At long last, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) is welcoming new faces to campus. This Autumn Quarter, students from the Class of ‘23 of the Ford Dorsey Master’s in International Policy (MIP) have arrived on Stanford’s campus to settle into a new routine of classes, lectures, policy labs and in-person campus life.
The cohort of 27 students join us from 16 countries around the world including Albania, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, United States, and Zimbabwe. With 18 of the 27 class members coming to FSI from overseas, this cohort sets a new record for international participation in the program.
In between classes, the Welcome Reception and an already full schedule of events, six of the new MIP students shared their stories of what draws them to international policy and what they are excited to be doing while at Stanford.
When I was born, my parents were already in a position to retire. This meant we did a lot of traveling, and I got to go a lot places and see a lot of things many people don’t get to experience at such a young age. I think those experiences really instilled an interest in me about the world and international systems. Then when I was an undergrad at Spelman College in Georgia, I had a really transformative class from a truly incredible professor who opened my eyes to how many career paths there are in foreign policy beyond just being a diplomat. I’m a very action-oriented person, and I want to be on the ground helping make things happen and in the room disrupting the tired, one-note strategies we keep trying.
I had an opportunity to study abroad as a paralegal in Cape Town, South Africa, and I want to use my time at FSI to build on the deep connection I formed with Africa. In too many discussions, I think the unique experiences and opportunities of Africa are left out of the conversation, and that's not the correct way to build actual, meaningful relationships.
I’m interested in becoming a Foreign Service Officer so I can work on initiatives aimed at generating greater stability in African states and bring more meaningful dialogue between those communities and their relationship with the United States. I'm also very interested in the security issues currently unfolding in northeast Asia. My goal is to be in a position where I can bring a fresh perspective to the decision-making processes affecting both these regions of the world.
I’m pursuing a joint degree with MIP and the Law School. This is actually my second time back at the Farm; I was here for my Bachelor's in International Relations, too! That set me up to do a lot of work with refugees and immigrants seeking asylum. I had a really powerful experience working with the Refugee and Immigrant Program at The Advocates for Human Rights through the Jesuit Volunteer Corp, where I ran the intake process to connect asylum seekers to pro bono attorneys.
I was pretty set that work in these kinds of humanitarian spaces was where I wanted to make my impact, but then I had an experience reading a U.N. report on climate control, and it really hit me in a way it hadn’t before how serious the impacts of the climate crisis will be, and how impactul these small changes of literal degrees will have on migration patterns and community displacement. That really started a shift in my thinking and a desire to work more directly on environmental policy, because that’s going to affect so many other parts of the human condition. I also married a climate scientist, which has definitely affected my interests and thinking!
I want to help design policy systems that protect the rights of migrants, particularly in the U.S. Understanding the systems-level needs is really important, but I want to keep it grounded in the relationships of what the immigrant experience is actually like. That’s one of the things that was unique and appealed to me about MIP; it wasn’t just a general policy program, but had options that would allow me to gain the technical expertise I’m looking for while also really emphasizing the interdisciplinary approach and bringing in lots of different perspectives and areas of expertise.
I grew up in the Dominican Republic, which is an experience I really cherish both for how it allowed me to be close to family and for the perspective it’s given me in thinking about U.S. policy. My family was pretty much apolitical, and I wasn’t raised with partisan viewpoints. I’ve really appreciated being able to learn from both sides during my university experience at Florida State and as an aide at the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s been an incredibly unique experience to serve and work there with Congressman Adriano Espaillat of New York City during both impeachments of former President Trump and the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection.
I was considering law school, but when I was accepted into MIP, I recognized I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I am very interested in technology and progress, particularly things like blockchain’s uses for development and America’s ever important role in outer space, and having the chance to be here in the middle of Silicon Valley to study and work on these emerging policy areas is an incredible opportunity.
While I was working in Washington, I saw firsthand how a lot of our government and policies struggle to keep up with emerging technologies. We need to address a lot of these issues and opportunities proactively rather than reactively. I’ve seen where a lot of the alumni of the MIP program end up and the kinds of things they go on to do, and I really see myself in their shoes. I want to be part of the new generation of policymakers that gets people excited about things like cryptocurrency and emerging markets and making technological opportunities available and open to all kinds of communities.
I’ve been an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army for the last 11 years serving in Light Infantry and Special Operations. My service has taken me everywhere from Alaska, to Georgia and Tennessee, to Washington, and across the Middle East and Asia on five deployments for both combat and contingency operations.
Coming from a military background, understanding cyber policy is something that’s increasingly important for security and defense. Being here at Stanford in the middle of the Silicon Valley ecosystem is a big advantage in really being able to delve deeper into those issues and creatively think about how to address them. But I’m also very interested in focusing on service and leadership development while I’m here at Stanford.
It’s important to me to diversify my experience and understanding of different topics, which is one of the reasons I chose to focus on cyber rather than international security. I’m hoping to use the MIP program to help myself think more about problem-solving frameworks. I’m very used to the military’s decision-making process, and I want to be able to take the frameworks I learn here through the MIP program back to the military to help diversify the ways we plan contingencies and find solutions.
I come from a family that always put service first; my dad is an activist and has worked as a governance lawyer in Kenya for years, and my mom was a career civil servant. So even though I started with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and spent a lot of time grappling with more abstract questions of governance and society, I’ve always been primed to want a career that’s outcome-driven and directly impactful in helping communities.
In my home community in Kenya, 70-80% of the labor force works in the agriculture sector. As I’ve thought about how to identify and address foundational needs, I think that focusing on sustainable agricultural development can be a lever that can help move other democratic goals and civic participation forward.
Because I’m so interested in creating real-world outcomes, the fact that so many of the faculty here are very practice-oriented was one of the things that really appealed to me about the MIP program. I’m already looking forward to the Policy Change Studio and learning more about how to turn theory into actionable policy!
I was initially resistant to the idea of pursuing a career in agriculture. I’ve been around farming my whole life – my grandfather started off as a smallholder farmer, and my parents met while they were both pursuing PhDs in agronomy and biotech. I wanted to branch out, and was more interested in economic development and issues related to that.
But it dawned on me one day that a big part of economic and international development is agriculture-based, and that changes to the agricultural sector can have outsized impacts on everything else. When my brother came to me with a business idea he was developing for one of his MBA classes, that tipped the scale fully towards agriculture. We started Kisano, which is an ag-tech company that operates the largest high-tech vertical farm in India.
I’ve been in that business mindset for four years now, and I want to make sure I keep my thinking fresh and innovative. Coming back to school and being part of MIP is part of my plan for challenging myself and pushing into new ways of looking at energy systems and resource extraction, and how to effect changes that are equitable for both humans and the natural environment. I’m looking forward to being around people who are working on higher-level issues.
Stanford is a really unique place where solutions-oriented thinking and academics mesh; it’s very much about creating and doing here, which I think is really cool. I’m keeping my options open to whatever types of opportunities and new avenues of growth and development I find while I'm here on a different kind of "Farm."