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The Value of a Johns Hopkins SAIS Education

SAIS Student

Mai Yer Xiong
MAIR '20

Q:  What encouraged you to apply to Johns Hopkins SAIS? Who were some of your influencers?
A: I was drawn to Johns Hopkins SAIS because I wanted to continue to strengthen my economic analysis skills while gaining a more thorough understanding of international development practice. A first-generation Johns Hopkins SAIS alumna also encouraged me to apply to the school.
Q: What activities were you involved in during your graduate studies? 
A: I was part of the Student Diversity Coalition. I was also a student interviewer for Admissions. I participated in the International Development program’s practicum during my second year, which gave me the opportunity for hands-on learning about private sector engagement in development.
Q:  What does it mean to you and to your family to have been a first generation college student?
A: Being among the first to go to college in my family means that I am honoring my refugee parents' sacrifices and helping create their legacy where those that come after us have the opportunity and resources to live up to their full potential. As a first-generation college graduate, I have a duty to keep paying it forward. I am where I am because so many people supported me and extended opportunities to me. I want to continue to support other first-generation students to succeed.
Q: People think of diversity in many ways. What does diversity mean to you?
A: Diversity is intersectional; I am a Hmong-American woman, child of refugees, and a first-generation graduate. I am all of those things at once, and every dimension of my identity shapes who I am and how I experience the world. Embracing diversity means recognizing and accepting all of the intersectional dimensions of people's identity without putting them into boxes based on one or two of those dimensions.
Q:  What do you do when you're not working?
A: In my free time, I enjoy trying new recipes and finally learning how to make traditional Hmong dishes. I also enjoy novels about immigrant experiences.
Q:  What has been your career path after graduating from Johns Hopkins SAIS and how did the school prepare you?
A: I am now a Foreign Service Program Officer with USAID. Johns Hopkins SAIS equipped me with the tools, frameworks and shared language to approach development work as an effective practitioner.  

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