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.

Caroline Agsten

Caroline Agsten Thumbnail

Caroline Agsten is an M.A. candidate at the Jackson Institute. She came to Yale after working at the U.S. Department of State on public diplomacy efforts, including shaping strategic messaging, directing new digital engagement initiatives, and managing a Department-wide public outreach campaign designed to educate the public on the value of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. Caroline attended Middlebury College where she graduated summa cum laude with highest departmental honors. She majored in international and global affairs with a concentration in East Asia, writing her thesis on the historical significance of public parks in Beijing and their effects on Chinese identity politics. In addition to conducting fieldwork in China, Caroline spent significant time pursuing Mandarin language studies through the U.S. Department of State’s Critical Language Scholarship program, the Ministry of Education in Taiwan’s cultural exchange program, and the Middlebury C.V. Starr School in China program.

Upon graduation, Caroline deepened her cross-cultural communications experience with her Fulbright scholarship in Taiwan from 2017-2018. As an English teaching assistant in two aboriginal primary schools, Caroline twice received the Outstanding ETA Performance Award for teaching performance, team leadership, and cultural integration. At Yale, Caroline studies U.S.-China relations and U.S. foreign policy with a focus on acquiring the expertise necessary to facilitate exchanges between the United States and policy-important regions in Asia.

Read Full Bio
What did you do before you came to Jackson? 
Directly prior to coming to Jackson, I worked for a couple of years in the public affairs office at the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute as a communications specialist federal contractor. I managed digital communications and helped with public outreach program management, speechwriting, and public diplomacy efforts. Before moving to Washington DC, I lived in Taitung City, Taiwan as a Fulbright English teaching assistant. I taught in two aboriginal primary schools, coached soccer, and ate a lifetime supply of mangoes and soup dumplings.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
My favorite part of the Jackson community are the people. I’ve found that my classmates are motivated by a profound sense of curiosity and intentionality. I’ve particularly been inspired by those with creative approaches to their dedication to “public service.” Additionally, although this unusual and difficult year could have easily resulted in the community turning inward or being closed off, I’ve found my first-year experience to be just the opposite. It’s been amazing to witness Jackson students and staff alike be so dedicated with their efforts toward fostering inclusivity, kindness, and community.   
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I’m broadly interested in U.S. foreign policy, with specific attention to the U.S.-China relationship. My previous studies focused on learning about China and the Indo-Pacific region from a linguistic and sociocultural perspective. The curriculum at Jackson has allowed me to pivot to studying this region from a policy perspective, while analyzing China’s rise and the implications for existing political, security, and economic structures within the international system. Thus, I’ve taken courses related to intelligence, national security, cybersecurity, and diplomacy. I’ve also chosen courses across Jackson and the Law School that have components specific to preparing students to be practitioners, including sections related to roundtable simulations, negotiations, memo writing, and preparing for press briefings.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
For classes, I’ve really enjoyed taking Asha Rangappa’s National Security Law course and Ted Wittenstein’s Cybersecurity and International Relations course. Taking these two classes at the same time allowed me to deepen my understanding of (and spot the gaps in) policy discussions from a legal perspective, and reversely, to see how legal argumentation can be bolstered (or undermined) based on politics or policy. The symbiotic relationship between these two classes really stands out in my mind as a fantastic academic and learning experience.  
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
After Jackson, I hope to work in the public diplomacy and policymaking space. Specifically, I hope to explore new approaches to extend U.S. educational and cultural diplomatic engagement in China and Asia to address a variety of critical policy priorities. This might take shape in a variety of forms, whether that be returning to the Department of State or working at a China-related non-profit. 

Libby Lange

Libby Lange Thumbnail

Libby Lange is a second-year MA student at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Prior to coming to Yale, Libby worked as the lead English speechwriter and social media manager for Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, an experience that solidified her interest in how narratives are formed and weaponized in the age of social media. During her time at the Office of the President, Libby accompanied President Tsai on state visits throughout the Caribbean and worked closely with the Director-General of the National Security Council. Libby graduated from National Taiwan University in 2018 with a B.A. in international relations. During her time at NTU, Libby interned for the U.S. Commercial Service at the American Institute in Taiwan and helped design and lead a class on geopolitics with former U.S. diplomat William Stanton. At Yale, Libby studies U.S. China policy with a focus on disinformation mitigation strategies and democratic resilience.

