Before I started at Stanford, I hoped to deepen my knowledge about international development, broaden my skills, and gain practical experiences to apply in my career. What I could not have anticipated was that late night study sessions and classes would turn into the most eye-opening experiences and valuable friendships.
When asked about my IPS experience, the first thing I mention is the incredible group of people in this cohort – 21 students from 13 different countries, a group of inspiring, compassionate, driven, and, quite simply, fun people. This class has truly become my IPS family.
We started in the fall of 2014 at the IPS Bootcamp. After a week of differential calculus, optimization, and statistical inference, we were feeling overwhelmed and panicked. Luckily, we received a well-timed reminder from our instructor to think about how we will measure our lives, not just theoretically, but empirically! With a little help from our mathematically inclined classmates, we all eventually gained new analytical tools as well as ways to evaluate whether we’re living our lives in a rewarding way.
When our bootcamp ended, we jumped into economics and statistics courses that helped us bond at Stanford. Our ever-patient finance and trade professor Chonira Aturupane made sure we understood every concept, guided us in forming thought-provoking questions, and taught us to use data to find sometimes unexpected answers, or, more often, that our findings had no statistical significance. In statistics, we learned statistical concepts and, for some of us, our first programming language, R, at the same time.
We also learned how to think about and discuss some of the world’s most complex and seemingly intractable problems. In courses on justice or policy writing seminars on humanitarian action, we questioned whether governments should intervene to stop human rights abuses abroad. Later we had the opportunity to take classes across Stanford, in engineering, design, law, and business, where we collaborated with students with wildly different training and expertise. And so, we have come out of IPS with a diverse set of skills and experiences.
Our Stanford experience has, of course, been about so much more than academics. In our winter ski trips to Tahoe, we skied, lounged in the house, and laughed at charades. We’ve celebrated life events together, from birthdays, to two beautiful weddings in India, and finally welcomed a new baby.
Our class traveled to Myanmar on the annual IPS spring break study trip. There, we had the amazing opportunity to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi. Our learnings came not only from meetings with high level officials, but also from conversations over Burmese curries on topics such as India-Myanmar relations.
We spent our summers across the globe, interning and researching. With a class representing 13 countries, no matter what country we find ourselves in, we'll probably meet a fellow IPSer. That summer and since, we’ve traveled together to every corner of the globe, from Mexico, to Haiti, to Japan, to India, to Uganda, to Canada, to the UK, and elsewhere.
The Class of 2016 is a group of idealists. But we are also a class of pragmatists. With a bias toward action, my classmates have shown me that with persistence and hard work, we are capable of so much more than we might have imagined.
I can’t wait to see where our idealism and drive, along with the skills we have gained at IPS, will take us. I hope that our paths will continue to cross as we work on challenges of policy reform, economic growth, national security, development, and justice. I also hope that we will contemplate that message from Bootcamp: to think about how we want to measure our lives. I know that in finding our own unique answers, each of us will make the world a better place.