Pursuit of a Master of Science in Global Affairs

As a non-traditional student, I experience many of the same things as my younger counterparts. I have noticed though, that since entering graduate school at NYU, there is less of an age gap with classmates and definitely individuals my age and older in the program. I find there is more camaraderie at NYU, than what I experienced at UNC Charlotte. There were plenty of non-traditional students at UNCC, but not in my programs which made it difficult to forge new relationships, though I did make a few friends who I keep in touch with. At NYU we seem more inclined to study and work on group projects together, probably because we are equally invested in the outcome and everyone contributes to the process. It also seems as if we all have more in common in this program, though we come from very diverse backgrounds.

I am about to begin my second and final year, which seems odd in a way. At times it has been grueling, especially this past spring semester. But the learning experience, as well as the access to events and people is priceless.

Typically four courses is the maximum per semester in my graduate program, less if you work full-time. I was accepted into two global field intensives for the summer, Russia and South Africa – hence all the recent blogs about food and travel. However, the classes began during the spring semester. I also had an unexpected move before final exams and other matters to attend to before leaving the country for a month — on two back-to-back research trips. It made for a fairly crazy semester. These short research opportunities were part of what drew me to NYU’s MSGA program, which has turned out to be a great experience and definitely the right choice as far as graduate programs.

For my trip to Russia I spent the duration in Moscow. The research focused on Russian Foreign Policy, specifically its interactions with the United States (U.S.). There were definitely those who warned me against going, some thought it was not a good time to be in Moscow as an American. For my purposes, being there in the middle of strained diplomatic relations was the perfect time because it allowed me to further unpack the Russian-U.S. relationship.

The original intent of the research was to examine the affect Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations and asylum had on Russia-U.S. diplomatic relations. Did it cause a breakdown of trust in the relationship? The goal was to delve into the crafting and implementation of Russia’s foreign policy and address whether any changes have occurred based on Snowden’s revelations, or whether it’s modus operandi for both states.

US Embassy Moscow

US Embassy Moscow

On the surface, it appeared the situation with Snowden created significant problems for Russia-U.S. relations because it forced both sides to take a stand. However, during my research in Moscow it became clear during the interview process that Snowden was less of a catalyst and more of the proverbial nail in the coffin regarding the deterioration of Russia-U.S. relations. The problems did not stem from a single event, but rather a series of what President Putin considered a lack of respect toward him and Russia. Also serious betrayals by the U.S.: NATO expansion, as well as conflicts in Libya and Syria.

 

RT

RT

 

While in Russia I had individual and group meetings; I met with academics from the Higher School of Economics, MGIMO, as well as a few individuals from the Moscow Carnegie Center think tank. I also met with numerous members of the media, including RT, Dozhd TV, Corey Flintoff from NPR, Anna Arutunyan and several other international journalists. Meetings also took place with an official at NATO in the Belgian Embassy, several individuals at the US Embassy, and with the Australian Ambassador to Russia.

 

 

MGIMO

MGIMO

 

Carnegie Center Moscow

Carnegie Center Moscow

I have always wanted to travel to Africa and most of my academic writing for the past six years has focused on a few specific countries on the continent. My undergrad thesis for political science explained the impact of xenophobia on elections in South Africa. So, I was hoping that NYU would have an African GFI during my program. South Africa was announced after I had already committed to Moscow and the dates overlapped but my department allowed me to participate in both research programs.

The research focused on South Africa’s role in representing Africa globally. South Africa views itself as the hegemon of Africa and the best choice to lead the continent to prosperity, though some leaders of other African countries disagree. My research suggested that in order for South Africa to play a more constructive role on the continent, the government must meet its own domestic economic and social demands, while also building trust with the rest of Africa.

South Africa lived up to my expectations, though depending on where we were, the stark contrasts between wealth and extreme poverty made it seems like two different countries. But I will explain those experiences in more detail in upcoming blogs.

LoveLife

LoveLife

 

We met with experts in the following areas: foreign policy, political science, economics, private sector,education and social welfare. My interview with Ms. Aditi Lalbahadur and Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari

Studies in Poverty & Inequality Institute

Studies in Poverty & Inequality Institute

from the South African Institute of International Affairs was extremely helpful in unpacking South Africa’s domestic issues, especially social concerns. Other group meetings transpired with Isobel Frye, the director of Studies in Poverty & Inequality Institute; Darrell Beghin, executive director of Credit Providers Association; Rudi Dicks, outcome facilitator for the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, South African Presidency, a subset of the South African Government office of Economics and Labor Unions in Pretoria; Neva Makgetla, deputy director-general, economic policy, government of South Africa; Reverend Mqondisi Vena of the Western Cape Provincial Council of Churches in Khayelitsha Township; Tony Leon, senior politician for the opposition during apartheid; Ruth Masokoane acting CEO of South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN); and Mokoena Mokoene from HIV youth awareness organization LoveLife.

 

Currently, I am in New York and I have two semesters left in this program. I am working on a proposal for an independent study for the fall, another proposal for my thesis (Spring 2015) and trying to acquire an internship specific to the thesis research. So even though I do not have daily classes to attend, there is still work to be completed.

I’ll be sad to leave my academic bubble next year, but I am also looking forward to re-entering the workforce and putting all this book learning to good use. It has been a great adventure so far.

