Student Spotlight: Thomas Christiansen

Our fifth sResearch Phototudent spotlight features Thomas Christiansen, who is a member of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Class of 2015 majoring in International Political Economy. His research focuses on the growth and effectiveness of the Microcredit Company (MCC) pilot program that is run by the Peoples’ Bank of China.
How did you become involved in research at Georgetown?

I became involved in research at Georgetown through the Carroll Fellowship Initiative. Doctor Glavin encouraged me to become a research assistant and so I contacted Kristen Looney and asked to help her with research. From there I became interested in Chinese rural development and applied for a Raines grant to research Microfinance in Rural China. I won the grant and now here I am.

What was your favorite part about the research process?

All of my research has been largely interview-based, which means that my research places the human element front and center. I very much believe that the purpose of research is to help the less fortunate and to improve the human condition, and I find that when I am out talking with those who have been excluded from success by structural barriers, when I hear their stories and begin to see the world through their eyes, that I can begin to see how I can make a difference as a researcher.

How was Georgetown able to support you during the research process?

Georgetown University has been instrumental to my success during the research process. My research was funded by a university-administered grant. Dr. Looney, Professor Wang (a professor in the Chinese Department who helped me with translation), Dr. Glavin, Ms. Wagstaff and the entire GOFAR office all provided support critical to my success in China last summer. The advice they gave helped me resolve those issues that would have killed my project if I’d had to face them alone.

The Georgetown University Undergraduate Research Symposium, and the university as a whole, is committed to fostering interdisciplinary, intellectual dialogue. What is one experience that you have had at Georgetown that reflects this commitment?

My freshman year I stayed up until 4 am talking about religion, philosophy, and science with a classmate (who has now graduated). As he and I discussed important issues ranging from politics to religion, I felt two distinct impressions: first, I realized that I had come to Georgetown University to have these types of conversations and second, the conversation we had pushed both of us to the frontiers where all the disciplines and the knowledge they contain roll up into one. I have had numberless such experiences at Georgetown, for which I am eternally grateful.

Describe your research in one sentence.

Went to China to see if the government-administered Microcredit program was also corrupt, horribly inefficient, and failed to accomplish its goals. SURPRISE!!! All the above are true.

What is your advice for other undergraduates who are interested in pursuing research at Georgetown?

Like the Greek Goddess Nike once said: Just Do It. If you want to do research, start talking to professors. For the most part they love to see a student who is serious about contributing rather than simply learning. And if the specific professor you reach out to is busy or not helpful, reach out to another. Don’t give up and everything will work out. I am a very normal person, but Georgetown has given me the tools to become a researcher. I am convinced anyone can achieve what I have achieved if they really want it.


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