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Learning Outside the Classroom

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Zach Harris
Master of Arts ’17
Southeast Asia Studies

Zach, a rising 2nd year student at Johns Hopkins SAIS concentrating in Southeast Asia studies, chose to attend the school for many reasons but mainly for how it stood out among its competitors, particularly the unique and challenging courses taught by world-class faculty who have proven track records as practitioners or thought leaders in international relations. With interests in the private sector and infrastructure development in Southeast Asia, Zach said no other school would be able to prepare him better professionally. He has found the Southeast Asia Studies department to be unique in that it offers a wide range of economics and finance courses focused on his areas of concentration. 

The school’s coursework has provided Zach and his colleagues more opportunities than at traditional international affairs programs. Last year, he became aware of the Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge through the Career Services Office. This competition calls for graduate student submissions to develop an innovative financial vehicle that can provide a positive social impact without sacrificing financial returns. Zach and three classmates developed an idea that provided weather index-based insurance to Thai rice farmers to reduce financial volatility given the increased likelihood of drought in Thailand resulting from climate change. His team was selected as one of 10 finalists from over 100 submissions and was flown to Hong Kong to present their project as one of the only non-MBA teams.