How to Win at Being a Grad Student, Part III

Here’s part III in the series How to Win at Being a Grad Student. It is a compilation of pointers from NPSIA faculty and staff regarding the dos and don’ts of grad school. You should find the advice below quite helpful. You’ll likely also find it quite candid…

An introduction to etiquette for the grad student

In class – be involved

Don’t be frightened of asking questions, about procedure or substance, inside or outside of class.

You do not necessarily have to be formal in your interactions with faculty, instructors, staff, external speakers etc., but you do need to be professional. Ask yourself if you would do something at a job interview or a networking event? If the answer is no, then don’t do it at NPSIA.

You should find NPSIA a generally informal and collegial place to study and interact with others, but it is still a place of work. Faculty are generally friendly, but that is not the same thing as being your friend.

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How to Win at Being a Grad Student, Part II

Below is part II in a series on the dos and don’ts of grad school as per NPSIA’s professors. Earlier in the month, I asked the faculty and staff to provide some advice on how to win at being a grad student. They were very helpful. The were also very candid…

The right frame of mind

Use this as an opportunity to learn:

Everyone’s objective at NPSIA is to ensure that students learn – that they complete the program with analytical skills and knowledge of the fundamentals of international affairs.   But we have certain standards that have to be met – when you graduate, your skills in the workplace will reflect on the quality of our program. Our courses are rigorous to build these skills and knowledge base, not to inflict suffering. Stop complaining and start learning. Take the program seriously. And use this as an opportunity to develop skills, such as the ability to work collaboratively.

Be ready to read-think-discuss-refine your thinking and then read some more.

Prioritize School:

When I was a student, we used to prioritize school over work. Now it seems like it’s the other way around – students fit in school when convenient and expect professors to accommodate their busy schedules. Of course, we realize that life is busy. But please, if you are working, talk to your employers about your academic obligations. Don’t always assume that your professor is the only one who can be flexible.

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How to Win at Being a Grad Student – Part I

It’s that time of year again. Summer is almost over and classes start in just a couple of weeks. Soon, NPSIA will be greeting many new MA and PhD students. In order to help incoming students adjust to life at NPSIA, I asked the faculty to provide some advice on how to win at being a grad student. They were very helpful. The result: a blog series on the dos and don’ts of grad school as per your professors. Below is part one. It outlines the art of academic reading. Yes, there is a right way and a not-so-right way to do it and doing it right should help you better manage your workload and get the most from your courses.

Learning to Read: Words to Live By

Prepare yourself! At NPSIA, there may be a lot more reading than you are used to. These fall basically into two types. The first type, textbook reading, will be familiar to you. For this material, you are expected to read every word and remember the key concepts described in it. Detailed note-taking may be helpful. These types of readings will be in the minority but will predominate in Statistics, Methods and the core economics courses.

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Venezuela’s unlikely rescuers: the US and Cuba?

By Jean Daudelin

Given the scale of its problems and the “quality” of its government, Venezuela could have collapsed into a civil war years ago. It did not. The restraint shown by the opposition and especially the fact that most weapons were on the Chavista side kept the lid on the pot.

The crisis is now deeper than ever, with deadly department stores’ looting now joining crippling shortages of basic necessities, increasing unemployment, the world’s highest inflation rate, stratospheric levels of corruption, disintegrating public services, crumbling infrastructure and terrifying levels of criminal violence.

At the same time, the government’s quasi-monopoly of violence is breaking down. President Nicolás Maduro’s control over the military and party militias has always been partial with National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, in particular, keeping a much-purged and corrupt military for himself. There are rumbles, however, both on the party militia side and within the military. Without surprise, the regimes’ much used but long unruly street gangs’ loyalty is less assured than ever. When it comes, in other words, the violence will start from within Chavista ranks.

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The sorry state of Canada’s foreign policy debate

By Valerie Percival

Much of the debate about foreign policy is directed towards the elected government, and the political positions it takes on current international issues. These positions deserve public debate and scrutiny, particularly given the upcoming October election. But what about the machinery behind the elected government? Much of foreign policy actually revolves around the day-to-day performance of unelected leaders within the bureaucracy. Do we encourage these leaders to develop and maintain skills – the knowledge base, the willingness to assess available research and evidence, and the intellectual curiosity necessary to be innovative in the face of new challenges? Perhaps this should also be an issue for debate during our election campaign.

To effectively teach in the field of international affairs, professors face several challenges. The field covers pretty much everything these days, from the traditional — conflict, security, trade, and development — to the more novel — health, environment, energy, finance, and more. The field is also prolific; new ideas and ways to view the world constantly emerge. Moreover, the world itself continually changes — the unexpected is always around the corner and tomorrow will not be like today. Explaining current events can be difficult. Yet explanation is definitely easier than predicting what will happen next year, or even next week.

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Brazil: The Crash of the Chicken

By Jean Daudelin

Cynics have long described Brazil’s development path as “the flight of the chicken:” brief spurts of growth, sometimes spectacular, followed by more or less brutal declines. After a tad more than a decade of expansion, the country is now going through one of those periodic crashes. And this one is ugly, perhaps because this time the chicken was flying really high, seemingly dreaming that, with all this talk of BRICS and emerging power, it was a chicken no more.

Analysts are predicting between two and four years of recession while inflation has reached its highest level in more than 10 years. Tax revenues are down (minus US$37bn projected for 2015), June’s “primary” deficit—excluding interest payments—is larger than the worst predictions of analysts while the overall deficit of the public sector borders 7 percent of the GDP. The Real is down 40 percent since June 2014 and the index of São Paulo’s stock exchange—the largest in Latin America—has dropped 20 percent in dollar terms since January 1. Exports were down in 2014, especially for manufactured goods (minus 14 percent) and the country saw its first trade deficit in years. The current account shortfall, at US$93bn, reached 4.3 percent of GDP last year, the largest since 2001 and interest-rates stand at a world’s “best” 14 percent. The country has lost more than 300,000 jobs in the first three months of 2015, to the point where the absolute size of the formal labour market has shrunk for the first time in years.

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Beware of Greeks bearing gilts.

With the recent Greek referendum on the bailout package yielding a pretty resounding “no” to further austerity, the Greek-Eurozone crisis is set to move into a new and unprecedented phase. No solution seems in sight to this seemingly intractable and persistent tragedy. The ways forward are all fairly unappetizing to at least one large group of voters. One approach involves some sort of continued and largely European financial support for Greece. Such a solution would represent a considerable climb-down for many European governments, who would likely suffer potentially severe domestic political costs that have just been increased by the Greek government’s negotiating tactics. The other main option is for Greece to effectively declare bankruptcy and, most likely, leave the Eurozone. While it is certainly easier and safer to just sit back and watch how it unfolds rather than try to prescribe or predict a solution to this mess, I am going to instead sketch out what I think could be the outline of a way forward.

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