Posts Tagged ‘Grad School’

The Aid Debate: Sachs v. Easterly

As of late, I have developed a minor obsession with foreign aid and its effectiveness. After reading Dambisa Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, I became extremely interested in the topic of aid, looking at whether aid helps recipient societies or actually hurts them through engendering aid dependency, corruption, etc. (I think by now everyone has come to recognize my non-sexual female crush on Moyo). Easterly and Moyo both make poignant arguments about the lack of aid effectiveness, including the fact that (extremely) large sums of money (think $2.3T in the last half century or so) have been funneled into foreign aid with no real growth to show for it. Moreover, there are a number of aid recipients that are worse off now than they were before. Surely, aid has a direct effect on bettering the living standards of a certain number of individuals here and now, but in terms of long-term poverty alleviation/eradication (eradication’s probably an entirely too ambitious term), is aid really where it’s at? Sachs, who penned, ‘The End of Poverty,’ is the former director of the UN Millennium Development Goals and is super pro-aid; he sees aid as a large and beneficial factor in development and has continually pushed for a large boost in aid. I’ve continued to look into all of their arguments (plus arguments of Paul Collier) to figure out where I stand on the matter… as for now, I tend to lean towards the side of Easterly & Moyo.

I found this fantastic write-up done in 2007 that puts Sachs up against Easterly in a discussion about foreign aid and it’s effectiveness in the development arena. Check it out. Perhaps it’s just the idea of these two brilliant (and somewhat dichotomous) men having it out that makes me love academia (and academics). Even more, it makes me love that we live in a world where people can voice their opinions on these types of matters freely.

For anyone else out there that finds this debate interesting, here are a few fun links to help you stay connected.

– Check out William Easterly’s Blog

– Check out Dambisa Moyo’s Website

– Check out the Center for Global Development’s work on Aid Effectiveness

– Follow Dambisa Moyo on Twitter

– Follow William Easterly on Twitter

– Watch Moyo speak at LSE on January 26th!

– Watch the debate: Moyo vs. Alison Evans (ODI)



Welcome to Lent Term!

I’m sitting in Cafe 54 on campus, sipping some coffee (only one cup — one of my NY resolutions is to cut back on caffeine consumption) and watching the hordes of people that are back on campus… it was so nice being here just a week ago when the majority of people were sleeping their lives away in their homeland. Now, once again, it’s packed and I have to use physical force to find an outlet. In any case, my first seminar of this term is done and though my brain was only 60% on, it was good to get back into the groove of things! I have a busy week ahead: on campus today from 930A to around 6P, with Tuesday and Thursday shaping up to be very similar. I’m still trying to decide on my last class for this term, so I’m sitting in on three lectures, hoping one will really stand out (Public Management of Development, African Development and Globalization & Social Policy — if you have insight, leave me a comment)!

This term is going to be a rough one, but now that I’m back in an intellectually stimulating environment, I feel much more prepared to take on assessed essays, dissertation proposals, exams, job applications and the like. I’ve also made it my goal to go to at least one LSE public lecture or partake in some cultural experience each and every week. Also, exciting (for you LSEers out there), my lovely flatmate, Lindsay, has her own radio show (‘Brunch Buffet’ on Pulse Radio) this term! If you’re an LSEer and want to show a peer some support, you can join her facebook group here!

In other news, I have a load of guests coming to visit in the next few months: my cousins are coming for a jaunt over from Malta next week; my sister & dad are coming in April (yay!) and my cousin from San Diego is coming over for a couple of months in the summer! My (overly ambitious) goal is to have my dissertation mostly completed by the first week of July so that my cousin and I can do a bit of traveling while I put the final touches on my thesis. Here’s to hoping! Send some positive energy my way <3.

Now back to work!

Week 10 Update!

Hey kiddos,

Gotta catch up with everyone later, but a quick update on the fantasticness that is this week: Today marks day one of Week 10, the final week of Lent Term. After Wednesday, I am officially half way done with my taught Masters courses! Pretty exciting and a bit frightening to think that I’ve already been here for three months.

