#WeAreElliott: Amanda Earls

Amanda Earls, M.A. Asian Studies 2023, #WeAreElliott

Amanda Earls is a second-year Masters candidate in the Asian Studies program at the Elliott School, pursuing a thematic concentration in Japan and a professional concentration in Public Diplomacy and Global Communication. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Linguistics from Binghamton University in 2021 and has formally studied Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and French. She currently works as a Curriculum Developer/Project Assistant for GW’s East Asia National Resource Center (NRC), engaging in K-12 educational outreach and facilitating public events with scholars, activists, and government officials. Amanda has also worked as Project Assistant for the Eurasia Foundation (from Asia)’s grant activities at GW, and as a remote EFL teacher to young students in Asia. She has been selected to participate in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ KAKEHASHI Project and hopes that the pandemic situation will allow her postponed exchange experience to take place this year.

What has been your favorite experience at the Elliott School so far and why?

This is more of a genre of experience than one specific experience, but I’ve really valued all of the opportunities I’ve had to participate in people-to-people exchange at Elliott, especially through working with the NRC. I think it’s important not to lose sight of the actual human beings who are impacted by the policies we discuss in class and at work, so it’s very grounding to get the chance to shake someone’s hand, eat a meal together, or even just chat over Zoom.

One example of this type of event is the Tibet Colloquium that the NRC co-sponsored with the Sigur Center for Asian Studies and the Research Initiative on Multination States this past April. Our keynote speaker was Sikyong Penpa Tsering, the elected leader of the Central Tibetan Administration- in other words, the equivalent of the President of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. We also welcomed a few other prominent Tibetan leaders and scholars of the region. I learned so much from all of the speakers and panelists, and it was incredibly moving to hear them speak about their personal experiences. Chatting with North Korean defectors and South Koreans working towards reunification at a private dinner for the Korean-American Sharing Movement’s 2022 Washington Leadership Program was similarly moving.

What courses have you found most helpful in your work experiences and how have they been useful?

I’ve taken two public diplomacy courses at the Elliott School: one general seminar, Public Dimplomacy taught by Dr. Patricia Kabra, and International Education and Public Diplomacy taught by Dr. Kyle Long, which focused on the intersection of public diplomacy and international education. These courses have been incredibly useful in my work with the NRC and the Eurasia Foundation (from Asia) grant, as they have given me both the theoretical background and broader context necessary to understand the goals of our funding sources.

Describe the pros and cons of being a full-time or part-time student at the Elliott School.

Being a full-time grad student at Elliott while also working 20-30 hours a week has allowed me to really immerse myself in my studies. Since both of my positions are also at the school, the lines between my career and my studies have become blurred, which I think is a positive thing. This has also allowed me to build meaningful relationships with my professors and colleagues.

On the other hand, it is definitely challenging to take classes full-time while working. Once assignments, classes, work, and housework are all accounted for, it’s difficult to find time to invest in my personal life. I think this is a common challenge for people in all kinds of educational and career paths, though, and I’m still adapting and figuring out what time management strategies work best for me.

What resources or strategies have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach success at the Elliott School?

Connections with other people have been the most important resource for me in my time at Elliott thus far. Building personal relationships with colleagues, classmates, and professors has helped give me a sense of community in D.C., and that kind of support and understanding makes it a lot easier to deal with the various challenges of being a grad student. Maintaining relationships with friends and family outside of the realm of grad school entirely has been equally valuable. Like I mentioned earlier, I feel very immersed in my studies the majority of the time, so I think it’s important to be able to take a step back and spend time with people outside of my work/school community.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are comparing a graduate program at the Elliott School with other DC grad schools?

There are a lot of great grad schools in D.C., so it’s helpful to really look into the details of each program. Think of things like course offerings, graduation requirements, campus organizations, special events, and, perhaps most importantly, specific faculty. While I received admissions offers from other schools in the area, I could see that I had the most shared research interests with Elliott School faculty members, and my interactions with faculty before I committed made me feel like my personal experience and interests would be valued here. I’m reminded that I made the right choice every time I get to discuss a niche academic interest with my professors or contribute my specific content knowledge to programming for the NRC.

What is the last show or movie that you really enjoyed and why?

I recently watched Everything Everywhere All at Once, and I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it, but I absolutely loved it! I thought it was a beautiful take on how to find meaning and fulfillment in life amongst all the chaos we’re all faced with every day. I also appreciated the commentary on relationships, multiculturalism, and immigration, and how it incorporates humor (and at times, complete absurdity) into such meaningful themes. It was just super well written, filmed, directed, and acted, so I definitely recommend it.


