The UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) combines expertise on policy, economics and strategy in a Pacific and global context.
Leveraging UC San Diego’s renowned research and programs in science and technology, GPS students learn how to create global policy recommendations on climate change, trade, poverty, human rights and many of today’s other pressing challenges.
GPS graduates assume positions of leadership in business, governments and nonprofits in more than 80 countries across the globe. The School’s rigorous core curriculum equips graduates with a versatility that facilitates employment in a range of industries—from Google and Tesla Motors to the U.S. Foreign Service, United Nations and development nonprofits working in the field.
Located in San Diego, California, a hub for emerging technology and innovation at the crossroads of Asia and the Americas, GPS is strategically positioned to address 21st century global policy.
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What are the major global shifts students should consider in pursuing a career in international affairs or public policy?
The U.S. has been the single global leader for the last several decades. That dominance is changing, as China has grown rapidly and invested economically and politically in all regions around the world. Understanding how the U.S.-China relationship affects global growth, political and economic stability, and security will be important for anyone seeking to work in the international relations domain.
There are also long-term threats to our future that can only be addressed by massive policy shifts. Climate change is one, where current leaders have failed repeatedly to act. Our policymakers will need to pursue climate action using all available economic tools and to support new technologies to steer the world away from fossil fuels, while managing political realities.
Another threat is the demise of national and international institutions. We are living in a world where global cooperation is weak, and domestic political systems in many countries are unstable. Future leaders will need to consider how to address threats to governance from within, from other nations, and from new technologies.
How does your program prepare students to lead in this fast-changing world?
The UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) is uniquely positioned to consider tomorrow’s most pressing challenges. In terms of area studies, as well as current political, economic, and technological shifts, we provide students with the tools to understand tradeoffs, design effective policies, and become well-rounded, ethical leaders.
The U.S.-China axis will be the most important going forward. The school’s origins lie in pacific studies, and GPS has world-class China scholars, a master’s degree focused on Chinese economic and political affairs, and the preeminent 21st Century China Center that supports cutting-edge research and brings together academics, policymakers, and business leaders.
Given our prime location on the border with Mexico, we also offer students the opportunity to learn about U.S.-Mexico relations in an experiential way, with many opportunities to visit Mexico and forums bringing leaders from both sides of the border together.
GPS is at the forefront in considering the obstacles of the future: climate action and understanding swings in democratic governance around the world. Students can learn from and work with a wide variety of scholars focused on these issues. At the school, engineers, earth scientists, and political scientists come together to consider policy options and technological innovation to improve climate outcomes.
Political systems around the world are under extraordinary stress. The political scientists at GPS are doing incredible research on the different types of political systems and what makes them tick. The global student body at GPS learns with these scholars and takes away a strong understanding of successes and failures of different models of governance throughout the world and a robust toolbox to measure that.
Tell us about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Policy Initiative’s mission and work.
The SDG Policy Initiative uses the United Nations’ SDGs as a framework for bringing together policymakers and researchers to inform evidence-based solutions for a sustainable future. The initiative is based at UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), which is at the forefront of interdisciplinary research critical to the 2030 Agenda.
With interrelated challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and biodiversity loss, achieving sustainable and inclusive growth will require developing analytical tools that cut across disciplines and developing new policymaking processes that go beyond the traditional silos of governance.
The initiative is engaged in a number of programs that put the SDGs into action to guide and measure progress at all levels of government. From contributing to a decarbonization policy plan for the United States to supporting the government of Paraguay in implementing the SDGs as a framework for sustainable growth to designing sustainable land-use planning tools for Mexico, the initiative is supporting achievement of the ambitious SDGs with evidence-based solutions.
What will be the initiative’s part in making sure the Biden administration’s sustainability agenda is put into action?
In a series of executive orders, strategies, and policy announcements, President Biden has clearly signaled his intention to be a transformative leader with a deep commitment to the sustainability agenda. The SDG Policy Initiative is an active partner in projects that support the agenda of inclusive and sustainable growth in the United States. The most important of these is the Zero Carbon Action Plan, which laid out policy recommendations for the power, transportation, buildings, land use, and other sectors in order to move the country onto a pathway of decarbonization by midcentury.
Tell us about your work with local governments.