Read Full Bio
What did you do before you came to Jackson?  
Before coming to Jackson, I had spent 6 years studying and living in Taiwan, including nearly two years serving as the lead English speechwriter and social media manager for the President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen. In that position, I also accompanied the President on state visits and worked closely with the National Security Council.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
The thing I love most about Jackson is the community itself. I don't think you'll find a group of more interesting and passionate people anywhere on earth. I've learned so much just from conversations with my classmates, and it makes classes so much more meaningful when you gather together people with such different perspectives and experiences.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I came into Jackson with both a clear regional focus, US-China and cross-strait relations, and a topical focus, disinformation. I knew that with such a specific set of interests I needed a curriculum that gave me maximum freedom and flexibility, which is one of the reasons I chose Jackson. Here, I've been able to take policy courses on disinformation and cybersecurity, but I've also been able to range further afield, such as taking a graduate-level anthropology course on diversity in Chinese culture. I think having that freedom to choose has really rounded out my studies.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
That would have to be taking Casey King's Python course in the spring semester of my first year. I went into the course expecting to be lost amidst all the technical jargon, but I ended up absolutely loving it. It was so rewarding to see how I could align these new technical skills with my existing interests by compiling a report on social media discourse, and it has pushed me to seek out opportunities to learn more advanced coding techniques (something I never thought I'd say!).
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
After Jackson, I hope to continue working in the policy space on issues surrounding the nexus between cybersecurity and disinformation, as well as the critically important U.S.-Taiwan relationship.

Joshua Lam

Joshua Lam Thumbnail

Joshua Lam was born in Melbourne, Australia and raised in Hong Kong. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2018, with a B.A. in economics and public policy studies. His senior thesis explored the relationship between international election monitoring and electoral violence in sub-Saharan Africa. As an undergraduate, Joshua interned at Send A Cow, a nonprofit focused on supporting smallholder farmers in central and eastern Africa, evaluating a series of village-level microfinance training workshops in Kakamega County, Kenya. After graduation, Joshua worked as an associate at IDinsight, a global advisory, data analytics, and research organization in the international development sector. He coordinated data collection for an impact evaluation measuring the health effects of a medical product delivery company in Ghana, and advised on a variety of monitoring and evaluation initiatives for social sector organizations in South Africa to inform program design and expansion. At Yale, Joshua is pursuing a joint degree at the Jackson Institute and the School of Management. He is exploring the opportunities and potential pitfalls of leveraging private sector innovation to solve challenges in low- and middle-income countries.

Read Full Bio
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
Before coming to Jackson I spent two years at IDinsight, an advisory, data analytics, and research organization that helps global development organizations maximize their social impact. I was based in Johannesburg, South Africa and Accra, Ghana, where I helped design and implement impact evaluations and monitoring systems for governments, non-profits, and social enterprises. Additionally, I helped build out IDinsight’s new South Africa office through client development and recruiting initiatives. Prior to this, I spent a summer in Kenya working at a small nonprofit focused on supporting smallholder farmers, where I helped develop a microfinance training program.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I was blown away by how thoughtful, empathetic, and driven my classmates are. Through discussions both in and out of the (virtual) classroom, I was able to learn so much from their diverse perspectives on a wide range of global issues. Additionally, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, I was inspired by how my classmates found creative ways to connect with one another and build a sense of community. Beyond the academic training and the career guidance, what I appreciate most about Jackson is how it has brought together a network of amazing people who I can turn to for advice and support long after I graduate.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
I came into Jackson unsure of my area of focus. The flexibility of the Jackson curriculum has allowed me to explore a variety of different topics during my first semester as I began to chart out a potential career path after graduation. After taking Asha Rangappa’s course on Russian Disinformation, I became interested in the intersection between technology and society. I then spent the Spring semester further exploring this topic by taking courses on cybersecurity and programming.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
This past semester, I took a set of three classes that I felt to be academically mutually reinforcing. Ted Wittenstein’s Cybersecurity, Cyberlaw, and International Relations class provided a broad survey of the profound legal and policy challenges posed by rapid technological developments, Casey King’s Python for Global Affairs class introduced me to the possibilities of deriving insights from large datasets using Python, and the core Power Shifts class encouraged us to consider contemporary policy challenges through the lens of history. I was able to use my newly acquired Python skills in my final paper for Cybersecurity, which focused on the online discourse around China’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. I was also able to incorporate insights on AI from the Cybersecurity class for my Power Shifts final paper, which focused on AI competition between the United States and China. It felt tremendously rewarding to draw links across classes and disciplines.
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
After completing the joint degree at Jackson and the School of Management, I hope to work in technology policy, with a focus on ensuring that technological advancements are oriented towards the benefit of society. I am specifically interested in supporting efforts to combat online disinformation and radicalization. 