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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.

#ElliottExpert: Jennifer Brinkerhoff

Jennifer Brinkherhoff, Professor of international Affairs, International Business, and Public Policy & Public Administration, #ElliottExpert

Jennifer Brinkerhoff, Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, has published eight books, including: Institutional Reform and Diaspora Entrepreneurs: The In-Between Advantage (Oxford University Press, 2016), Digital Diasporas: Identity and Transnational Engagement (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and, most recently, with Aaron Williams and Taylor Jack, The Young Black Leader’s Guide to a Successful Career in International Affairs: What the Giants Want You to Know (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2022). She won the 2021 Distinguished Scholar Award from the Ethnicity, Nationalism and Migration Studies Section of the International Studies Association for her research on diasporas; and the 2016 Fred Riggs Award for Lifetime Achievement in International and Comparative Public Administration from the American Society for Public Administration for her work on development management and partnerships. She is an elected Fellow of the National Academy for Public Administration. She has consulted for multilateral development banks, bilateral assistance agencies, NGOs, and foundations.

Hometown: Irvine, California
Program or Institute: International Development Studies and Institute for International Economic Policy
Area(s) of expertise: International development management; diasporas; partnership; diversity, equity, and inclusion
Institutions Attended: UC Santa Barbara, Monterey (Middlebury) Institute for International Studies, University of Southern California
Teaching courses this or next semester?: I’m currently teaching Introduction to Public Service in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration. Next semester I will teach my undergraduate course IAFF 3190 Strategic Management and Qualitative Methods in International Affairs, with an emphasis on Africa.

What made you interested in your area of expertise?

I love ideas and exploration, but at the end of the day, I care about what we can actually do with those ideas. Management and policy were the perfect fit for me. I’ve always been interested in identifying and studying under-utilized resources and opportunities that could be better applied to improve others’ quality of life. I started by studying NGOs when they were first getting some recognition from the international development industry. Then I stumbled onto diasporas and their potential to contribute to their places of origin. I’m first-generation. U.S.-born so the diaspora experience really resonated. And now I am really keen on better understanding and applying the incredible advantages of diversity and inclusion.

What has been your favorite course to teach and why?

For more than 20 years, I taught a graduate level development management course that included teams working for client organizations. Students would learn and apply strategic management and project design tools to help a client articulate a project or program design. I loved that course, but after 20 years, I decided it was time to do something different. In all my years as a professor, I had never taught an undergraduate course so I thought it would be fun to adapt the tools and application components of that course to teach undergraduates. I want to give students some understanding of tools and their application so they can hit the ground running when they get their first jobs. The course also includes skill building related to teamwork and feedback—essential for every future leader. It’s so fun to see students light up from a sense of accomplishment when they apply tools and see an analytic product. They develop the confidence that they can do more than just think, they can apply and “do” too.

If you could have the attention of any head of state for a one hour lecture, who would you choose and what would you lecture on?

I would want to focus on the United States. For a few years, I delivered what I called “Diaspora 101” training to State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development staff. That experience and related conversations within those halls really made me aware of the disconnect between a lot of people who do international work and the American society from which they come and that they should represent. At the time I was delivering the training, there was a surprising lack of understanding about the diaspora and migration experience and how those could be leveraged to better inform foreign policies and their implementation. As a society—and one that is dominated by one demographic group—there is so much fear of the unknown that American citizens often are not allowed to serve in regions and countries that are part of their immediate heritage. Recently, I’ve been exploring demographic underrepresentation in American foreign policy more broadly. We need to learn to trust people to be professionals capable of representing and serving our country and recognize they bring unique identities and experiences that can enhance our understanding and effectiveness in the world. How is that for my mini-lecture?

What skill or knowledge do you hope students take away from your class and why?

Most importantly, I hope students leave my courses with greater self-awareness and confidence in who they are and what they bring and an appreciation for who others are and what they bring. By extension, my aspiration for my students is that they leave my courses with a better understanding of human behavior, effective interpersonal skills, and a set of tools they can take with them to continue their learning and skills development.

What book changed your life and why?

