Tuesday, April 26, 2016

HNC Alumni Profile: Kaelyn Lowmaster

Kaelyn Lowmaster, HNC Certificate 2010 and SAIS MA 2013, reflects back on her time at the HNC and her experience working for the Asia-Pacific branch of the Department of the Army's International Affairs Division.

Tell us about your current role.
I'm working as a contractor at the Department of the Army, in the Asia-Pacific branch of their International Affairs Division. My office handles the U.S. Army's engagement with countries throughout Asia at the institutional level, so that means we spend a lot of time managing bilateral dialogues and senior leader visits, as well as being the go-to office for political-military advising to Army leadership. My portfolio includes China and Taiwan issues, as well as Philippines, Malaysia, and basically anywhere else in the area as new events come up. 

How did your experience at the HNC help prepare you for what you have done since?
Very well, is the short answer. From my first day on the job, having HNC on my resume came with the reputation of being a proven China-hand.  As we see in the media every day, there's a great deal of uncertainty and apprehension surrounding China in the defense world, so coming into the job with some immersive experience looking at security/political issues from a Chinese perspective has been incredibly valuable. More broadly, though, I came into the Pentagon with absolutely no military background, which meant a learning curve not unlike the first couple of weeks at HNC being thrown into an all-Chinese academic environment. Getting up to speed quickly and operating effectively in circumstances with incomplete information is a superpower you'll definitely hone at HNC. 

What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
There were a ton of memorable moments in the classroom, though I look back really fondly on the trip I took with my Chinese roommate to her family's hometown in Anhui for the National Day break. That year was the 60th anniversary of the PRC, so I watched the televised military parade with her entire extended family. I would watch that parade now from an entirely different perspective; having an awareness of both sides is really one of the great strengths of HNC. It was about as immersive as you could possibly get, and came with some excellent homemade food. Beating her dad at Mahjong remains the highlight of my China career to this day. 

Do you have any advice for current or future students at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
Raise your hand on day one. Being in a Chinese-language academic environment tends to make people reluctant to assert themselves, at least initially, for fear of not communicating clearly. The best and most valuable conversations came when I and my fellow classmates simply started conversations. Ask your Chinese Constitution professor what Xi Jinping's thoughts on "constitutionalism" mean for rule of law. Ask your Social Issues of China's Modernization professor about ethnic minority policy.  Ask your roommate to take you to her favorite restaurant. You have unfettered access to the people who really know, and they want to talk to you - take advantage of it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge

Brandon Yeh, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student currently in DC, competed in the Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge on the Johns Hopkins SAIS team with fellow HNC and SAIS students. The team advanced to the final stage of the competition in Hong Kong. Read on to hear about their proposal and the competition. 

For 6 years running, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and Morgan Stanley have hosted the Sustainable Investing Challenge. The competition seeks to inspire students of business and economics to develop innovative and scalable investment ideas that have positive social and environmental benefits, while also generating real financial returns for investors.

The first stage of the competition required teams to submit an investment prospectus that addresses issues of social and environmental impact, while detailing their impact of their idea, the generated cash flow of their project, and the key risks associated with implementing their idea. This year, more than 100 prospectuses from more than 60 institutions worldwide were submitted, while only 10 finalist teams with the most innovative submissions were chosen to go on to the final round and compete.

Team GAIA with the hosts of the competition. Cynthia Wong, VP of Morgan Stanley Global Sustainable Finance, Dave Chen, CEO of Equilibrium Capital and Audrey Choi, CEO of Morgan Stanley Global Sustainable Finance
 The Johns Hopkins SAIS team is extremely thrilled to have been chosen to compete at the final round. Competing against a range of top-tier MBA schools, we believe that the SAIS team was competitive given our strong economic background and diverse experiences - ranging from multilateral development, government policy and consulting. The team consisted of myself, Matthew Hess (a fellow HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student in DC), Taylor Sloan, and Zach Harris.

Our investment proposal is called GAIA – Global Agricultural Insurance for All, whereby we seek to offer weather index insurance to rice farmers in Thailand that are financially vulnerable to the effects of climate shocks such as drought. At the core of it, weather index insurance (WII) is a new and innovative financial instrument that supports disaster risk management in developing countries. It is a mechanism that has proven successful in several government-sponsored schemes in India and in Africa. To date, WII has limited operations as a stand-alone commercial product, and GAIA’s investment idea seeks to tap into this opportunity by starting with the market of Thailand.

While team GAIA did not win the overall competition, we were extremely grateful for the opportunity to have participated in such an event. We think this is a wonderful opportunity for current and future SAIS/HNC students who are interested in sustainable investing and we encourage all to develop and submit their investment idea for next year’s competition. Feel free to reach out to me or any of the teammates if you have any questions!