I’m on campus right now getting started with an early morning study sesh before my AM seminar which will be followed by a lecture and an intense mini-review before tonight’s mock exam! After today’s hectic schedule, it’s fairly downhill. I have a class and seminar tomorrow afternoon followed by the Social Policy Department party tomorrow evening. Wednesday will be my last class and then I have Thursday and Friday to enjoy some Christmas spirit in Londontown before heading off to Malta this Sunday!

Too much excitement — catch up with you guys later!


Time to Revise!

Hello fellow grad students!

In light of next week’s mock exams and the revising that’s currently taking place, I found some really awesome tips on a study skills-focused website to help with revisions. Although some of it seems pretty common sensical, I still think it may be useful to some. In addition to some basic tips, the website outlines how  to leverage your learning style when studying!

Tips for Visual Learners

-Rewrite your notes as mind-maps
-Use colour to highlight important things
-Draw diagrams and sketches to help you remember points.

Tips for Auditory Learners

– Read your notes aloud
-Record yourself on cassette reading key points of your notes aloud, then listen to the tape afterwards
– Revise with other students if you can

Tips for learners who are readers and writers

– Copy out your notes
– Read your notes silently
– Rewrite the key points using different words
– Write down key points from memory.


Tips for Active Learners

– Move around the room
-Revise while working out
– Mentally review what you’ve been revising while you’re swimming or jogging


Also, I’ve found that looking through old exam papers has been incredibly useful! It’s always nice to see what questions typically arise on exams and how questions are phrased to know what you’re dealing with. Click here to check out old exam papers held in the LSE Archives.

Also (since I happen to be an auditory & visual learner), I find that revising in groups is much more effective than sitting alone in one’s room, staring at a PC and old exams. In addition to hearing other’s opinions and input on a particular topic (and being able to ask questions and expand upon topics that are confusing), working in a group tends to keep relative focus. I find that when I’m working with others for five hours, I can be pretty focused for most of it. If I’m at home by myself for five hours, half of that time will surely be dedicated to facebooking, blogging and the like. It’s always nice to have others to keep you in check!

Happy revising and good luck to everyone <3.
Hello, last week of Michaelmas term!


To PhD or Not to PhD? That is the question.

Deciding to get a Masters was somewhat of a no-brainer for me. I’ve always been a huge proponent of higher education and I find being in a university environment incredibly stimulating (lots of very active brain waves floating around). The fact that I am getting my Masters in the UK, where the program is only a year and the fees are relatively comparable to a US Masters (even including the costs of London living!) is icing on the proverbial cake. Getting a PhD (or DrPH) though… well, that’s not quite as simple. As I look to the end of this year and try to figure out what I where I want to be after graduating, the picture in my head begins to get a bit fuzzy. Although I love development studies and the idea of working in the field, I don’t know that I can temper development work with family life. In fact, I am almost positive that the concept of normal life is the antithesis to that of international development (think: being stationed in Yemen for a two-year stint, followed by a few months in DC, followed by a 6 month consultation in Bolivia, etc.). That being said, I’m signing up to take the Foreign Service exam in the spring to hopefully open up some options (fortunately I don’t have to fly to the US to take the exam — American citizens can take it at the embassy). Plus, I have been looking at other institutions to move towards a PhD.

Now, here’s the thing with a PhD (this is partly me thinking via blog and partially wanting feedback from anyone who’s been in this position or has any brilliant insight): PhD’s are intense. In many ways, actually.

They’re time-intensive. Typically 3- 5 years; 2 years of coursework + 1 – 3 years of field work to put together a 75,000 – 100,000 word dissertation to submit and orally defend.

They’re expensive. I think that might go without saying, but expenses incurred through higher education are not for the faint of heart. Grad school is expensive. Fortunately, in the PhD world there are a number of schools that have really great financial aid packages for research students (full coverage of tuition + stipends, etc.) if you’re qualified. I have a friend working on a PhD who is teaching undergrad courses at the university in exchange for full tuition + a $26,000 stipend. Depending on your research proposal, some organizations will even step in to subsidize or cover educational expenses.

