Some of you may know that over the last year or so, I’ve been struggling with finding funding sources to finish my graduate degree. In the end, I’ve decided to make a personal appeal through crowd-sourcing to fill the last few gaps needed to get my degree. I’ve started a Indie Go Go campaign on the matter.
I realize this is both a highly personal appeal and one that requires thorough explanation. Money’s a big deal. Asking for it’s even a bigger deal. What are you funding if you decide to chip in?
The long and short of it is: Foreigners aren’t eligible for student loans, and my other sources of support (e.g. family) are tapped.
For more detail read on, dear reader, and I’ll try to lay it out as plainly and clearly as I’m able….
My regular readers will know that I’m a graduate student at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. (Or more infamous the LBJ School of “Pubic” Affairs…) There I’m part of the Masters in Global Policy Studies program, which aims to create a new generation of policy makers for a more globalized world.
Global policy is a bit of a buzzword. It’s meant to evoke a post Cold War paradigm, one where borders are fluid and the world moves past the old strictures of “international relations”. It’s also a deeply personal frame. Going from an “international” to a “global” perspective has been my own evolution.
I was once a returnee student in Japan. In a society where conformity was the rule and parochial nationalism was the norm, it was a social death sentence to be multi-cultural. The harder parts of it I’ve chronicled elsewhere.
Yet it was also liberating. The old, closed world of Japanese society was at odds with the more globalizing economic environment I’d grown up in. Leaving the stifling culture of Japanese prep schools, I began to travel. I honed my english skills, knowing it’d be my ticket to a wider world. At 14, I quit high school, began taking the United Nations Association Test of English. The 90s were a time of great hope for the UN and international affairs. The Cold War was over, borders seemed to be opening up everywhere. It was an exciting portal to a bigger world, especially for a teenager.
By my 15th birthday, I’d gotten the A-class certification and immersed in the world of international public service. I traveled, I saw more of the world. The heady excitement was there, and I was happy. I could see myself living not as a Japanese citizen, but as a global one. Numerous interview tests with former high level diplomats left me hungry for a fuller engagement with these issues.
There were of course the occasional detour. I had dreams of being a game designer, or a computer programmer. I even got my high school diploma so I could start studying these things. But history has a way of intruding when you least expect it. Just before I began community college, the events of 9/11 and their aftermath brought the wider world back into focus. A chance encounter with a great professor when I started school a year later fixed it indelibly in my mind.
Dreams of making the next great Wing Commander clone forgotten (and none too soon, for the genre basically died out soon after), I focused on the global challenges exposed by the rise of non-state actors. I read vociferously, traveled as much as I could and cultivated friendships from around the world. I spent most of my undergraduate career refining this interest into something more concrete. Issues ranging from the rise of global trade and economic issues to terrorism filled my course catalog.
Hazily, I knew I wanted to have a career in something related to international politics. But what? Would it be academia as my mentor wanted? A PhD at Chicago studying terrorism issues? Or an economics degree? My pragmatic side, having seen (through much volunteer work in the notoriously machine-like city of Chicago) that political machinery in the US was run by attorneys told me maybe I should look into law school. Making a practical impact was important to me, and it was clear that the political science programs in international relations, while intellectually challenging, weren’t particularly interested in policy relevance.
So where does the aspiring policy maker go? A chance listing of dual degree programs showed an option for a Master of Global Policy Studies. This sounded interesting. I went to the website, read the description. The LBJ School’s description of the global policy program articulated my own beliefs almost to the letter. But perhaps this was too good to be true, afterall, how many people have ever heard of a policy degree?
More reading, checking the faculty list, seeing what they’ve accomplished, where people were going…these things increased my interest exponentially. It seemed in fact there was a branch of study where policy relevance came first and arcane discussions of political science theory came second. It was also the frontline of studying emerging international norms, and figuring out how the global system would evolve.
My funny timing with school struck again, and a global financial crisis hit as soon as I was accepted into LBJ. This sharply refined my focus. The vague sense that the world needed better governing institutions was changed became a focused study on regulatory regimes, governing bodies and international organizations. I’d found a focus, and none too soon.
An emphasis on the need to develop new governance institutions is part of my work today. The next few decades will determine if we’ll have robust, workable institutions that can solve global problems, or if those efforts will end in failure. Not all of these solutions will be variations of government. Some will come from new organizations such as third party certifiers or voluntary associations. Others will simply come about from the needs of consumers and producers to work for a more equitable future. But all of this is a field worth studying, and it’s an area where I hope in the end to make my mark.
So Why This Pitch?
When I first decided to take the LBJ School’s offer of a fellowship and in-state tuition, I had a safety net cushion build up to handle the first year of grad school. That plus the support of my family was enough to get me through the first semester without trouble, and the financial strain was alright until a series of issues (medical bills, changes in family circumstances) forced my hand.
I sold my car, cut down on my living expenses as much as possible, and took a job as a teaching assistant. I got more credits out of the way. Steadily making progress towards my degree. This too, unfortunately proved to be transitory. The budget cuts that hit the University of Texas were keenly felt by foreign language departments, and the Japanese language department couldn’t renew my TAship.
I’m essentially short one semester’s worth of credits. It’s not much, and were I a citizen a student loan would cover it. Unfortunately among the institutions that don’t exist internationally, are ones that allow international students to get financial aid easily. I tried several sources of funding, but none came through. So here I am, asking for your help.
I hope in the long run to pay it forward. The experience of having dealt with financial hardships and working past unhelpful school administrations has given me the goal of establishing a study abroad scholarship for international graduate students. Ideally once I’m finished with my degree, I’ll start putting money aside from my paycheck to make seed money for that. Any money raised from this drive above and beyond my needs will also be put aside for this purpose.
The campaign’s details are available here.
Take a moment to read through it…
Spread the word if you can. Every little bit counts.
There’s about a week and a half left and there’s a lot more left to raise.
I know Leaguers give to a lot of worthy charities. I don’t ask that you forsake those for my sake. But every contribution helps.
Help me get to the end, so that I can begin making a difference.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.