Our team could not have succeeded without the guidance and support given to us by SAIS faculty members and practitioners in the DC area. Notably, we wanted to thank Professor Mark White, Professor Irving Mintzer, Professor Stacy Swann of Climate Advisors LLC, Rana Muminoglu of Elevar Equity, and Marc Sadler of the World Bank's Agriculture Global Practice. We also wanted to give a special shout out to Madura Watanagase for helping to put us in touch with the Office of Insurance Commission in Thailand.

Written by Brandon Yeh. Brandon is currently a HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student at SAIS DC, finishing up his studies in Energy, Resources and the Environment concentration. Prior to coming to DC, he completed his first academic year at the Hopkins Nanjing Center in Spring of 2015.

Monday, April 18, 2016

HNC Alumni Profile: Byron Meinerth

Byron Meinerth, MAIS 2014, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience working as a Global Supply Analyst for Tesla Motors.

Tell us about your current role.
Right now I'm working as a Global Supply Analyst at Tesla Motors. Our job in global supply management is to support engineering to identify suppliers available for sourcing, and then review, analyze and clarify quote packages from those same suppliers. We either lead or support the sourcing process, which starts with prototype parts and continues all the way through production tooling. Once parts are in a stable status and are being produced production, we then move to negotiating commercial cost reductions.

 How do you think your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepared you for this work?
What the Hopkins-Nanjing Center did prepare me for is being comfortable in environments where one doesn't yet know everything that s/he wants or needs to know. Most of my coworkers have engineering and supply chain backgrounds, and it's been difficult for me to get up to speed as quickly as I would have liked. The HNC taught me to always be hungry for more knowledge and know how, when, and where to apply that knowledge. Also, the majority of our electronics suppliers are in Mexico or greater China, so understanding international business and commerce has helped to a degree.

What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
My most memorable moment at the HNC is actually a collection of moments. It was the ability to come together and challenge each other academically, intellectually, artistically, and athletically that I always think back to. It's not often in life that you can have such a close-knit atmosphere with so many opportunities to engage with really talented professors and students.

 What advice would you give someone contemplating attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
My advice to anyone at the Center is to learn a little bit of coding language, even if s/he doesn't plan on using it extensively. Software is eating the world, and every time we pick up a phone, open a computer, or start a car, we're simply furthering that reality.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Training for the Nanjing Dragon Boat Race

Hello Everyone! First of all, congratulations to all the recently accepted HNC students! Can’t wait for you guys to come here and experience life at the HNC!

Now on to a few new developments both inside and outside HNC. First of all, within the past few weeks, two new international restaurants have opened up near HNC. One is a pizza and sandwich restaurant and the other is a Mexican restaurant. One of the biggest things that international students get nostalgic for is the food they are accustomed to eating in their home countries. But due to many new restaurants like this, even in a very Chinese city like Nanjing, we can still find many of the comforts we are used to fairly easily.

Secondly, we are getting some new dumbbells for the gym at HNC, which is great for the third point.

HNC is really abuzz with people signing up to take part in a Dragon Boat race in early June (for Dragon Boat Festival.) Myself and a few other students have put together a training program (including weight lifting, cardio and rowing practice) and a lot of people at HNC are excited about it. So far we have nearly 20 people signed up to participate. We have ordered jerseys, officially registered, and, starting next week, we’ll begin our formal training on the water.

Some students are understandably nervous about whether or not this will be too much of a time commitment with our classes and work, but it seems that many are up for the challenge. For many of us, this semester will be our last semester in China for the foreseeable future. After this year, when else are we going to have the chance to take part in real Chinese dragon boat race?

Dragon Boat Team in 2014

Outside of those new developments for extracurricular activities and food, we will be having many new and unique academic and career opportunities in the near future. The HNC invites a lot of interesting people to give lectures, lead discussions, or give career presentations on campus. Last semester, these events ranged from special lectures given by Nanjing University professors to recruiting presentations from Chinese and international businesses to even an informal Q&A with the U.S. Consul General in Shanghai.

 Written by Andrew Retallick , HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

HNC Alumni Profile: Jonathan Papish

Jonathan Papish, HNC Certificate 2013, reflects back on his time at the HNC and his experience working as an analyst for the China Film Insider.

Tell us about your current role.

I am currently an analyst for a new venture called China Film Insider. I work with a team of journalists and writers in New York City, LA, and Beijing to cover the people and companies making films that help to bridge the gaps in understanding between China, the United States, and the rest of the world. My current role includes following trends in the booming Chinese film industry, and I formulate reports for industry insiders, studio execs, and other firms interested in doing business between China and Hollywood.

