2012 GW CIBER Summer Doctoral Institute Recap
The summer of 2012 was an extremely busy one before heading back to China for my dissertation fieldwork. I attended the atomic age symposium in Chicago, then spent two months in Washington D.C. at the George Washington University, and then presented my research at the Gordon Research Conference in New Hampshire. While in D.C., I was one of nine PhD fellows across the U.S. to participate in a two-month doctoral institute on the theme of “Institutions, the State & Development in International Business.”
As fellows we lived together in GW dorms for the two months and participated in weekly seminars led by the faculty at the GW School of Business. Readings for the seminar were selected by the faculty as well as by the fellows who came from vastly diverse disciplines. It was refreshing to read literature about other disciplines that was unfamiliar to me.
The majority of the fellows’ time was devoted to the research project under the mentorship of a GW faculty. I conducted field research for my proposed project, “Coalition for Intervention: Domestic Stakeholder Interests in U.S. Rare Earth Trade Relations with China” mentored by Dr. Bruce Dickson at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Dr. Dickson is a renowned expert on Chinese politics and political economy, and I feel blessed to receive help and guidance from him during the project. I wanted to analyze U.S. policy response to China’s rare earth dominance and investigate the motives and actions of critical American stakeholders over U.S. rare earth dependency on China. In order to do so, I conducted semi-structured expert interviews with representatives of U.S. stakeholders in D.C. I also conducted research of secondary data from multiple sources, including the U.S. Geological Survey archive and the Library of Congress. So almost every day, I went to another part of D.C. to meet new people or read up something, which was a very exciting experience albeit filled with trial and errors. I completed a paper for this project and presented it at the International Studies Association Annual Conference the following year.
Besides reading and research, we were also involved in some outreach activities. I volunteered for the 2012 Academy of International Business Annual Conference as a staff member, and had fun time meeting with scholars and fellow students from all over the world. I also volunteered for the African Diaspora Marketplace, a case study competition for African social entrepreneurs.
This summer fellowship had so many things which I very much liked and appreciated: the cross-disciplinary environment; field research experience in the nation’s capital; great mentors and fellow cohort; warm welcome from the community and opportunity for service. The only negative thing that I could not have anticipated, perhaps, was the weather: I had to dress up in suits going to the field sites and walking around for interviews, in close to 100F heat in some days. But that’s also part of attractiveness of field research: experience everything in the field. I have grown to love to take the WMATA metro, and still keep my smartcard in my wallet today.