Alumni Spotlight: From MASIA to Ph.D.

This is a special feature to highlight the Asian Studies Program's alumni who have been admitted to Ph.D. programs since their graduation. 

Hyeon-young Ro

Hyeon-Young RoHyeon-Young Ro graduated with her M.A. in Asian Studies in 2013. Currently, she is completing her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Michigan researching the inflow of foreign direct investment in developed countries and host-government regulations. She is especially interested in how governments' trade and investment policies are shaped, and how these policies influence the foreign firms’ cross-border mergers and acquisitions behaviors. When Hyeon-Young decided to apply for her Ph.D., her initial motivation was simply her passion for the study of political science. This desire became more concrete during her Master’s program at Georgetown as she began to develop research questions that were not satisfyingly answered from existing studies. Finally, Hyeon-Young says, "I enjoy academic interactions with students, particularly through lectures and seminar discussions. Thus, I hope to use my Ph.D. degree to become a scholar and a teacher of political science in the academia."

Hyeon-Young highlights three aspects of the Asian Studies Program that she believes were crucial to her successful application to the University of Michigan: faculty and staff, high-quality courses, and the wide MASIA and School of Foreign Service network. "All the professors and staff in Asian Studies Program were great advisors who had already gone through similar admissions processes, so they are up-to-date on current Ph.D. admissions at other universities." As for her courses, she was able to accumulate several writing samples (i.e. term papers, thesis) while the content of her coursework continuously contributed to an expanding knowledge of the field. Last but not least, Hyeon-young befriended students in the MASIA program and the Graduate SFS student body,  awesome developing both wonderful friendships and a worldwide network.

Hyeon-Young's advice to potential Ph.D. candidates are to reflect on three key questions before applying:

  1. What is your research question/academic interest?
  2. Why is this question important in the academic field?
  3. What is the best way to answer that question?”

Ayumi Teraoka

David Tian PhDAyumi Teraoka completed her M.A. in Asian Studies in 2014 with a focus on Japan, and was recently admitted into the Ph.D. in Public Affairs program at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.  Currently, she works at the Council on Foreign Relations as a Research Associate for Japan Studies. Ayumi decided to pursue a Ph.D. in order to deepen her understanding and expertise on U.S. foreign policy decision-making towards Asia. She aspires to become an expert who can "produce research that combines academic rigor and policy relevance."

When asked how the Asian Studies Program supported her Ph.D. application, Ayumi replies, "first and foremost, the support and guidance I received from the Asian Studies Program’s faculty was critical. They gave me invaluable insights with regards to the application process and also candidly shared their own experiences of pursuing doctoral degrees, which helped me understand what type of a career I would be pursuing." She also credits "the program’s relatively flexible curriculum," which allowed her to take courses on a wide range of subjects, broadening her expertise and helping her discover her true passion. "I wrote my Master's thesis under the guidance of Professor Cha and later published in the Georgetown Journal of Asian Affairs, the program’s peer-reviewed journal," Ayumi adds, "I suspect this helped my application to some extent, and I am forever grateful for the excellent team of editors for their hard work in publication." Ayumi also mentions that she was fortunate to have the opportunity to sit in an introductory course for first year Ph.D. students, while at Georgetown. This helped her learn the expectations for doctoral students and receive relevant advice.

Ayumi emphasizes that prospective students should be aware of the difference between a Master’s program and a Ph.D. program. "As a doctoral student, you will no longer be able to just sit and consume knowledge and ideas from professors, but must produce your own. I would recommend that you talk to people who are working towards doctoral degrees or have just completed their degree in order to better understand their lifestyles and expectations that they face."

Scott Wingo

David Tian PhDScott Wingo graduated with his M.A. in Asian Studies in 2014 with a geographic focus on China. He currently studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is pursuing his Ph.D. in Political Science. When asked why he chose to study for a Ph.D., Scott says he wanted to advance his research career "and contribute to something broader." Scott believes that "a Ph.D. can provide a natural platform to create a research program and become part of an important societal debate and a source of information for policymakers." 

In addition to advancing his Mandarin Chinese language skills at Georgetown, Scott cites the MASIA program's "propensity to expose you to the 'real world' of government and diplomacy" among the factors that helped him embed into the new academic environment at the University of Pennsylvania. "At the doctoral level, broad social science theories tend to be emphasized more, but genuinely understanding important cases and speaking two or more languages will give you a leg up in the academic world," he says.

Scott advises prospective Ph.D. candidates to begin researching the admissions process early and learn "the ins and outs of a doctoral student’s life. Read top journals in your discipline to get a sense of what it’s all about, and tailor your all-important personal statement accordingly." Scott adds, "be sure to check out programs that fit your issue focus, and especially those with faculty with whom you would like to work."

Qi Zhang

QiQi Zhang graduated from the MASIA program in 2015 and will begin his Ph.D. in Government at Georgetown University in fall 2017. When Qi began writing his Master's thesis in his second year at the MASIA program, he says "I found myself really enjoying the process. I never felt spending time in the library, reading, collecting data, and keeping writing painful or boring. I enjoyed it very much." Qi refers fondly to a spring break he spent at Lauinger Library, "I spent the whole spring break at Lau, but I was happy. When I developed my own theory and used it to explain many controversial phenomena, I felt excited and accomplished. I just thought doing research was the thing I liked and I was good at it."

Consequently, Qi began researching Ph.D. programs after graduation. "I never thought I would be an academic," Qi says, "I was hoping to work for the Foreign Ministry or a think tank. I think one good thing about the Asian Studies Program at Georgetown is that it offers students both academic and professional training, which helps students find what they really want. MASIA is both a perfect terminal degree for those who want to work, and an excellent stepping stone for those who want to do a Ph.D. Qi advises future students to take their time "and think carefully about whether or not you really want to do a Ph.D. It’s a big commitment." He also advises students who are committed to pursuing a Ph.D. that they should "take more 7-level courses within the Asian Studies and the Government departments." Moreover, "taking Dr. Cha’s thesis course and writing a good research paper is also extremely helpful."