How do you think your experience at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center prepared you for this work?
Taking classes in Chinese studies, politics, and economics solely in English from a Western perspective surrounded by only American students limits your understanding of this vast country so the experience of studying in the source language with a Chinese professor and local peers is an invaluable experience that all HNC students can build their careers on. For me, since I need to follow mainstream Chinese social trends, the conversations I had with my Chinese peers about local film, tv, and web culture had a huge influence on where I am now.

What was your most memorable moment when you were at the HNC?
Christmas at HNC. As one of the few Jews at HNC my year, I felt it my duty to introduce my culture to the Chinese masses. I’ll never forget molding dreidels out of clay with students from the Migrant School or singing “I’m a Lonely Jew” from South Park at HNC’s Christmas celebration. I also joined the HNC choir; needless to say it was the first time I’ve ever sang “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and it was a life-affirming experience.

What advice would you give someone contemplating attending the Hopkins-Nanjing Center?
I won’t downplay focusing on your academics, but make sure you seek extra-curricular activities outside of class. You’ll be swamped with so much Chinese reading at first, but remember your time at HNC is limited so get out of the library and your dorm room and explore Nanjing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I did that enough while there.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Chinese New Year Break: Interview with HNC Student Lauren Barney

Hi Everyone!

Today’s post will feature an interview with Lauren Barney about her spring break travels. Every year in between Fall and Spring Semesters at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, we have a two month long break for Chinese New Year. During this time some students will find short-term internships, while others will instead visit home or travel.

Lauren is a HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student currently studying at the HNC. This semester she is also serving as a representative on the student body’s Class Committee!

Chelsea: Hi Lauren! Thanks for meeting with me today. I was wondering if you could share with everyone where you went and what you did over the HNC’s long spring break for Chinese New Year (Chun Jie)?

Lauren: Over break I went many places. I went to Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Beijing, and then Hong Kong before coming back to the HNC.

First, I joined eight other SAIS students from Washington, D.C. for the Frontiers in Energy, Science and Technology trip in Bangladesh where we studied the effects of climate change and adaptation. It was really cool! While there we met with multiple stakeholders in Bangladesh who are doing climate change adaptation that are currently drawing up policy recommendations in order to mitigate climate change’s adverse effects. They are making a plan to combat these most effectively.

SAIS Team in Bangladesh
Then I traveled on to India where I met a lot of different people. First I visited an old friend’s family there and attended some Indian weddings! I got to wear an Indian suit for the first time, and I had a great time getting to know their family. I also met up with some SAIS alumni in India.

Next I went to Thailand and met up with other HNC-ers. We had fun being super touristy. Afterwards, I went to Beijing where I got to see fireworks during Chinese New Year. I got to run through them on my way to my friend’s house. It was cool to see Chinese culture up front for Chinese New Year. Everyone was with their family and there were lots of celebrations.

From there I went to Hong Kong and met up with two more HNC-ers, Peter and Jeffrey. We had fun exploring East versus West and all of that good stuff.

Chelsea: So were there a lot of people in Beijing and Hong Kong then, or was it mostly empty? I know a lot of Chinese people generally go home to visit family.

Lauren: It was super empty actually! Well, Hong Kong was pretty full because by the time I went there it was already Lantern Festival time. That was cool though because I got to visit a Lantern Festival on the harbor in Hong Kong. There were tons of people there. There were actually also a lot of tourists visiting Hong Kong from the Mainland on Chun Jie vacation.

But Beijing was empty! It was so cool because I lived there for a summer and it was full all the time. This time though even the train from Nanjing to Beijing was mostly empty. There were maybe 20 people on the train which normally is packed full with hundreds of people. I was also the only person walking around Beijing, where streets are normally full.

Empty street in Beijing
 Chelsea: Yeah, I lived in Beijing previously as well for a year. I have never been over Chun Jie however, so that must have been really interesting to see the city empty! During your trip were there any more striking images or experiences that stood out to you?

Lauren: In Bangladesh one of the really interesting images was seeing one section of the city where many people with drastically different levels of income lived near one another. It was interesting to see those different socio-economic classes converging in one place. There were some people on the street with no teeth or shoes while around the corner there was someone dressed in a fine Western suit or driving luxury cars.
SAIS Team in Bangladesh

In Beijing I also visited an art studio in a less-developed area which was cool to see since it was inter-mingled with the smaller streets. You would walk by homes and see families eating together. It kind of gave me a view of less developed areas of Chinese cities, or what larger cities would have looked like overall in the 1990s.

Chelsea: Do you have any travel tips or advice for students before we go?

Lauren: After Fall semester I kind of wanted to go home or to some Western country again. What I think is really special though is that I traveled instead and took advantage of the long vacation that you’ll probably never get again in your life if you don’t celebrate Chinese New Year on the Lunar Calendar! I think it’s important to take advantage of this time and explore the world.
That’s our interview for today! Hopefully it will inspire you guys to make travel plans for your time at the HNC or to dream big.

Till next time!