Emma Smith INTA 2016, MS INTA 2019 Rinell Family President’s Scholar, Georgia Tech
What degree are you pursuing in the Nunn School? Are you being supported by any scholarships or fellowships? If so, which ones?
I began at Georgia Tech in 2014 in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. I completed my undergraduate degree in December 2016, and as a member of the combined BS/MS program, I have been pursuing my master’s degree since then. During my first year as an undergrad, the North Metro Georgia Tech Alumni Club supported me with one of their annual scholarships. As a Georgia resident, I received the Zell Miller scholarship throughout my undergraduate degree. I was also fortunate enough to be chosen as a John E. Rinell Stamps President’s Scholar. This scholarship has supported my education throughout my undergraduate degree as well as my graduate studies.
If given the opportunity, why would you choose the Nunn School again for your education? What motivated your choice or has been the most impactful so far?
I chose the Nunn School because it offers a truly unique lens through which to study International Affairs. In my experience, Nunn School graduates are well-versed not only in International Relations theory, but also how it applies in a global landscape increasingly characterized by technology. The Nunn School offers a liberal arts education that is far from ordinary in the best possible way. I look back on my choice to attend Georgia Tech as one of my best. Considering the variety of courses I’ve taken, the inspiring faculty I’ve built relationships with, and the talented classmates I’ve learned alongside, I fully believe that my Nunn School education is the best I could have gotten anywhere.
In an environment of increasingly complicated global challenges, what do you feel the Nunn School has done to prepare you to tackle these challenges?
Because Georgia Tech is a STEM-oriented research university, the Nunn School encourages students to go beyond a theoretical understanding of International Affairs, and to apply the concepts they learn to the world as it is today. In an increasingly globalized world, the ability to communicate one’s ideas to others, even those with very different backgrounds, is crucial. One of my favorite Nunn School classes covered Scenarios and Pathgaming. The class was made up of a mix of engineers, International Affairs students, and students with backgrounds in the military. Working in small, multidisciplinary groups, we attempted to tackle strategic and military challenges to global security in a semester-long simulation. This class proved to me how difficult it can be to integrate my knowledge of International Affairs with the ideas of people whose ideas and worldviews are different from mine. However, it also proved to me the importance of welcoming what everyone can bring to the table. This interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving is one of the many reasons that the Nunn School prepares its graduates so well for the complexity and diversity of the world they will face upon graduation.
How have scholarships or fellowships impacted your education at the Nunn School?
The generosity of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, the President’s Scholarship Program, John Rinell, and the North Metro GT Alumni Club has absolutely transformed my education at Georgia Tech. First and foremost, without these scholarships, I would be applying to law school without nearly as much financial freedom. So many students are unable to complete undergraduate degrees because of the rising costs of college education. The freedom to earn my bachelors and master’s degrees without student loans and to begin my J.D. debt-free is such a privilege.
The financial support I’ve received also motivated me to pursue my MS in the first place. The Stamps President’s Scholarship covers eight semesters per student, and when I finished my BS early, I was able to apply two semesters of funding to my graduate degree. The opportunity to spend an extra year, fully-funded, in the Nunn School and to further develop my reading and writing skills in preparation for law school is an opportunity I’ve had thanks to my donors.
Lastly, my scholarship funding has enabled me to study abroad twice. During summer 2015, I participated in the European Union Study Abroad program as an undergraduate. Two years later, I returned to the program as a graduate student and teaching assistant. Without scholarship funding, I likely couldn’t have studied abroad once, much less twice. The opportunity to study European integration up close deepened my understanding of the region and of international cooperation. Bringing my knowledge of and passion for Europe back to my classes in Atlanta has proven to me the importance of study abroad, especially for those studying International Affairs. The cultural immersion and hands-on learning offered by programs like the EU study abroad are something that every student should be able to experience.
I know how lucky I am to have this financial support, because when I look around me in the Nunn School, I see other students who are just as qualified, driven, and deserving as I am, if not more. Unfortunately, many of the most passionate students I know struggle to pay for their education. After I join the workforce, I look forward to paying it forward and supporting Nunn School students, because I know that my education was made possible by the generosity of alumni who came before me.