We are very excited to partner with San Diego County on a decarbonization framework. Drawing on expertise, including America’s Zero Carbon Action Plan, the SDG Policy Initiative will work with partners to model technically feasible pathways to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in San Diego County. The project will evaluate key sectors, including energy, transportation, buildings, and land use, and evaluate employment impacts. Approaching decarbonization from the regional perspective, the framework will help policymakers identify opportunities for collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries. As San Diego works to become a global leader in decarbonization, a new comprehensive regional decarbonization framework can set the region on a path to zero carbon and be an example for others to follow.
What opportunities exist for students to help enact real-world policy goals?
All the initiative’s projects offer opportunities for current and former GPS students. Some of these positions are paid graduate researcher positions, while in other cases, students take advantage of the initiative’s relationships with governments to do projects in their classes that are immediately useful to policymakers. Many examples of student involvement in projects and research are showcased in our student blog.
In your new book Dangerously Divided, you show that racial minorities disproportionately lose in American democracy. What steps can we take on a policy level to help reduce inequality?
The data show clearly that who is in power matters. American democracy is tilted in favor of whites but much less so when Democrats are in charge. Under Democrats, the policy views of minorities are translated into policy as much as the policy views of whites, which ultimately leads to greater gains in economic well-being for minorities under Democrats. Thus, if the goal is to balance American democracy and improve minority well-being, one solution is work to elect more Democrats.
How has COVID-19 impacted U.S. race relations?
The pandemic has reinforced just how much race and policy are intertwined. A virus that originally had no connection to race has, nevertheless, had wide-ranging implications for the well-being of racial minorities. On the political side, simply because the virus originated in China, politicians have tried to use the virus to stoke racial tension. On the health side, existing racial inequalities—less health care in poorer neighborhoods, poorer health outcomes for minorities, and the need to continue to work to survive—have interacted with the virus to disproportionately impact the minority population. Any new problem is likely to affect different racial groups differently, and that has to be taken into account when we consider policy actions.
We often hear in the news about how voter ID laws negatively impact people of color. Can you share how your research explores the topic?
In my research, I look to see how the relative turnout of different racial groups changes after states pass new strict voter ID laws and compare that to changes in turnout in similar states that didn’t pass a new law. The data show that the implementation of new strict ID laws in four states across the country had a disproportionately negative impact on turnout in 2016 in racially diverse counties. In other words, where strict ID laws are enacted, the voices of Latinos, Black people, and Asian Americans all become more muted, and the relative influence of white America grows. If the 2020 election is tight, racial and ethnic minorities being disproportionately deterred from voting could alter the outcome, especially since more states have enacted strict ID laws in the interim.
How will the 2020 election influence your teaching during the fall term?
The election will have a huge impact on my teaching. Clearly, this is something that interests the students, and it is also an important election with wide-ranging implications for race and well-being. The idea will be to use current events such as the election to explain deeper issues about our democracy.
How have students been involved in the work and research you’re doing?
I always have a number of graduate students working with me on my research. They do everything from data collection to data analysis to coming up with the original ideas for projects. Much of my work has been co-authored with my graduate students. They are critical.
You launched the school’s newest research center. What is it, and how can future Global Policy and Strategy students benefit from the work the center is doing?
We launched the Center for Commerce and Diplomacy in early 2019 to understand the causes and consequences of the institutions of trade diplomacy. Diplomats operate within a set of domestic and international institutions that govern their behavior in international trade negotiations. But we have little systematic knowledge about the specifics of these procedures, how they came into being, how they vary over time and across countries, and how they affect economic outcomes. As the world looks to shape the rules and institutions governing the next era of globalization, we hope to provide the analytical tools and knowledge to policymakers who seek to make these as robust as possible.
Why is commercial diplomacy important in today’s political and economic climate?
After World War II, countries negotiated a series of multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements that dramatically reduced policy barriers to global trade and investment. Most notable among these was the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was the predecessor of the current World Trade Organization. These agreements led to massive increases in trade, foreign investment, and productivity, over the past seventy-five years.
Today, the open world economy, which has bolstered global economic growth, is under threat. Populist pressures, nationalism, and financial crises have weakened the base of support for global integration even at its core. We seek to design institutions that allow commerce and diplomacy to interact for the advancement of worldwide peace and prosperity.
