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Exploring Policy Pathways: The Journey of Two KDI School Research Assistants

  • Date 2024-05-20 10:51
  • CategoryStory
  • Hit533

Step into the dynamic world of policy research at KDI School! Here, students are offered an unparalleled opportunity to dive deep into real-world issues through the Research Assistant (RA) Program. Ever wondered what it's like to be on the frontlines of policy analysis? Look no further! At KDI School, students like Sun Joo Park (2023), a Master of Public Policy student, and Ndeye Marieme Sonko (2022), pursuing a Master of Development Policy, don't just watch from the sidelines—they're actively involved as research assistants, shaping discussions and driving change. Join us as we delve into their motivations, experiences, and the invaluable insights they've gained from their roles at KDI School.

The Path to Becoming a Research Assistant

What motivated you to pursue your role as a research assistant on KDI School's research team, and could you provide an overview of your responsibilities in this position?

Sun Joo Park: Before joining KDI School, I worked as a researcher in a private institute, focusing on social policy planning. I want to continue my career in research after graduating, and being an RA seemed like the perfect stepping stone. My current project involves analyzing the shutdown effects of coal power plants on the labor market using DID analysis. Under professor Jinseong Park's guidance, I've been responsible for everything from data cleaning to analysis.

Ndeye Marieme Sonko: Before coming to KDIS, I had always dreamed of working in academia, much like how kids aspire to be police officers or firefighters after watching movies. I have a passion for knowledge and actively searched for opportunities to turn it into a career. Interestingly, I almost missed the opportunity to become a research assistant. Thankfully, my friends forwarded me the email announcement, and during the interview, I became even more curious about Professor Dong IL Lee's research, which challenges misconceptions about leadership in my region. Currently, I assist Professor Lee in gathering and sorting data for his upcoming book.

Valuable Lessons and Skills Gained

What have been some of the most valuable lessons or skills you've gained from your experience as a research assistant?

Sun Joo Park: The most valuable skill I've gained is data analysis. Initially unfamiliar with STATA, I've learned to use it proficiently through my RA experience. Although I still have much to learn, working closely with professors has been invaluable for enhancing my research skills.

Ndeye Marieme Sonko: I have a keen eye for detail and an unquenchable curiosity. Through this experience, I've learned that perfection isn't always necessary in research. It's crucial to set boundaries and know when to stop searching. Initially, I struggled with this during the first weeks and meetings, always eager to find more data. However, I've realized the importance of managing time effectively, both for myself and my colleagues.

Balancing Academic and Research Responsibilities

How do you juggle your academic coursework while fulfilling your duties as a research assistant?

Sun Joo Park: I took data analysis and STATA courses and attended a STATA and R workshop during the last winter break. Working in various labs, including my current one, requires proficiency in STATA and other data analysis programs for RAs. I've also read extensively on STATA and research design to enhance my skills.

Joining the research project midway was challenging, but I caught up by studying the reports shared by the team in my free time. Managing my schedule effectively has been crucial, especially during the busy last semester.

Ndeye Marieme Sonko: I began my assignments during the Fall semester while taking three classes, making it easier to balance my workload. Spending more time in the library allowed me to seamlessly transition between class and work assignments. Although I had to take a break due to health reasons, Professor Lee's understanding and my colleagues' support helped me get back on track. Weekly progress meetings were also beneficial, as they helped us understand our tasks better and set achievable goals without overwhelming ourselves.

Future Aspirations and Advice for Aspiring Research Assistants

What are your future aspirations in policy research, and what advice would you give to students interested in pursuing similar RA roles at KDI School?

Sun Joo Park: I aim to write my research thesis at KDI School, applying different analysis methods I've learned through my RA experience.  I can understand how to conduct research. These practical skills are essential for conducting robust policy research, where data-driven insights are highly valuable and needed in the working field.

Data analysis skills are crucial for RAs. Taking relevant courses and seeking opportunities to enhance these skills is essential. If you are interested in data analysis using real and practical data and want to experience working with good professors, I highly recommend applying to be an RA at KDI School! You can enhance and build a strong foundation in research methods.

Ndeye Marieme Sonko: My experience as an RA has solidified my career aspirations in academia. Working closely with Professor Lee has motivated me to pursue research in political science. Like Professor Lee, I am more interested in political science, and being his assistant feels like fate. His guidance and insights have been invaluable in shaping my career path, as I get to ask him loads of questions regarding his research, methodology, and career trajectory, which motivates me to excel in my position.

Time management is crucial. When my colleagues and I started, we'd briefly meet, nodding in understanding as one of us headed to the library. If you're applying for an RA position, treat it as if you're being graded and prioritize it alongside your coursework at KDIS. Don't hesitate to seek help. I was grateful for my colleagues Ruth and Ijang, who were always ready to assist and find innovative solutions to make the work less daunting. If you know someone with skills you need, don't be afraid to ask for their help and practice.

The experiences of Sun Joo Park and Ndeye Marieme Sonko exemplify the enriching nature of the RA Program at KDI School. Their journeys highlight the importance of practical skills, effective time management, and mentorship from experienced professors. For students aspiring to careers in policy research, becoming an RA at KDI School offers a valuable opportunity for growth and development.

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ALI, Qamer

2023 Fall / MDP / Pakistan

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