The application process is rigorous. I’m at the point where getting in isn’t the part that scares me (although that is scary, of course); the application alone is frightening. I don’t know if you have seen the process for applying for a doctoral program but it goes something like this: standard application packet (name + stats), CV including work experience, education and publications, three (3) letters of recommendations from professors that are familiar with your ability to be a quality researcher, a research proposal, wherein your dissertation topic is generally outlined including the research question and methodology and identification of an academic at the institution that would act as your tutor/advisor. Honestly, getting everything together to apply would probably take me a year! Plus, the part about publications? Can you say intimidating?!

PhD + Family? Not so likely. Not sure that you can actually work on a PhD and be a normal human being. And by that, I mean, I’m not sure that you can be 100% committed to your research work if you have a family, housework, normal real-life responsibilities looming. Dose of reality: Inevitably, one has to take precedence and if you’re paying loads of money and spending tons of time working on a doctorate, that will likely come first. If it doesn’t, your PhD will probably not get done in 4 -5 years. A book on my reading list? Mama, PhD, a piece about juggling motherhood with academia.

Long-term Relocation. PhD programmes don’t take many students, typically. Some schools take 2-4 for a given program, some take 15, but normally there aren’t a load of kids working on a doctoral degree in any given year since there is such a strong bond between advisor and advisee. This is very different from a taught Masters programme, where MSc candidates run wild. It would be ludicrous to think an advisor could work with 20 PhD students and help them in the way that they needed. That being said, for me to say that I wanted to get my doctorate in California and that I would only apply to California programs would be incredibly limiting. It is more advantageous to look across the nation (and the world, for that matter) and see what institutions have strong programs in the discipline and apply to programs where you feel a connection with the school, the potential advisor and the general campus and city life (since you’d be living there for a while!) If I got into a school in New York, I would probably go there, despite the fact that it’s not close to my family… makes for some interesting decisions when the discussion of being away from your family, relationships and friends involves talking about long-term versus one year.

Despite all the cons, I’ve always loved school (a fact to which my first-grade teachers can attest) and I can’t really see myself being done after this year. I will definitely need to take a break for a couple of years to put my Masters to work (to gain some more relevant/international experience) and to make sure that four more years of school is what I really want, but I definitely see a PhD (or DrPH) in my future.

Sending brainwaves your way,

a few big smiles in day two of hell.

So, it’s 847P and it feels like it’s about 1130P right now. Despite the wave of tiredness that just hit me, I feel fortunate in the fact that I still have two solid hours of work I can get in this evening. I just knocked out one presentation in my Health & Population seminar this evening and it actually went pretty well! After so many years of business classes/public speaking, I seemed to have forgotten that I actually enjoy speaking in front of people when I have a good grasp on my topic (one reason that a career in academia/university teaching has been of interest to me). I have one more presentation tomorrow morning, followed by preparation for a third presentation for Monday. Despite the fact that I have had to relinquish my rights to a social life, I actually kind of enjoy having work to do. I feel like I’ve finally been pushed into grad school mode and I can really start to bring my ‘A’ game on a daily basis. Also, there is a reward to finishing this load of work: tomorrow night I get to hit up an Arsenal game with a friend and finally see the Emirates stadium (Chris, if you’re reading this, that statement may be perceived as sacrilegious considering my mandatory alignment with Manchester United) and Thursday night, I’m hitting up the Apollo Victoria theatre with some fellow MSc kiddos to catch a showing of ‘Wicked‘! I think that those two nights of social re-integration will help me re-focus for a weekend of presentation prep work and paper-writing.

My goal for this weekend is to a) prepare a kickass presentation for Monday’s seminar and b) write my formative essay for my Health & Population class. I figure if I post this on my blog for the world to see, I’m semi-accountable to someone/everyone. If, on Monday, I have to write about how I still have essays to write, I will feel entirely defeated.

On an even brighter note (speaking of things to look forward to): Nine days until Rome! I think that all of this writing and academic reading has fried my brain. The excitement and reality that I get to take a jaunt to Italy in one short week has yet to fully hit me.

Hope all is well in the world! Feel free to send some love my way — getting comments always puts a smile on my blogging face.

Signature Stamp - Shannon

Side note //  Two other things put a smile on my face today: One – I finally tried the Hare Krishna food on campus today and it was way better than I had envisioned.  Two – I got an email from my dad that used the term ‘OMG.’ Hahah. Love it. Dad, I know you’re reading this: OMG, I love you. <3.