You grew up in Jamaica and went to school on the East Coast. How has living in California shaped your outlook on policy and economics?
The culture of freedom that permeates the state infects all who live here, in the best way possible. My experience in California has served to reinforce many of the basic principles governing markets that economics teaches. At the same time, it has heightened my awareness of income disparities within the United States. Coming from a poorer country, inequality in a large developed country was not salient. However, my California experience has taught me that inequality is as much of an issue within countries as it is across countries. This is a feature of development that has yet to be addressed adequately in the economics or politics literature.
What skills do students in your classes gain to help them in the future job market?
As a game theorist, I teach my students about the politics of international trade policy, focusing on the games being played between countries. Game theory helps students understand the purpose of trade agreements: when they can be successful and when they are likely to fail. The game structure and payoffs are determined by market structure, and so students are taught what strategies are feasible in industries that are perfectly competitive versus industries marked by market power, externalities, or other market imperfections. Through the lens of game theory, students are taught to critically assess actions and pronouncements of policymakers, and consequently, to be able to guide future trade policy strategy.
What is the relationship of the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) to international security and defense?
Several prominent trends are shaping the contours of the landscape: the challenge of great powers, especially China, to the existing U.S.-dominated security order, the impact of geo-economic factors, and the influence of technology and innovation on state capacity. GPS has substantial academic expertise in these areas that allow our students to prepare for the critical security challenges over the next five to fifteen years and even longer. Besides scholars engaged in the latest cutting-edge research on the implications of cybersecurity, innovation, and the power transitions in the global order, GPS has former senior military officers providing a practitioner’s perspective to how to manage the complex dynamics between military power, diplomacy, geopolitics, and national power. This allows GPS to cater to the needs of our diverse pool of security-track students, which include a mix of civilian students and military personnel from the local San Diego community, as well as from elsewhere in the world.
How does GPS see the importance of technology in studying security and conflict?
GPS sees science, technology, and innovation as essential in understanding contemporary security and conflict from the level of nonstate actors, such as terrorist groups, to military competition involving advanced industrial powers, such as the United States, China, and Russia. Our courses examine many of the grand security questions facing the world now and in the years to come. Is cybersecurity a game-changer in how future wars will be waged? Will the United States lose its global lead in defense innovation anytime soon? Is the world in the midst of a global technological revolution that will profoundly reshape how conflict takes place and how states prepare for war? Combining technological knowhow with policy expertise is a must-have skill set for tomorrow’s security professional.
How do GPS students get involved in the work that the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) is doing around the world?
One prime example of how students can get firsthand working experience on some of the security issues they study is through the numerous research and engagement programs run by IGCC, which is based at GPS. IGCC manages an annual Track 1.5 dialogue addressing security issues in Northeast Asia, especially North Korea’s efforts to become a nuclear weapons state. GPS students prepare and take part in the dialogue that offers unique, firsthand insights into how international meetings on complex security challenges are conducted. Other IGCC programs include the study of China’s technological rise, great power competition, nuclear nonproliferation, and defense transparency.
What types of nontraditional, security-related careers are you seeing GPS students go into?
As the study of international security becomes increasingly broad and nontraditional, GPS students are well prepared to take advantage of new opportunities. While GPS has a strong track record in helping students gain access to positions in traditional security career paths, such as the military, diplomatic corps, defense contractors, security think tanks, and working for government, we also place graduates in nontraditional careers. They include political and business risk management for multinational corporations, international humanitarian groups, food security research, refugee resettlement, business development with defense companies, and threat analysis with cybersecurity outfits.
Immediately after the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), you headed to Washington, D.C., as a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. What are you working on now, and how did your graduate studies help?
Currently, I track various metrics for measuring the North Korean economy to ascertain how and at what levels their economy is growing. I also have an ongoing project assessing the extent of South Korean humanitarian and economic aid in North Korea.
I have always wanted to be in the mix of discussions on U.S. foreign policy in East Asia, and Washington, D.C., is the hub. GPS combines quantitative analysis skills and top-notch research and was the best place for my studies.
What lessons prepared you to work at a leading think tank?