Resla Wesonga

Resla Wesonga Thumbnail

Resla Wesonga graduated from Yale University in 2019 with a double major in political science and African studies. She completed her joint senior thesis on Rwanda’s use of nation branding as a tool to advance its geopolitical goals and its effect on politics in East Africa. While at Yale, she completed several internships with the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C., where she conducted an impact assessment of the Zimbabwe grants program; Fidelity Bank in Accra, Ghana, where she worked to expand the bank’s financial inclusion programs; and Keepod in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she helped diversify Keepod’s partners in the Kenyan educational market. After graduation, she moved to Princeton, New Jersey, to work as the outreach coordinator for Princeton in Africa. At Princeton in Africa, she managed all the West Africa-based fellows, revamped and diversified the organization’s communication strategy, and organized fundraising campaigns that gathered over $250,000. At Jackson, she is focused on political strategy, effective governance and public goods delivery in low and middle-income countries, and diplomacy.

Read Full Bio
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
I spent the year after graduating from Yale College in Princeton, NJ, working with Princeton in Africa as the outreach coordinator. My role was very multifaceted leading me to work on recruitment and management of fellows, communications and marketing, fundraising, and partnerships.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
Two things. One, I would say the Jackson community itself – in particular my cohort mates who have really enriched my experience both in and out of class. Due to the small size of the program, I have been able to spend quality time with my classmates and we have bonded over the core classes and other activities that we engaged in. With them, school during the pandemic was relatively great. The second would be the ability to customize your own curriculum and take classes from all schools at Yale University. This has enabled me to look across the thousands of classes offered across the university to pick those that interest and challenge me. As such, I have had a great balance of academic and practitioner-based courses in my area of focus and learned a variety of skills that will be useful in my future endeavors.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
Professionally, I want to work on issues of citizen-centered and resilient governance and institution strengthening in both Africa and the Asia-Pacific. Outside of the core classes, I arranged my courses to cover the thematic areas I am interested in such as humanitarian governance, disaster risk reduction, diplomacy, and policy-making as well as area studies in Southeast Asia. I took the more practical skills-based courses at Jackson and the more conceptual and academic ones at the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. I also worked as a course assistant for a class on policy design, which allowed me to learn a lot about the topics studied even as I interacted with the material differently.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
Honestly, so many! Academically, I would say the two anthropology classes that I took this past semester. One was a directed reading on the politics of culture in Southeast Asia and the other was a graduate seminar on China-Africa Encounters. I loved these classes not just because of their academic rigor and the way they challenged my conceptual understanding of informed policy making from a humanist perspective but also because of the way the professors worked with me to connect the concepts I was learning in class to actual policy issues related to the topics covered in class. I completed the courses having learnt tangible skills in research design and proposal writing, read a bunch of really interesting books, and developed new approaches to international relations that were interconnected and fluid. I also really loved my professors and enjoyed how much they pushed me to expand my conceptions of ‘Global South’ politics and policymaking even as I was learning anthropological modes of thinking!
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
I hope to work at the nexus between Africa and the Asia-Pacific with organizations that are looking at the interconnection between the continents to build people-centered and climate resilient systems and institutions.

Emily McInerney

Emily McInerney Thumbnail

Emily McInerney is a joint-degree student with the Jackson Institute and the Yale School of the Environment. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Connecticut in 2015 with a degree in natural resources. As an undergraduate student, she worked for the UConn Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) where she was a member of UConn’s Environmental Policy Advisory Council, organized the school’s recycling program and coordinated environmental awareness events, including UConn’s participation in the 2014 NYC People’s Climate March. She was provided a grant by the university for her Honors thesis to collect greenhouse gas emissions from constructed wetlands. She later co-published her paper in the scientific journal Wetlands. She was awarded the “Environmental Leadership Undergraduate Student Award” for her work with the OEP and her initiative leading the campus’ largest environmental club, EcoHusky. Upon graduation she moved to Mexico to work as an Environmental Education Peace Corps volunteer. She spent three years working with youth to develop environmental awareness. Her primary project was biodiversity monitoring with camera traps to identify the flora and fauna in the region, for which she was awarded a Small Projects Assistance grant from Peace Corps and USAID. At Yale, Emily focuses on the intersection of environmental justice and human rights in Latin America.

