My name is Ryan, and I am currently in my final year of graduate school in the Public Policy and Political Economy doctoral program at the University of Texas at Dallas. My policy focus is on international development with an area specialty in Latin America and the Caribbean issues. However, I do find myself looking to Africa to see what development trends seem to be working there. I am fascinated with the intersection of politics and economics and how they relate to the development trajectories of countries abroad. I am currently in All But Dissertation status and am in the final stages of writing my dissertation with hopes to defend by January 2016. My dissertation is about how to conceptualize and measure rule of law in a new way and to systematically test what factors predict this conception of rule of law in a global data set.

My graduate school experience has been fairly non-traditional. I started grad school after a 10-year hiatus from undergrad. During that intervening period, I worked in various industries completely unrelated to my bachelor’s degrees (history and art) and was never really satisfied with my trajectory; hence, the reason I went back to school. One of my instructors from undergrad had piqued my interest in development studies, so I looked around to find that both a Master’s and PhD in those fields existed at a local university, and I dove in. I pursued and earned my Master’s degree in International Political Economy and was then encouraged to complete my PhD.

Graduate school is very challenging, and it took time for me to acclimate to it. Initially, I don’t think I was prepared for reading a ridiculous amount of material, learning so much new software, understanding stats and theory, and working part time for my first 3 years. Being a full-time student was not an option for me at first, and it may not be an option for everyone, but when it is not possible to be a full-time student, it can be very difficult balancing work, life, and school—a topic that I’ll likely write about in detail in future blogs.

However, graduate school has been, and always will be, one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I have learned incredible skills that, when I started, I did not think I could have ever comprehended. I have also learned new perspectives and ways of thinking critically about problems, and I’ve made friendships with fellow colleagues that I plan to keep for the rest of my life.

I am excited about writing for this blog and look forward to interacting with you readers. I enjoy and am looking forward to good constructive discussions, always in the spirit of collegiality.  We are all scholars, scientists, and students here, so I hope I can contribute to the world of academia in this way.



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