I use my quantitative skills every day. The economics training at GPS is great, and so is the broad training in public policy. In a town like Washington, D.C., you are never too far removed from politics, and I gained a superb foundation for understanding this. It is not about learning facts; it is about acquiring that foundation to analyze problems in many contexts.
North Korea represents uncertainty for many in the world. What are your thoughts on the current tensions?
We are in a very difficult time. We need bold new ideas to signal the intent of the U.S. toward long-term peace and engagement with North Korea while simultaneously improving sanctions enforcement and continuing to punish aberrant behavior. This is not an easy balance to find.
Just as important as analyzing these complex policy issues, it is necessary to connect them with stakeholders. That is why I maintain relationships with government officials, diplomats, and members of the media. This makes my work better but also allows for opportunities to share it with others.
As a graduate student, how pivotal were your multiple fellowships?
Immensely pivotal. The Robertson Foundation for Government Fellowship provided unparalleled financial assistance to support my training in public policy with an eye on public service. The Boren Fellowship provided funding to study Korean in South Korea, and the Rosenthal Fellowship supported my U.S. Department of State internship. The Career Services staff at GPS kept me up to speed with fellowship deadlines and made sure my applications were solid.
To what extent has your collaborative work with faculty benefitted you?
While a student, I had the chance to work with truly fantastic professors such as Stephan Haggard and Susan Shirk—experts in Korea and China, respectively. It is hard to imagine a better place to study if you want to think deeply and critically about Northeast Asia policy.
I am currently working on research with Stephan Haggard and writing posts for his and Marcus Noland’s blog, North Korea: Witness to Transformation. Faculty members Susan Shirk and Emilie Hafner-Burton also have been very helpful in encouraging me in my career and carrying on policy discussions even after classes ended.
At the School of Global Policy and Strategy, you successfully debated the Chinese economy would be in crisis—and you did it with International Affairs and Public Policy master’s students. Why is it valuable to work closely with students?
I learned a lot about the financial industry when I worked for The Carlyle Group before UC San Diego, and I’m grateful to be able to pass that knowledge onto students. It was a pleasure to collaborate with the students on the debate, and I learned a great deal from them. At the same time, it’s important to provide opportunities for them to challenge themselves in a substantively interesting way. We had a lot of fun.
You’ve created a niche with some of your research, connecting the effects of elite politics on financial policy in China. What are some of your key findings?
For some reason, the literature on financial policies and outcomes assumed that institutional factors drove the outcomes. But when I talked to bankers in China, everyone told me that banking policies were highly politicized. It’s a good niche because very few people think about the connections. Now most people know that politics is in command in banking policies in China.
Your quantitative database on Chinese elite politicians has recently been expanded. What is its potential for students in the classroom?
We have made a huge amount of progress on the database, and anyone interested in the effect of networks on political outcomes can use it. It would be great to have students work on the data. And for students interested in Chinese politics, it’s a great way to apply methods they learn in class to something that can be rewarding.
UC San Diego sits at the cusp, if you will, of Asia—ties are closer than we think. How is teaching here helpful to your work?
The density of exchanges between UC San Diego and academia in China is impressive. For that, we must thank our 21st Century China Program. Additionally, we have a close relationship with Fudan University through the Fudan-UC Center on Contemporary China, also based at the School of Global Policy and Strategy. We are now well known in China as a premier place to exchange ideas on economic policies and political economy.
Explain about the power of the new degree being offered, the Master of Chinese Economic and Political Affairs. What’s the importance of offering this degree?
Given our all-encompassing strength on China studies, we can offer students a comprehensive and in-depth curriculum on many different aspects of China. Our coverage of China is better than some of the more traditional powerhouses of China studies. At the same time, we also offer a rigorous quantitative focus and courses on general public policies, international relations, and international political economy. I firmly believe that the School of Global Policy and Strategy is the best place in the world to get a master’s degree on China studies.
- Incoming class:
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- Employment Sectors:
- 55% Private, 25% Public, 20% Nonprofit
- Degrees Offered:
Master of International Affairs
Master of Public Policy
Master of Chinese Economic and Political Affairs
Master of Advanced Studies in International Affairs (executive degree)
Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs
Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Master of Public Policy (UC San Diego undergraduates only)
- Info here