#IncomingElliott: Jesse Tansen

#IE Tanson

Jesse Tanson is an incoming Master of Arts in International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Jesse has a BA in French and Francophone Studies with a minor in TESOL from the College of William and Mary. During his time there, he studied abroad in Strasbourg, France where he studied as a part of the IFE program and interned for the University of Strasbourg’s film department. As an intern with the department, he worked with HESCALE, a group of researchers and filmmakers whose objective is to shine light on the cinema industries of Africa and the Middle East. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2017 researching French hip-hop in Paris, France for his honor’s thesis for which he was awarded “highest honors”. After graduating from William and Mary, he taught English for two years in Cavaillon, France with the TAPIF program.  In his free time, Jesse enjoys learning about different cuisines, hiking, traveling and meeting new people.

What has been your most rewarding academic or professional experience so far?

I would say that writing my undergraduate honor’s thesis has been my most rewarding academic experience so far. I won a scholarship to study my topic, French hip-hop, in a Francophone country. I chose to study the Paris hip-hop scene which afforded me the chance to live in Paris for a summer, during which I attended concerts and interviewed rappers and journalists. The assertion I made in my thesis was that French hip-hop was enjoying a return to its more subversive origins and that this fact was evident when analyzing discourse about Islam, gender, and globalization in French rap songs. Through this thesis, I was able to develop my knowledge of Islam and gender studies as I dove into both of those domains in order to build my framework. While exhausting and at times, seemingly impossible to finish, the thesis pushed me to explore new academic horizons, to challenge myself, and to grow as a researcher. At the end of it all, I was rewarded with “highest honors” and a celebration with my two fantastic thesis advisors.

What are you looking forward to about living in the DMV?

Although I grew up in the DMV area, I was not able to really enjoy and embrace the DMV life as I was either in school or away at college. I recently returned to the United States after having spent the better part of the past two years in France teaching English as a part of the TAPIF program. While I enjoyed my time abroad, I am excited to take in all aspects of DMV life, the opportunities that DC offers in particular. I look forward to networking, interning, and volunteering in the city. Additionally, I’ll be able to go to all the museums and check out the pretty corners of town.

Is your grad program related to your undergrad degree? 

My undergrad degree was in French and Francophone Studies with a minor in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), so it’s not too related to my grad program. Even though it’s not directly related, I believe that some aspects of my degree may apply to what I’ll be studying at the Elliott School. For example, I studied relations between France and its former colonies, the politics of the EU, and more specifically French society and politics.

Why did you choose to commit to the Elliott School for your graduate program?

I chose to commit to the Elliott School because of the broad network it has to offer, the two-fold concentration system within the program, and its attention to developing students’ professional skills. While I applied to other programs in the field of international affairs, the Elliott School seemed to correspond to what I was looking for in a graduate program. It has a good degree of flexibility with concentration paths, excellent internship opportunities, and the opportunity to study abroad, which I particularly appreciate.  Currently, my professional goal is to work in international development, focusing particularly on improving access to education in either Sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America

If you could splurge on one gift for yourself, what would it be and why?

If I could splurge on one gift for myself, it would be an ooni home pizza oven. During quarantine, actually, even before it, I baked a fair amount of bread, cakes, and pies. My favorite thing to bake became the simple, but always delicious focaccia. Through learning about breadmaking, I grew to appreciate the mix between science and art that is pizza. Pizza, and Neapolitan pizza especially, requires extremely high heats, proper fermentation of dough, and the proper consideration of many factors. Even the altitude of your kitchen and the ambient temperature can affect your dough, making the preparation of dough as much a finicky science experiment as an expression of the baker’s ideas about food. Beyond all that, I also just like to bake for my friends and I think it would be great to have one of these ovens at home.


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The #IncomingElliott profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights newly enrolling students to answer common questions posed by prospective 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.