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Alumni Essay: Laura Thaut '05 (Political Studies and International Studies Double Major)

Thaut replies to a message from John Yoder:

All is well here! Just chugging away as always. Classes are slightly less interesting than last semester...but still plenty of work to do. And lots to think about - in terms of the nature of the discipline (being a political scientist and what kind of political scientist I want to be) and of thinking about future research directions. A side note - I will be going to Cairo, Egypt, for a conference on religion, humanitarianism, and world order for a week in June. The professor who taught the humanitarianism class last semester is organizing the workshop, and about five of us Ph.D. students are going...he has a nice big grant. Supposedly, I'll be presenting the paper I wrote last semester, on a taxonomy of Christian faith-based humanitarian agencies and their relevant tensions. Fun stuff.

Thaut's answers to Yoder's questions about MA programs for political science graduates:

  1. There are many good MA programs out there. Basically, it just requires a lot of research to find out which programs would be most suited to a student's goals. So, some more questions for a student to consider as she evaluates programs: What does she want to do with the MA degree? Does she want to go into the nonprofit sphere? Which social justice issues most interest her? Or is she interested in working with an international humanitarian organization? Perhaps she should consider a public policy degree instead of an international relations degree - it may be more functional for her. Or would she be interested in a peace and conflict-resolution program? But, yes, it's good to have an MA degree to work in these spheres.
  2. I am not very familiar with MA program options, since I just researched Ph.D. programs, and program rankings vary depending on the subfield. However, the answers to the above questions could help narrow down prospective programs. Some options I know of:
    1. I highly recommend the The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Public Policy program here at the University of Minnesota. ( I think a student might want to look into it, because he could also pursue a certificate in human rights (different than humanitarianism, but probably still of interest) at the same time, through the Human Rights Program (
    2. Georgetown also offers a certificate in refugees and humanitarianism.
    3. This looks great: MA in humanitarianism from Tufts Feinstein International Center
    4. Humanitarianism program offered through degree programs at a number of (topnotch) schools:
    5. Here's an international peace & conflict resolution program at American University in D.C.: Here's the regular IR program:
    6. The SAIS program at John's Hopkins is a well-known and good program:
    7. Also, check out George Washington University's programs in D.C.:
  3. These options are just a start. Just takes lots of Internet time to research all the options. I think it is best, however, to apply to a range of programs (i.e., by range I mean the "It's a long-shot," "I've got a decent shot," and "I've got a very good shot" programs).
  4. I tend to think that taking some poli-sci or econ courses would be very helpful for increasing the attractiveness of a student's application (yes, econ is very important for this field!).