Q & A

Hear from our graduate students about what being a part of the Jackson community means to them.

Want to know more? Contact our admissions office to be connected with a Jackson student for a one-on-one Skype chat or phone call.

Chenyue Yang

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Class of 2020
What did you do before you came to Jackson?   
I was a TV reporter for a Chinese state TV station. I covered the Arab Spring in the Middle East and then moved back to Beijing to work as an international news editor.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I like the freedom of curriculum selection since we can choose whatever courses at Yale besides the three mandatory courses. I took a Yale College seminar on Tibet, which offered quite a different perspective and helped me understand China’s position in the world and how the international institutions work.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I am interested in both China-U.S. relations and Middle Eastern issues. There are many great Senior Fellows at Jackson, and I am lucky to be able to study with Jackson Senior Fellows David Rank on China-U.S. relations and Ambassador Robert Ford on the Middle East. They are experienced diplomats with rich knowledge of those topics. Both the seminars and the conversations we had during office hours helped me to understand the topics in great depth. 
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
I recently took a seminar with Senior Fellow George Packer on biography writing. We examined Packer’s new book on legendary diplomat Richard Holbrooke to understand both how to write a biography and the U.S. foreign policies since the Vietnam War. People always say that reading a book is a conversation between you and the author, but we were literally having a conversation with one of the best authors/journalists throughout the seminar. It’s a seminar out of my comfort zone and inspired me to think of writing a book in English in the future.
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
I plan to work for an organization addressing education inequality in China. My long term goal also includes writing a book on China’s ethnic minority. 

Ryan Nabil

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Class of 2020
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
Prior to Jackson, I worked for three years as a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, DC. At AEI, I researched and wrote articles on international economic policy, financial services, and food aid. I also managed AEI's agricultural policy program.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
Compared to any other international affairs and public policy programs that I had considered attending, Jackson offers greater flexibility in course selection. I have very much enjoyed this freedom to pursue my interests. I also greatly appreciate the opportunity to take classes with both faculty members and senior fellows, which helps me combine academic training in global affairs with real-world insights from diplomacy.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I have two separate areas of academic interests: economic policy and international relations. During the fall semester, I mostly focused on sharpening my economics and statistics skillset. Conversely, during spring, I largely pursued courses related to foreign affairs. Additionally, I worked as a teaching fellow for two courses: Applied Quantitative Analysis and China in the World. These two courses also reinforced what I was learning in my other courses.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
Last fall, I took a course on U.S.-China relations with Jackson Senior Fellow David Rank, the former acting U.S. Ambassador to China. This course helped me develop the analytical frameworks to research Chinese foreign relations and economic diplomacy, like the Belt and Road Initiative. I also found the course useful in learning how diplomatic writing differs from academic and policy writing styles.

During the spring, I found two courses particularly interesting: Security in Central and Eastern Europe with Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev and Russian Foreign Policy with lecturer Thomas Graham. In Amb. Sergeyev's course, I researched Chinese economic diplomacy in Europe, while I examined Russia's pivot to Asia in Graham's class. The two courses also helped me develop a working knowledge of European and Russian security challenges and what they mean for American foreign policy.
What do you want to do once you've finished the program?
Following Yale, I would like to work as an international relations researcher and adviser in Washington, DC or London.

Douglas Gledhill

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Class of 2020
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
Immediately before coming to Jackson, I spent 1.5 years traveling through Latin America and Asia with my fiancée. We bussed, hiked, and occasionally flew our way through 22 countries in 20 months. We spent an average of about $27/person/day and had the time of our lives getting to see the world. Read more on our travel blog: anemoscopio.wordpress.com

Before traveling, I worked in corporate finance at Amazon.com. I spent about two years working in operations finance running various warehouses, and about a year doing higher level financial planning and analysis for a branch of AWS in Seattle.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I most like how small the Jackson community is. It's easy to get to know people when there are only about 60 people across both years and it creates great conversations. I also love being able to hear about everyone's different school, work, and life experiences. We come from different backgrounds and I love seeing how they come into play as we discuss different issues in class, or over dinner.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I've been able to take quite a few courses at the School of Management that match my focus on the influence of political and economic factors on business decisions. I've also been able to dive into region-specific courses that match my interests in East Asia, and also study more widely applicable theory through classes like Macroprudential Policy.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
I took the Global Social Enterprise (GSE) India course this past year and it was an immensely rewarding experience. I learned a lot about the skillset required to be a consultant, the social enterprise space, and rural India. I enjoyed working with my classmates on the project and had an unforgettable time visiting rural India to interview local entrepreneurs.
What do you want to do once you've finished the program?
I'm most interested in helping businesses facing problems with strategy localization in foreign markets, either as a consultant or in-house at a large multinational. I find the process of adapting a business model to a new national or cultural environment fascinating and would love to help businesses understand the political and economic environments they're expanding into. I have regional expertise in the greater China region, as well as Latin America and hope to find a role that allows me to use both these skillsets.

