Occupation:  U.S. Army Infantry Officer

When considering graduate school, what was appealing about SAIS?
What appealed to me the most was the experience of the faculty combined with the location of SAIS. Many members of the faculty have real-world experience in their expertise. My first semester, I took a class called International Dispute Settlement Methods. There were two phenomenal instructors who were actively involved in international negotiations, which allowed the class to share in tested and up-to-date material. Another of my instructors would periodically speak with a former armed faction of South East Asia (with the permission of the U.S. Department of State of course!) and would take SAIS students along with him. This coupled with the campus sharing a block with about five embassies and the Brookings Institute, being around the corner from the U.S. Institute of Peace and many other international organizations, added to the appeal of SAIS.

What has been your favorite SAIS course so far, and why?
Behavioral Conflict of Sociology has been the most provocative course I took while at SAIS. This course really took the gloves off when confronting taboos, culture, and stereotypes. I appreciated the mix of social and natural sciences used by the instructor and students alike to present thought-provoking hypotheses or to draw unique conclusions. I found the learning atmosphere to be very Freirean, as discussion and debate were staples of the course. Differing from other courses I’ve taken, students wrote for an audience of both the instructor and other students adding to the range of unique ideas.

Can you tell us about your concentration and why you chose it?
I concentrated in Conflict Management (CM). As many in my cohort know, my military background somewhat naturally led me to initially align with Strategic Studies. Though ‘Strat’ is very popular, and for germane reasons, I found that Conflict Management gave me the diversity I was looking for. By that I mean, I was encouraged to approach conflict from a perspective less involved with the lethal means States use to solve conflict and rather focused more on the causes of conflict. The CM program satisfied my interest in socio-economic drivers of conflict. From this perspective, my hope now is to enrich my future military organizations.

What advice would you give to applicants coming from outside the U.S.?
Don’t be afraid to share your experiences! There are many international students in attendance at SAIS and I found the richness of my classes was largely dependent on their diversity.  Hearing the perspective of someone from a country the class is studying is huge.  This is what develops the nuance SAIS-ers are expected to leave with upon graduating and this is also what creates the global network SAIS is so well known for.  I would also inform those outside the U.S. coming to SAIS that SAIS is a safe space for you to challenge popular opinions of what it means to be a citizen of your country. In doing so, simpler views of more complex ideas are seasoned, creating true global ambassadors.