Okay, this is a really nerdy answer. I remember having this conversation with academics at a conference. The book I chose was Berger & Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality—a book that is almost as old as I am! To oversimplify, the main message is in the title. I was a graduate student when I first read it. It was the first time I encountered the idea that there is no objective truth or one way of doing things. I thought I had come to graduate school to get all the answers. Boy was I wrong. I took away a more important idea: that we need to embrace the gray that is in the world and work with the people present to figure out the best course of action in a given situation rather than assume there is one best solution to be discovered through independent analysis. The book laid a foundation for my later embrace of concepts from post-modernism about how we create, together, our own truth in each moment. It’s all actually very Buddhist.


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The #ElliottExpert profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current professors to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.

#WeAreElliott: Faiqa Khan

Faiqa Khan smiles at the camera, standing next to a large lion statue at a temple. M.A. International Development Studies, 2023, #WeAreElliott

Faiqa Khan Niazi is a second-year graduate student pursuing an M.A. in International Development with a focus in Gender and Private Sector Development at the Elliott School of International Affairs. She has 5 years of professional experience working with NGOs, the public sector, and social enterprises in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Faiqa was the recipient of the Freeman Foundation Grant for 2022 and she interned in Cambodia working on gender impact investments and gender and disability. Previously, she has worked with the Provincial Government in Pakistan and has leveraged her technical skills to consult with the National Democratic Institute. At the Elliott School, she has served as a graduate representative on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council, the Elliott School Graduate Board and the Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative. In her free time. Faiqa enjoys trekking, reading up on entrepreneurship, and travelling.

What has been your favorite experience at the Elliott School so far and why?

My favorite experience at the Elliott has to be my internship in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this summer. As a Freeman Foundation grantee, I owe it to the Elliott School to have given me this wonderful opportunity. I was one of the lucky students who received support to travel abroad and experience the Southeast Asian culture. I believe, if this opportunity had not existed, I would not have been able to really get the hands-on experience I had been secretly wishing for and that too perfectly aligned with my specialization in Gender and Private Sector Development. I worked on projects focused on gender disability, ranging from financial literacy to implementing Gender Lens Incubation and Acceleration toolkit. It was extremely insightful and very interesting!

What courses have you found most helpful in your intern experience and how have they been useful?

The first course is Development Policy and Practice, taught by Professor Fink and Professor Ledermann, which introduced me to the tools and frameworks most useful to the field of International Development. This summer I used all the tools that I learned in class to help the social enterprise I was working with as a Freeman grantee. The fact this course is project-focused and allows students to test their concepts from the start until the end makes it different from other courses. The second course I absolutely loved was the skills course called Gender Advisor: Roles and Skills, taught by Professor Bertone. It’s a great course to learn the basics of gender concepts from a consultancy point of view. Since my aspiration is to be a Gender consultant in the future, both courses have allowed me to dive deep into my specific interest area and build very focused skills pertinent for my specialization.

Describe the pros and cons of being a full-time or part-time student at the Elliott School.

I am a full-time student. For F-1 international students, you cannot work full time for the first year because the laws limit the number of hours and that can be disappointing to many international students. However, on the bright side, being a full-time student means you have every opportunity available on campus at your disposal. For me, that was being a member of three prestigious boards including the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council; the Leadership, Ethics and Practice Initiative; and the Elliott School Graduate Board. It does depend how well an individual can balance; however, for me it was possible and equally amazing to connect with different people and also have the ability to make an impact through leadership roles. I’d just say, be positive in creating experiences at GW, it doesn’t matter whether you are a part-time or full-time student.

What resources or strategies have proven to be the most valuable in helping you reach success at the Elliott School?

In terms of resources, Handshake is very thorough. Many students do not fully explore it. The information can get overwhelming sometimes but that’s okay. Your Graduate Student Services office in general and academic advisor in particular should be your go-to person for understanding anything that might seem too confusing. Personally, my career coaches have played a very crucial role in the way I have progressed at the Elliott School. I have always researched, pre-planned before hand, and then practiced with my coaches or taken their help wherever necessary. Additionally, building a relationship with your professors also helps a lot. I have been very lucky to get a very focused guidance from my professors who are also my mentors and together we have worked out ways to make the best use of my skills in my particular field.

What advice do you have for prospective students who are comparing a graduate program at the Elliott School with other DC grad schools?

Know the power of networks and don’t underestimate it. The Elliott School has one of the most well-connected network across the U.S. and the world. Network is a make-or-break factor when it comes to career growth, so when you invest in your education, invest in your network too. The diversity in the student body as well as the faculty will not only allow you get varied perspectives but also a very vast network that will translate into amazing career opportunities later on.

