Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Another winning paper: a recipe for success

Last month readers met Christina Politi, who wrote an award-winning paper on U.S. policy towards Greece between 1946 and 1964.

Today let's move east.

Annabel Lee just finished her year at SAIS Bologna and is concentrating in Russian/Eurasia Studies. She became interested in Russia in 12th grade after reading Dostoevskij's Crime and Punishment. At the time she would joke around that one day she "would learn Russian, go to Siberia in the dead of winter, sit outside of a gulag and read Crime and Punishement in Russian". A few years later, in 2008, she fulfilled that high school joke. It was during her time at SAIS that she developed an interest in Central Asia. She was eager to learn more about a region she knew little about and that was influenced by her primary interest: Russia.

Not so surprising, then, that in the "Economies of Central Asia" course this past Spring with Prof. Richard Pomfret, she choose to write about Tajikistan, an ex-Soviet republic.

Her paper won one of the three C. Grove Haines awards at graduation in May. If you read it, you'll see why.

Like Christina in her paper on Greece, Annabel, who attended the University of Texas before enrolling at SAIS, reaches some sobering conclusions:

"Western groups would thus be more effective at helping local Tajiks if they substantially reduced reform demands and adopted more apolitical development goals, for currently their humanitarian ideals preclude them from even entering the development market at a significant level.

"Most importantly, the Rakhmon administration needs to recognize that, like in Chechnya, it can improve conditions for its citizens, increase job opportunities through infrastructure development, and decrease migration flows without destabilizing the state; otherwise, the poverty-inducing status-quo will remain."

What is Annabel doing this summer before she resumes her SAIS studies in Washington?

"This summer I am interning with the U.S. State Department Public Affairs Section in Tbilisi, Georgia," Annabel writes.

Annabel receiving her award
from Prof. Akin
"It relates to my paper, for the internship is providing me with the opportunity to more fully explore how governments interact to influence policy. I am also getting to see how a different former Socialist Soviet Republic has implemented domestic and foreign policy successfully to develop into a relatively free and stable nation -- quite the opposite of Tajikistan."

I asked Çiğdem Akin, who gave Annabel her prize at graduation, what made her paper stand out: "She had an interesting topic, presented the issues well and had a solid research on it."
Sounds simple. But it isn't.

Nelson Graves