Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mass Av, Rainy Day

SAIS morning sessions

Deans' Panel
Student question - "What is the difference between Russian and 'Political Russian'?"
Dean Einhorn - "When you go into a restaurant, you can order ballistic missiles."
Serious answer - language courses have different practical emphasis to polish vocab, etc.

Some core classes can be audited (just pass exam for requirement), frees up elective credits.
If you want academic freedom, go with IR - it's broadest, so your core requirements are very flexible.

Bonnie Wilson, on financial aid: "...but I don't think we've ever let anyone starve *pause* to death..."

Determined students can take up to 2 classes elsewhere in Hopkins. The Business school is also in DC, as are some elements of the A&S grad program, so these are more convenient than the Baltimore schools.

Faculty Panel
"why SAIS?"
four kinds of skills - concentration (am for policy, for example), language, economics (some w ill end up in econ fields, all will become familiar with the language), and analytical thinking.
three differences with others in APSIA -
faculty (some self-praise...): lack of undergrads, minimal PhDs - complete focus on MA candidates, experience of faculty in government, private sector, etc.
location: DC ("in international affairs, the most important city in the world")
students: relationships form here/networks get started/SAIS Mafia, community of peers, "SAIS students are nice people."

"I came in 2001 and wasn't sure I was going to stay, but I found it so delicious I decided to stick around"
We study history, culture, language as well as rational choice and economic assets - a more holistic view than other peer schools. Not about speaking only to other specialists, but one that can translate policy into English.
That conceit, that you can't be an intelligent person if you speak to the public - that's for journalists and tradesmen - that doesn't exist here.
Int'l student body brings contextual immediacy & richness to current affairs and academic topics.
Your temptation will be abstinence, to focus on your classes in the midst of the bouillabaise of seminars and internships.
"Tim Geithner learned his economics here. Be prayerful; we'll hope it was good."
Puns Putin with the French "putain," keeps slipping in French and German.
"Even those of us who are liberal internationalists acknowedge state power," realistic focus.
I think I love this woman.

Jones (Bologna faculty)
Well, I wandered into Bologna on my way to law school, and then I never made it to law school.
SAIS is where you really discover what an international career looks like (since only the children of diplomats ever really grow up knowing it)
The SAIS Mafia - "we imported it from Italy." Discussion of network power, "if you spend a year in Bologna, you will leave with a place to crash in pretty much any city in Europe, and many in Latin America and other places - we have 40 different countries represented."
We're not an academic institution in the stodgy, traditional sense. "Now my mom reads the stuff I write, unlike the stuff I wrote when I was a proper academic. I can bring my students into my research. For example, let's say the international economy melted down over the summer... my class focused their papers on different aspects of this and we're putting it together as a book."

"I didn't realize I wrote poetry, Ruth."
"It always happens that I'll be in some country and finish my presentation and sit down at dinner and have the American ambassador or the project head sit down to tell me 'I went to SAIS.'" Story of one prof running into Chinese colonel SAIS grad at a meeting with Chinese defense ministry.
~250 events per academic year - vitality of intellectual life here. Upcoming 2-day conference on impact of economic crisis on ideas about development - where will the new consensus be? Keynotes: Larry Summers & Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Lists all the walkable think-tanks and institutions (Carnegie is across the street), "It is true the Council on Foriegn Relations moved closer to GW, but you can't win them all."
If you're just an economist or just a political scientist, you just can't get your mind around these current issues.

Spent nearly 30 years at the NY Fed, came to SAIS in 2006.
Emerging markets specialization - what happens when you want to end up in the financial sector in an area where emerging markets are a central question? (we hope these sorts of jobs will catch up to us soon...)
Most do regional concentrations - 2 courses from the concentration on markets, 2 of the econ credits go to emerging-market-specific classes.
2 years go very, very quickly. You really need to plan your courses carefully, especially to do economic specializations.

Why Economics?
Because when you're standing in an unemployment line, you'll at least know how you got there.
Seriously, the discourse of International Relations is more and more a discussion of international economics, or at least questions in which economics runs strongly. Economic theory is the grammar that you need in order to conduct these conversations.
Why Economics at SAIS?
Very policy-oriented. Multi-tiered structure including specialized courses at essentially a PhD level for those who already have the background. 50 courses in various economic topics - plenty of customization available.
For those of you who have not had a lot of economics before coming to SAIS, we have a very special welcome for you...
I am often tempted to quit my job here and come back as a student.

Student-prof relationships? Research involvement?
Fukuyama - there are quite a lot of opportunities. Everybody in my program has a research assistant or two. I hire a number of my own students. In each program, we have positions for round-table coordinators, who work very closely with faculty in selecting speakers.
Wedgewood - it depends a little on how forward you are - demand your airtime. The beauty of this place is that we're already here (not flying in) and pepole are around and available. We all have our offices right here.
Jones - two student-run journals as excellent opportunities for learning writing and production.

Oral exams are our tradition - no real thesis or workshop required. However, you can craft your own area of expertise, delve deeply into one specific class or work out a project to do a thesis-like exercise for credit and find an adviser. If you want to develop that area of expertise, it'll be possible - just not part of our core.