What city outside of the U.S. should people should visit and why?

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico! You have to travel to Mexico during your March break. It’s a must! The weather is amazing, and the city has some of the most pristine white sand beaches. It’s a very budget friendly trip and the food is the best I’ve had so far!


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Find out more about this program by creating a CustomViewbook!
Join us for an information session, RSVP here!
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The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.

#WeAreElliott: Vanessa DuBoulay

Vanessa DuBoulay, M.A. International Affairs, 2023, #WeAreElliott

Vanessa DuBoulay is a second-year Master’s candidate in the International Affairs program at the Elliott School concentrating in International Law and Organizations and International Development. Vanessa currently works as a Program Officer at the Department of Justice helping provide development assistance to foreign governments in support of both national security and foreign policy objectives. During her first year, Vanessa was an intern for the Organization of American States and later worked as a Program Associate for the International Association of Women Judges. Previously, she worked in education policy with Teach For America and served as an educator for four years in Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Vanessa received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in international law from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She concentrated in U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America and led her school’s International Relations Association in Model United Nations competitions across the U.S. Vanessa looks forward to continuing developing professionally and gaining new knowledge as she continues her graduate studies at the Elliott School.

What path led you to apply to graduate school? Why did you choose the Elliott School?

I graduated from undergrad in 2016 and knew then that I wanted to attend graduate school in DC. I felt a strong calling to work in public service and, in one way or another, develop professionally in the multilateral affairs field. I’ve always been passionate about the UN system and believe that collective action is necessary to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges, so my time post-graduation allowed me to work in different areas and narrow down the career path I wanted to pursue. I applied to graduate school when I felt I had a good idea of what I wanted to do and after spending some time developing my skill set further. I ended up choosing the Elliott School because it was geared toward practitioners. I was interested in working in the field during my time in school and thought it was important to learn from the experiences of peers and professors. Ultimately, I knew the Elliott School would help me build a network to lean on and provide me with the resources I needed to secure internships and job opportunities down the road.

What has been your most challenging academic experience at the Elliott School and how did you overcome it?

Perhaps one of the most challenging experiences was starting my first semester as a full-time student with a full-time internship. I underestimated the amount of time my school readings would take and failed to account for the many hours I needed to prepare for my classes. Prioritizing and planning became my best allies during that time, and speaking to my peers and professors was helpful to figure out how to structure my reading time and understand which content would take some extra time to get through. My community at the Elliott School definitely helped me get through long nights at the library and knowing why I want to work in this field has kept me moving forward.  

Where do you currently work, intern or volunteer, and how does it fit in with your career goals?

I am currently a Program Officer with the Department of Justice and work at the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) office. At ICITAP we work with foreign governments to develop professional and transparent law enforcement institutions that protect human rights, combat corruption, and reduce the threat of transnational crime and terrorism. I am interested in the nexus between development and peace and security so my current role aligns exactly with what I want to do long-term. I’m particularly interested in UN issues and in advancing the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda, and hope to be able to leverage my strengths and skill set to amplify our efforts in the multilateral space in the near future.

Now that you’re a graduate student, what do you wish you knew during the graduate application process?

I wish I had done some more research into the faculty at Elliott. I find myself continuously amazed by the cadre of practitioners we have as professors and would have loved to get in touch with them as I was selecting which school to attend. I think speaking with professors beforehand would have made me much more confident in my selection of a program and concentrations.

What has been your most valuable experience while studying at the Elliott School?

The network GW has helped me build has been invaluable. Connecting with peers, faculty, and alumni has helped me define the career path I want to follow and also provided me with the support I’ve needed. I’ve been able to speak with incredible, talented, and passionate practitioners and even find an amazing mentor along the way. In addition, I’ve had great support from my professors who have gone above and beyond to guide and encourage me.

What is your favorite place to visit in D.C. and why?

My favorite place to visit in DC is the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool. I find myself there often and think it is one of the best places to read, reflect, or clear my mind when needed. I enjoy having a view of different DC landmarks, watching ducklings swim across the water, and being surrounded by so many trees.


Want to connect with current Elliott School students and alumni? Click here to see how!
Find out more about this program by creating a CustomViewbook!
Join us for an information session, RSVP here!
Click here to apply to the Elliott School!
Twitter · Facebook · Instagram

The #WeAreElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights current students to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.