Hannah Heether

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Class of 2020
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
I am a U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer. Prior to Yale, I served in units at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Throughout these years I deployed to Afghanistan focusing on a counterterrorism mission, and I also deployed to Iraq helping advise and assist the Iraqi Army to defeat ISIS. 
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I love the inclusivity of Jackson and the constant opportunities to learn. Given that the Jackson M.A. program is a relatively small group of students, it gives us the opportunity to get to know everyone very well and learn in detail about the variety of experiences within the cohort. In addition to that, Jackson hosts various speakers and events on a near daily basis. The opportunity to learn outside of the classroom is almost greater than inside the classroom.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
My goal for my studies while at Yale is to balance knowledge and skills, and so I plan to take a mix of both theoretical courses and practical application courses each semester. Right now, I am taking International Security in the Political Science Department, which is theory heavy, but also a Rethinking US/Iranian policy course, which is more application focused where you develop a deliverable for a client at the end of the semester.   
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
There are so many great experiences at Jackson and Yale as a whole, but I think my most memorable experiences have simply been in the student lounge in between classes hanging out with other students and discussing various issues or topics together – either those that come up in class and assignments, or other issues highlighted in the news. Getting to learn from everyone else has been invaluable. 
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
Following my time at Yale, I will teach International Relations at the United States Military Academy prior to returning to active service as an intelligence officer.

Matthew Burnett

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Class of 2020
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
Prior to studying at Jackson, I worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at their headquarters in Rome, Italy. I worked as a scientific communications specialist in the emerging pandemic threats program that tries to anticipate the next global pandemic – diseases like Ebola, Zika and avian influenza.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I like how flexible the program is. You can take classes from all across Yale to make up a really interesting personal curriculum. And because the intake is so small you get to know other students at Jackson really well.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I have taken classes in the forestry and public health schools which have allowed me to dive deeper into water and sanitation science and global health.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
I have taken a number of trips down to Washington D.C. with classes organized by Jackson and they have all been amazing—interesting talks by very experienced people, great networking opportunities, and visits to institutions like the World Bank and United States Institute of Peace.
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
I would like to go back to a large international organization such as the UN or World Bank.

Kathleen Keefe

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Class of 2020
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
Prior to Jackson, I worked in international development. I designed and managed large-scale, U.S. government projects supporting economic development across Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Previously, I worked in public policy evaluation and spent one year as a Fulbright English Instructor in Khabarovsk, Russia.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
My Jackson courses have allowed me the chance to use different lenses to think about complex development problems. I entered Jackson with a solid understanding of how the U.S. government approaches international development, and with the intention of continuing work in this space following graduation. I credit Jackson’s flexible curriculum with expanding my conception of what constitutes good development, and for pushing me to think deeply about how I can best reflect that in my future career.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I’ve been able to create a program that meets my academic and professional goals in a way that is tailored to my past experience and my specific needs. My courses at Jackson have focused on economics and leadership, and have equipped me with the analytical frameworks to speak and act with more authority in my field. Due to Jackson’s integrated nature, I have had the opportunity to take School of Management courses that have complemented my policy focus at Jackson by capturing the role the private sector, and fields such as impact investment, can play in good development.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
It’s hard to choose! The community at Jackson is what drew me to this program, and my most memorable moments to date are the chances I’ve had to learn from my peers outside the classroom. For example, every Friday, students meet for a Global Affair—a casual gathering where students share some aspect of their past professional or personal experiences over food and drinks. These types of conversations have been inspiring, challenging, and an incredibly meaningful part of my Jackson experience.  

Among my courses at Jackson, a class on Ethical Choices in Public Leadership with Eric Braverman stands out as truly memorable. This course provided us with frameworks for approaching decisions when there are no easy answers. It pushed us to examine our values and unpack the motivations driving our actions when we are in a position to make choices on behalf of others.

Finally, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the city of New Haven better by volunteering in the community, checking out the rich arts and music scene, and spending time in some of New Haven’s surrounding parks!  
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
After graduation, I plan to continue working on issues of economic development. My time at Jackson has been critical to helping me investigate various models for effective and just economic growth, and I intend to apply the insight and skills I’ve gained at Jackson to contribute more meaningfully to my field.