 

 

 

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Flexibility and Understanding Critical for Non-Traditional Students

In the past few years, the purpose of higher education has typically been defined by its economic and workforce outcomes. It’s seen as the best way to produce leaders, critical thinkers and entrepreneurs; it’s a way for the United States to remain competitive on a global scale. Attending university is how young adults become more open-minded, by taking humanities classes and interacting with others who have different backgrounds and beliefs. Higher education has also helped droves of unemployed non-traditional students, hit hard by the economic downturn, change ­­careers.

But that is a narrowly-focused story…

By Lori Perkovich

Flexibility and Understanding Critical for Non-Traditional Students

Spring Break Non-Trad Style

What’s a non-traditional student to do on spring break in New York? Sleep, homework and take in a little culture.

I had so much homework to do over spring break but I was determined to leave the house once or twice. I must admit — spring break in New York wasn’t exactly warm and sunny. It was more of a continuation of months of depressing gray skies, a serious chill, snow and even some rain. We’ll just call that incentive to stay in my warm home and study.

photo 4My first outing took place with some girlfriends at the start of the break. A groups of us made weekend plans around attending Raisin In the Sun on Broadway. Pre-show we caught up on life, work, school, etc…at Bar Centrale, a hidden gem in the crazy theatre district. Then we made the short walk over to the theatre, where Denzel Washington is currently playing Walter Lee Younger. Traditionally, someone much younger portrays this character so it was an interesting experiment with Washington in the lead. He was good; it was just a little odd if you are familiar with the story. He got four out of five ladies approval. The shining star for me though, was Sophie Okonedo who plays his wife Ruth. I did not even know she was in the play until she walked out on stage, but I am a fan of her work, so it was a pleasant surprise. Afterward, we had a late dinner at Pigalle – we closed the place down. The next day, we went to brunch at Upstairs at The Kimberly. Whether you are a local or visiting, it’s a great spot for brunch with an amazing view!

 

photo 1

My pop culture moment came when I went to see the kickstarter funded Veronica Mars movie. I’ll admit, I didn’t watch the television series while it was on the air. I found it in syndication a few years ago and basically binge watched it. Kristin Bell’s character is my kid of girl. Anyhow, though the film probably won’t win any Oscars, it was definitely a nice distraction from writing research papers.

photo 3

I also attended an evening of Paul Taylor Dance – The Diamond Anniversary program. My last Paul Taylor Dance experience was about a year ago when the company was on tour in Charlotte, NC. I caught a new and old piece during that run. For the night I attended in New York, the company performed: Perpetual Dawn, Fibers, Black Tuesday, and Troilus and Cressida. The great thing about companies such as Paul Taylor is they usually have varied nightly programs during their seasons, especially anniversary seasons. It’s great for me because I can pick nights where it’s all-new to me or maybe it’s a piece that I have previously seen and loved, and its great for the company because they can get more people in seats every night. The dancing and choreography was fabulous as always, but it was also wonderful to see Paul Taylor onstage to take a well-deserved bow.

photo 1

Oh, I have a thing for Martha Graham’s choreography. Most of it is dark, serious and a little melancholy. Often melodramatic, which in these modern times can be perceived as absurd, and one time, uproarious. That one time occurred during a night I recently attended – the company performed the charming and silly Maple Leaf Rag. Also performed that night,Clytemnestra, with Katherine Crockett as the principal dancer. What I was most taken by was the Premiere of Echo by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis featuring soloist PeiJu Chien-Pott, and new dancers Lloyd Mayor and Lorenzo Pagano. There were other dancers in this amazing piece as well and the choreography was gorgeous. But there is something otherworldly about PeiJu Chien-Pott. She is so fluid and her lines are extraordinary and breathtaking. Though, a newspaper that shall not be named whole-heartedly disagrees with me. Eye of the beholder…

 

Transformation Through Higher Education

Here is a link to my latest article for the evolllution; it is probably the most personal one I have authored so far. The piece covers my return to university as a non-traditional student, what the journey has been like, and how this experience has changed me.

Transformation through Higher Education

Enjoy!

Lori

Expect Stagnation without Completion

Here is my latest piece for the life long learning website, The evolllution.

This short article focuses on the significance of the 60 percent degree target set by the federal government and The Lumina Foundation.

The link will take you to the website: http://www.evolllution.com/opportunities_challenges/expect-stagnation-completion/

Loan Increases Out of Sync with Education Goals

I am about to begin a master’s program at NYU, and finances are foremost in my mind.  Politicians often talk about needing people with math and science degrees, as well as higher levels of education across the board that can make the U.S. more competitive on the global stage.  Raising interest rates on loans to levels that are cost prohibitive for most people does not seem a good way to encourage more individuals to pursue higher education.

The link will take you to the full article on the Evolllution’s site.

Loan Increases Out of Synch with Education Goals

Re-imagining the One-Size-Fits-All Advising Model for Non-Traditional Students

This blog is about the academic bubble that I currently live in and sometimes write about.

I have been a part of the non-traditional student category since 2009, and have two full-time years of a masters program ahead of me. So, I’ve had a while to experience and mull over the academic advising situation. This piece that I wrote for the Evolllution is the culmination of my own frustrations as well as an attempt to assist other non-trads while I worked in UNCCs Office of Adult Students.

The link will take you to my article on the Evolllution site.

 

Strong Advising Critical for Adult Students