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Chris Harris

About Chris

Why did you choose to pursue a CALS MPS degree?

A panoply of factors came into play when making my decision.  At the top of the list were funding, quality and reputation, and flexibility of the program to align with my career goals.  The MPS program in CALS scored high on all three factors.  As a one-year degree, the financial burden is significantly assuaged.  And in addition, you can add an extra year of earning to your calculations.  As for the quality and reputation, CALS is globally-renowned as a high-quality department of a stellar institution, which provides the opportunity to take courses with some of the most qualified professors in the world, as well as interface with other intellectually-curious students.  And lastly, I found the flexibility of the MPS program truly unique.  I took courses in everything from economics to agriculture, and was able to choose courses that I thought would be the most germane to my future career and academic development.

What were you doing prior to the MPS degree program?

Prior to pursuing my MPS degree, I was serving in the Peace Corps in South Africa.  I served in the education sector for three years total.  During the first two years, I lived in a remote, rural village and taught English and science, as well as managed a number of community projects.  In my third year, I ran STEM outreach programs with a local university.  During this time, we worked on projects ranging from math education to robotics workshops.

What are your short-term and long-term career goals?

Short-term, I hope to continue to explore the world and foster a depth of understanding for international affairs and the trials of life in areas of geopolitical significance.  I believe that to thoroughly understand regional issues, it is crucial to spend an extended period of time in the region of interest.  So over the next few years, I intend to do just that.  Long-term, I aspire to apply a cohesive understanding of global affairs to policy-oriented analyst positions.

What are your post-MPS plans?

Since the MPS program, I began a consulting position in Beijing which I thoroughly enjoy.  I’m not completely sure where I want to go after working here for a few years, but I am considering applying to PhD programs as well as pursuing policy-level work in the United States.

What are the strengths of the CALS MPS degree program?

The flexibility is one of the core features that attracted me to the MPS program, and which also serves, I think, as one of its greatest strengths.  The MPS program recognizes the maturity and diverse background of career aspirations of its candidates, and builds this recognition into its structure.  MPS candidates have the option of taking courses they consider most relevant to their career paths.  For example, I have a friend in my program who took a class on patent law in the law school because he was interested in technology transfer.  At the same time, I have another friend from the MPS program focusing on rural agriculture.  Meanwhile, I focused on economics, management, and policy.  Only in an interdisciplinary program such as CALS MPS program can students adapt their courses to fit their needs.

Why is the flexibility of the program important to you?

Maybe it’s because I’ve studied too much philosophy, but in the tradition of Socrates, I believe it is crucially important to “know thyself.”  I think graduate students, with the guidance of their advisors and professors, are the best judges of the courses and experiences that they need to pursue their goals and buttress their weaknesses.  So the flexibility of the program, coupled with this guidance from experienced academics, really fit my criteria for a masters program.

What words would you use to describe the CALS MPS degree program?

I would characterize it as flexible, high-quality, interdisciplinary, and intense!

What were some of the most rewarding moments while in your program?

I took the course “Agriculture in Developing Nations,” where a group of Indian students visited Cornell, and we went on a series of trips exploring the agricultural practices in NY State.  Then, over winter break, a group of Cornell students, myself included, flew to India to explore a host of technical and social issues associated with agricultural production in India.  The entire trip was fantastic overall, but I think one of the most rewarding moments was actually months later when one of the students from India contacted me asking for assistance on his job application.  After the warm welcoming and accommodation these students provided us in India, I was happy and eager to do what I could to return the favor.

What courses stand out as most helpful for your specific career goals? 

International, Public, and NGO Management, Community Organizing and Development, Microeconomics of Policy and Management, and Disaster Policy and Response

How has your MPS experience changed you, both personally and professionally?

Professionally, and in the most pragmatic sense, the MPS degree gives me the mobility to pursue jobs that require a Masters Degree.  It’s also endowed me with teamwork skills and management tactics that I did not possess before the degree.  Personally, I think my success in the program has endowed me with confidence to pursue my career aspirations with vigor and enthusiasm.

What Cornell resources have been most helpful?

Mann Library is an incredible resource for research.  The physical and digital arsenal of information at Cornell libraries cannot be understated.  But it was the guidance of my advisor and professors that I found most helpful in my time at Cornell.

Tell us about your capstone project. What were you focused on?

My Capstone Project is on the effect of automation on South African manufacturing employment, and an exploration of policies to absorb future job losses should trends continue.  The South African government sees the growth of its manufacturing sector as a crucial component of its development path.  Rising wages, advances in technology, and increasing globalized trade, however, tell a different story, and I found it important to brace for how that story might end.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Ithaca?

Waking up in the Spring morning, walking over to the window as the sun rolls in, opening the window, and realizing that it’s going to be a warm day!

What advice would you give to your younger self embarking on the journey of graduate school?

I am quite happy with the outcome, so in all honesty, I would probably not say anything, so that the outcome doesn't change.  But maybe one suggestion would be to invest in some warmer gloves!