Courtney Weatherby recently earned her M.A. in Asian Studies (MASIA) from Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She now works as Research Associate for the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center, a think tank dedicated to finding pragmatic solutions to transboundary issues and global security challenges.
At the Stimson Center, Courtney focuses on the Mekong river basin in Southeast Asia. She works on issues related to transboundary water management and the threat that commercial hydropower development poses to food, water, energy, and livelihood security in the region.
According to Courtney, Georgetown's MASIA program provided her with the in-depth academic background she needed to pursue her career, as well as opportunities to gain practical experience through internships and fellowships.
Below is our interview with Courtney:
1. Please tell us about yourself. What led to your interests in studying Asia?
I have always loved two things: history and fiction. These two interests swiftly led me to an interest in politics and international relations, which featured so prominently as a factor in both historical studies and the books that I read. I had a chance to go to China for two weeks through a high-school exchange program when I was 16. I was hooked: the vastly different levels of development, entirely separate and challenging language, and differences in language fascinated me, and when I picked an undergraduate institution I specifically looked for schools with strong Asian studies and Chinese language programs so that I could learn more. I loved the program and knew that I wanted to gain a further level of expertise and engage in policy in a practical way, which was what ultimately led me to Washington D.C. and Georgetown’s MASIA program.
2. You graduated from Georgetown in May 2014. How did the university's M.A. in Asian Studies Program prepare you for the challenges and opportunities you face today?
Georgetown’s MASIA program gave me not only the in-depth academic background I needed to pursue my career, but also the opportunity and support to gain practical experience through internships. During my two years in the program, I was able to pursue four internships with two think tanks, a human rights NGO, and the State Department—and advice and assistance from both the MASIA team and SFS Career Center were both invaluable in preparing me to find these opportunities and be a competitive applicant for them.
3. What specific skills and knowledge did you gain as an MASIA student?
I came in with a strong background in China’s policy and some experience with Myanmar—the variety of classes that Georgetown offers and support from professors to pursue my unique interests gave me the chance to expand my area of knowledge to include Japanese and Korean politics, the workings of ASEAN, corporate social responsibility, technical aspects of energy production and security, and the increasing role that climate change and environmental security play in regional politics. I was able to increase my expertise in areas of specialty while also widening my knowledge base. I also had the chance to increase my Chinese skills through taking language classes that focused on business and economics, which has proven useful in my research.
4. Where do you currently work, and what does your work entail?
I currently work as the Research Associate for the Southeast Asia program at the Stimson Center, which is a think-tank dedicated to finding pragmatic solutions to transboundary issues and global security challenges. My work focuses primarily on the Mekong river basin in Southeast Asia, where we work on transboundary water management and the threat that commercial hydropower development poses to food, water, energy, and livelihood security in the region. However, I also research and write on maritime security issues in the South China Sea, ASEAN integration and development, environmental challenges like transboundary haze, and Myanmar’s domestic politics and development.
5. What advice would you give to prospective and current students of the Asian Studies Program?
Be willing to step outside your comfort zone, both in your studies and internships, in developing an area of expertise. I came into Georgetown with a focus on China’s environmental and foreign policy and Myanmar’s ongoing transition, and emerged with not only a deeper understanding of these issues but also deeper insight into the technology driving energy development, energy security issues, the way that green and renewable technology are impacting development models, and greater interest in the intersection between private corporate interests and national policy. Having a functional angle, as well as a regional angle, to examine things is very valuable.