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A Tailored Education

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Peter Brown
MAIR '21
Recipient of the C. Grove Haines Prize

Q: What encouraged you to apply to Johns Hopkins SAIS?
My road to Johns Hopkins SAIS was a bit unusual. I did my undergrad at Boston University in classical music (classical singing, to be specific), after which I taught English in Germany for two years (while continuing to study music), and then spent a year and a half with AmeriCorps working in the fields of environmental conservation and broadband internet policy. Even though I had never worked in the field of International Relations, when I first began to research Johns Hopkins SAIS, and to entertain the idea of applying, I could not shake the feeling that it had been designed for someone like me. In addition to offering courses that addressed the kinds of big, transnational issues that interest me--such as climate change and human migration--the skills that the school seemed to be looking for in applicants were things that I had, without having planned it, had the opportunity to practice across my early career: writing, foreign languages, and work with government agencies.
Q: What was one of your favorite moments during your first year of graduate study?
There is a professor at SAIS Europe who has a policy of meeting personally with his students, in groups of two or three, at SAIS Europe’s “Giulio’s Cafe” after class. This experience exposed me to the truly jaw-dropping life stories of two of my fellow students, and gave us students the opportunity to talk with our professors (two others joined in the conversation just for fun) with neither time pressure nor limits on the scope of the discussion. For students to be able to share their thoughts, and to then hear the reflections of accomplished people who stood in their shoes years before, is, in my mind, at the very core of what academic institutions are all about.
Q: Could you please tell us about the C. Grove Haines Prize and your reaction upon receiving it? 
I was stunned. To be entirely honest, I initially thought that there had been a mistake: the award was set to be announced at the SAIS Europe graduation ceremony, and I was still a first-year student. Once the whole thing sank in, though, the award became a clear lesson that hard work pays off. The paper for which I was given the prize--about the impact of changes to the German social welfare system--was one for which I really had given my all, and the experience seemed to say to me: “this is how it’s done, now see if you can’t do it like that every time.”
Q: With one year behind you, how do you hope to spend your second year at the school?
For me, this second year serves a different purpose than the first. Last year, I was still learning the ropes. This year, I feel like I know the ropes a bit better, and can focus on just packing as many new ideas into my head as I can. Since SAIS Europe is such a tight-knit community, I have already got a pretty good idea which course offerings I want to take advantage of this second time around. With that said, though, I am still planning on some pleasant surprises this year.  

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