Alumni explain: Why GPS?

3 Mins read
Beach in La Jolla with birds flying in line

Our alums weigh in on how their degrees gave them the right toolkit to advance their careers and drive real-world solutions to the world’s problems

Rachel Lietzow
Rachel Lietzow ’21

Standing at the edge of the Pacific, with the entire world ahead of us. The UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) is where urgency meets momentum, and where collaboration drives solutions. 

From here, you can make an impact anywhere. And that’s exactly what our alumni are doing. 

Take Rachel Lietzow, who earned the Master of Chinese Economic and Political Affairs (MCEPA) degree in 2021. 

Jamal Russell Black
Jamal Russell Black ’16

“I made up my mind to enroll at GPS after professors Barry Naughton and Victor Shih set aside time to chat with me one-on-one about my decision,” Lietzow, who now works as a China research analyst at Rhodium Group, said. “Seeing that they cared so much about even just a potential MCEPA student, I knew that the mentorship in such a tightly knit program would provide a valuable graduate experience.” 

The goal of anyone looking to enter our master’s programs is to gain the skills that will help take their careers to the next level — and as Jamal Russell Black ’16 found, it’s all right here.

“I knew I wanted to attend a world-class institution for my master’s degree and was torn between a few different universities. GPS — with its amazing faculty, location, alumni network, and curriculum — was really impressive,” Russell Black said. “What set the school apart, however, was its merit scholarship. As a recipient, it put me in the position to receive a globally recognized education without the financial burden, instability, and pressure I had experienced throughout my life.”

Karla Yee Amezaga
Karla Yee Amezaga ’16

And thanks to the training he received at GPS, Russell Black now works as a senior officer in climate economics at the San Diego Regional Policy and Innovation Center. 

How our quantitative focus sets us apart

A common thread among all of our alumni is our programs’ focus on data-driven research and statistical analysis. 

“The quantitative and qualitative analytical skills I developed throughout the classes at GPS, along with the connections forged with peers and alumni, helped set my career path toward harnessing the potential of data and technological progress for the good of humanity and the planet,” said Karla Yee Amezaga, a Master of International Affairs (MIA) ’16 graduate, who now works as a lead in data policy at the World Economic Forum. 

Brien Beattie
Brien Beattie ’08

Brien Beattie ’08, who holds the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Security at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said that while considering graduate programs, he found that many public policy or international affairs graduate programs on the East Coast tend to have political focus. 

Jeff Arkin
Jeff Arkin ’99

“I looked at the landscape of master’s programs, and GPS was the only school that provided a focus on the Pacific Rim and required coursework in economics and quantitative methods,” Beattie explained. “I was not a math or economics person, so I thought that would challenge me while also preparing me to study the Asia-Pacific.”

Similarly, Jeff Arkin ’99 said the training he received at GPS aids him daily in his role as Director of Federal Budget and Intergovernmental Issues in the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Luke Sanford
Luke Sanford ’21

“GPS really provided me with the analytical skills needed to conduct GAO work, both in terms of quantitative and qualitative analysis, as well as writing about complex policy topics in a concise and direct way,” Arkin said. “Also, given that almost everything we do at GAO is in a group setting – in project teams – the collaborative nature of many GPS class assignments really helped prepare me for the GAO work environment.”

Luke Sanford, who earned his Ph.D. in political science and international affairs from GPS in  2021 and now is an assistant professor at the Yale School of the Environment, said the quantitative emphasis at GPS is what drew him to the school. 

“I studied political science in undergrad, but it lacked that quantitative component — this factored into my graduate school search and led me to GPS,” Sanford said. 

Learn more about our programs

Joe Bettles
Joe Bettles ’21

Whatever is driving you, you want to leave the world a better place for future generations.

And alumni like Joe Bettles — who earned the Master of Public Policy (MPP) degree in 2021 and now works at the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping in Copenhagen, Denmark — are already on the path to shaping that better world. 

“I learned so much from GPS and am so thrilled to be taking the skills I learned out into the real world to try and make a difference,” Bettles said. “In my job, I am using the same skill of working with a global problem that has a wide range of sources and an even larger range of solutions. I’m looking for specific actionable questions that can be answered.”

And for those who are driven to solve these complex issues, the search for solutions starts here. Schedule a meeting with our admissions experts today to see if GPS may be the right fit for you. 

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