Fletcher Sketches

Cross-registering: 4 course limit on classes outside Fletcher (both elsewhere at Tufts and at other universities)
Most audit language classes instead of using these units

Thesis process
Some do it as a class paper, some do it independently, some use the summer internship for data/research/writing - graduation requirement, but length, format & style vary greatly. Many are posted online.

Michael Klein - Int'l Macroecon
Half-semester courses, modular courses
In two years you don't have the time to cover everything you'd like
Empirical Topics in Globalization - "economics for smarties"
2 or 3 econ tracks - courses for students who focus on econ & courses for students who don't yet know they want to focus on econ. Quant methods, quant reasoning

Leila Fawaz - Modern (18th-19th cent) Middle Eastern history
currently working on social history of Mideast around WWI
Diplomacy field "practices interdisciplinarity" - history, politics, environment, communications
Success is about perserverance - get to know faculty, we're available, but it's on you to take advantage.

Joel Trachtman - Int'l Law
Inderdisciplinarity! the only way for int'l lawyers to understand their field.
Seminar w/Drezner on Int'l law & int'l relations to understand legal rules via social science.
Fields in Int'l law: public, business & econ law, int'l orgs, human rights

Dan Drezner - int'l politics
"I tried working in the real world; it didn't really take. It's so nice here."
Economic power in global governance (sovereign wealth funds, macroecon of balance of wealth questions, future of global governance are his interests right now)
Security, Int'l Political Economy, Comparative politics - three major areas offered here.
"We start with Thucydides. We read ALL of Thucydidies. It's a small course..."

200-250 pages/week, one long paper or a series of policy memos depending on the course - Drezner
100 pages/week, exam or exam & paper - Trachtman
200 pages/week "skimming is part of the art" - Fawaz
20 pages, but you'll need to go line-by-line - articles, textbooks - Klein

Student involvement in research centers?
Yes, as admin assts, minor writing, also research - get in there and ask lots of questions.

How to get involved in research?
Stalking profs is a good idea. It varies from prof to prof - do they have research funds? Is the student interested in publishing, and where? Very much a question of fit.
MALD thesis definitely forms a close research relationship & offers opportunity for this.
These things often stem from coursework first. Remember that research assistantships and TA offers also come from the undergrad college here.

I also sat in on Political Economy of Development, which was working on a case study on Mauritania; Classics of IR, which discussed The Great Transformation; and Counterterrorism, where the session focused on Af-Pak. I'd have registered for all three.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Impression: The K School

This is sketchy because it was typed after-the-fact from handwritten notes. All quotes are approximate.

MPP Presentation
"[The Kennedy School has] a nasty habit of radically changing people's directions..."
"You meet people who have been practicing pediatric dentistry in camps... and then you realize they're not superhuman and begin to think, 'I could do that too...'"
"We want to give you the ability to invade other peoples' institutions and analyze them with confidence."

Fall - 4/5 courses are core (micro, ethics, stats, management) - use #5 to "test your hunch" re: policy concentration
Spring 3.5/5 are core (politics, econ2, stats2, spring exercise)
2nd year is for PAC; no more core
18 credits total required, max 6 per term, max 4 total outside K school - no preferential bidding on that 6th class, so it had better not be anything very popular.

Advisers are assigned, though with regard to academic interests and background

K school is going on the common calendar, January session will be available.
No language courses at the K school - get them from the Yard.

How involved do students get to be with faculty research/interests? As involved as you want - go get research assistantships, course assistantships - get in touch, volunteer yourself. There are 120 course assistants needed any given semester, and while many more go to 2nd years (because nearly all CAs have to have taken and done well in the course first), there are still plenty, plenty of options.

Class sizes? Ethics has five sections, so about 40 each. Quant has four sections of about 50 each. Management has 5, but they vary from 20-60 apiece because of the relative popularity of their "flavors." There is one course with 90 students, but 60 is an informal cap.

Work? Sure, but 10, maybe 15 hours/week max.

Ethics debate
Developing criteria for decision-making
Joke about drinking and throwing darts to choose school - "complex algorithm" for selection
Look at where your school options will put you in two years.

Student Panel
PAE - 40 pages, "no spacing rules"
sometimes what the school wants and what the client wants aren't the same, and one guy is writing two versions of the exercise to address this. The client focus keeps it practical, but then again it's still an academic exercise, and this can be a fine/difficult balance.
TA, CA, RA - lots of options, CA pays $15.75/hr, good way to build relationships with profs. The handful who work at the Yard make more money ($7000/semester) but have more stress.
"We're all trying to save the world in our own little way." Much more a collaborative environment than a competitive one.
"We get away with a lot of things because of the Harvard name. It's a personal choice whether you want to have that branding on you."
"The best and the brightest" was used unironically, though only once.

Political Advocacy and Leadership
"PAL 110 isn't designed so that if I hold you up in a dark alleyway and demand to know the differnce between a one-member district and a multi-member district, you know the answer. It's so if you get parachuted into some other country and asked to draft a constitution, you can be like, 'This is nothing!'"