Sarah Jansen will be graduating this June with her PhD in International Affairs, with a specialization in International Conflict Management and Resolution.

If you could choose one word to sum up your time at NPSIA, what is it and why?

Persistence. Obviously, persistence is a large component of doctoral studies. Beyond and because of that, though, my time at NPSIA demystified a lot of abilities and accomplishments that previously seemed unattainable. Through this journey, it became clear that these simply involve various skills that can be learned, practiced, and honed with time, effort, guidance, and persistence. NPSIA’s rigour and focus on well-rounded training (including mandatory law, statistics, and economics) forced me to confront and overcome challenges in areas where my skills were weaker, rather than simply play it safe by sticking to my strengths. In doing so, it has taught me the value of persistence and endowed me with a new confidence to embrace challenges and grow.

What is your favourite NPSIA memory?

In 2018, I co-organized and presented (as both panelist and discussant) on the Full Paper Panel: “Diplomacy and Restraint of Armed Non-State Actors” at Democracy and its Discontents: APSA Annual Meeting and Exhibition. This took place in Boston, Massachusetts in the summer of 2018 and afforded me the opportunity to network with prominent authors in the field, as well as other junior and queer researchers. I also got to explore a new city!

What was your favourite course or who was your favourite professor?

I struggle to call to mind a course that I don’t remember fondly, but I think my favourite was Dr. Mendeloff’s ‘Post-Conflict Justice: Theory and Practice’ seminar. Its content built on and broadened my understanding of post-conflict justice that I acquired studying in the Balkans, introduced me to a life-long friend, and was built on the bedrock of Dr. Mendeloff’s expert course structure and engaging delivery.

What was the most important lesson you learned during your time at NPSIA?

It really isn’t true that there are “math people” and “non-math people,” “statistics people” and “political science people,” or “quantitative people” and “qualitative people”. These are false dichotomies that are often internalized by students of social science—I certainly had internalized it myself before arriving at NPSIA. NPSIA emphasized choosing the best methodology to answer the research question at hand and empowered us, even those of us who almost failed high school math, to build well-rounded skillsets that make us capable, flexible, and adaptable.

What’s next for you?

I am currently working as a Principal Investigator with Global Insight, a research, consulting, and evaluation firm headquartered in New York that develops and implements bespoke, gender-sensitive, and mixed-methods research, evaluation, and data analysis in fragile states. In the next year or two I hope to bring my highly transferable skillset to a career in the federal public service. You may also spot me around Carleton teaching the odd course!

Is there anything else you would like to share with the NPSIA community?

To current students: Don’t limit yourself based on preconceptions you have about your potential. Also, at the graduate school level, don’t fret too much about grades. There usually is a temporary dip at the start of a graduate program as you adjust to new expectations, but don’t let it rattle you: anticipate it, learn from it, and focus on continuing to grow and develop as a learner and a researcher!