Read Full Bio
What did you do before you came to Jackson?
Before coming to Jackson, I served in the Peace Corps in Mexico as an Environmental Education Volunteer for three years. In this role, I organized a biodiversity monitoring project to identify specifies in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve. Additionally, I offered after-school youth classes, facilitated an environmental club, and created educational materials on topics such as recycling, water conservation, and gardening. This experience fostered my appreciation for a bottom-up approach to project development that champions community collaboration and engagement.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I’ve enjoyed working and socializing with my peers from the Jackson community. It’s a small group and everyone has a unique background. The diversity of experiences and perspectives has created an environment that promotes new ideas and opportunities for learning. I also appreciate the flexibility that Jackson students are given to design a course curriculum that best supports their academic and professional interests.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
As a joint-degree student, I’ve taken most of my classes at the Jackson Institute and the Yale School of the Environment. However, I’ve also chosen classes offered by the Department of History, the Department of Political Science, and the Yale School of Public Health. I’ve personalized my curriculum to explore a range of topics that match my interests, including environmental security, climate change policy, environmental justice, Critical Race Theory, and the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, I’ve selected courses that allow me to examine political, economic, and social issues in Latin America, my region of interest. For example, last semester I designed a course to study climate-induced migration in Latin America.  
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
I enjoyed my summer experience interning with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. While I was unable to work in-person due to the pandemic, I appreciated the opportunity to support a fantastic organization that has been leading the environmental justice movement for over 30 years. Taking the course Climate Justice, Climate Policy, the Law, and Public Health was also an exceptional experience. During this clinic, I worked with a small group of students to research and propose an environmental justice (EJ) mapping tool for Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. I found learning about EJ issues in Connecticut and working on a project with a real-world impact to be incredibly valuable.
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
After graduating, I hope to work with an NGO or intergovernmental organization that is focused on the climate-migration nexus. I'm interested in supporting projects that promote environmental justice, community-based participatory research, and climate change adaptation. 

Will Godfrey

Will Godfrey Thumbnail

Will Godfrey graduated summa cum laude from Ursinus College in 2013 with a B.A. in international relations and French. During his studies, Will focused on international aid and economic development, completing an honors thesis comparatively assessing divergent development trends in East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Following his graduation, Will moved to the Adamawa region of Cameroon to serve as an Agriculture Extension Volunteer with the United States Peace Corps from 2013-2015 where he collaborated with local communities to address issues of food insecurity. Before coming to Jackson, Will spent nearly five years working with Tanager, an international nonprofit that co-creates sustainable development solutions in agriculture with private firms and foundations. In this position, Will managed livelihoods and smallholder producer projects in India and across Africa to expand access to technologies, develop market systems, and facilitate beneficial connections between local producers and global supply chains. At Jackson, he will study sustainable development at the intersection of the private and non-profit sectors to understand how best to leverage private capital for public good.

Read Full Bio
What did you do before you came to Jackson? 
Before coming to Jackson, I spent four years in Washington DC working for Tanager, a non-profit that designs and implements projects focused on improving the lives of smallholder farmers. During my tenure, I managed projects in India and across Africa, supported the organization's monitoring and evaluation efforts globally, and oversaw the organization’s contract review and compliance.
What do you like most about the M.A. program and the Jackson community?
I think the defining feature of the program is its flexibility. I appreciate the freedom I have to design a program that fits my interests using resources both inside Jackson and from across Yale. Though its flexibility is what drew me to the program, far and away my favorite aspect of my time at Jackson has been my classmates. The Jackson community has a wealth of smart, driven, and engaging people pursuing diverse interests, and having the opportunity to learn with and from them has been essential to my experience.
How have you customized your curriculum to match your area of focus?
While at Jackson, my goal is to build the skills and competencies to leverage data to inform international development initiatives at the intersection of the private and public sectors. To that end, I have focused on building quantitative data analysis skills through classes in statistics, coding, and research while also pursuing courses at Yale’s School of Management. The Jackson staff and Senior Fellows were very helpful in providing feedback and guidance on what classes and skills best aligned with my professional pursuits.
Any particular experiences that have really stood out?
Justin Thomas’ data practicum was invaluable, not only in helping me build up my knowledge and skills using Stata, but in developing my understanding of the intricacies of working with data and the practicalities of applying many of the statistical techniques introduced in other courses. In the class, we executed our own research project from identifying a subject to finding, cleaning, and analyzing the data to address our question, skills I have applied during my summer experience supporting an impact evaluation of a drone-based medical supply delivery program in Ghana.
What do you want to do once you’ve finished the program?
After Jackson, I hope to continue my career working with businesses to implement and evaluate sustainable development initiatives that leverage commercial capital to improve environmental and economic outcomes for communities globally.