Branching out: Alexander Pearson (MAGES’17) takes multidisciplinary approach to European studies

February 2, 2017 by Margaux Fontaine

Alexander Pearson is a graduate student in the M.A. in German and European Studies (MAGES) program in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. Like many students, he was intrigued by the opportunity to study in the nation’s capital.

“It’s fascinating living and studying in D.C., particularly as a foreigner passionate about politics and public policy,” he says. “Otherwise, the graduate student body is very diverse, and so there are always interesting people to meet.”

Having obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, Pearson comes to the SFS with a great deal of international experience in his own life; he has lived in Hamburg, Germany; Johannesburg, South Africa; Newcastle, United Kingdom and Singapore.

Pearson notes a few specific aspects that really impressed him about the MAGES program. First, he describes a distinct approach of the program, in that it situates European Studies within the broader field of transatlantic relations.

“This approach is unique insofar as most European Studies programs, particularly at European universities, do not place as much emphasis on this broader transatlantic context,” he says.

The relative small size of the program has also been a benefit for Pearson, who says it allows for students to get to know one another and develop close relationships with program faculty.

“All of the faculty at the BMW Center for German and European Studies have helped me grow academically, particularly Professor Mario Daniels and Professor Richard Kuisel,” he says. “Taking multiple classes with the latter two has fostered in me a great appreciation and interest in history (in my experience, something a lot of political scientists lack).”

Outside of this tight-knit community, however, Pearson also has taken advantage of the program’s situation within the SFS, which he says gives students the opportunity to expand their knowledge beyond their areas of expertise.

“By the end of the program, students develop not only a focus on European/Transatlantic affairs, but also foundational or specialized knowledge on another region or functional area,” he explains.

Some of his favorite classes at Georgetown have been “Oil and World Power” with Professor David Painter, “Collective Identities in Twentieth Century Europe” with Professor Richard Kuisel, and “The Power of Knowledge: Technology Transfer and Twentieth Century International Relations” with Professor Mario Daniels.

Pearson has also been pursuing his interests in European studies outside of the classroom. Before coming to Georgetown, he gained experience with the European Commission in Brussels. Citing his academic interest and political support of the EU and European integration, he explains how working at the EU provided him with the opportunity to fulfill both of these interests simultaneously.

“I gained invaluable first-hand insights into how the EU Commission works, improved my skill set relevant to policy analysis, and contributed to a noble political project,” he explains.

Last summer, he completed the BMW Center’s signature internship with BMW’s Government and External Affairs office in Washington, D.C.

“The internship with BMW’s Government and External Affairs office was a fantastic opportunity to attain a private sector perspective on a host of public policy issues such as trade and environmental policy,” he says. “I also developed my analytical and writing skills through extensive research, some of which eventually constituted a detailed internal report on the proposed US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”

As a short-term goal, he would like to work as a researcher at a think tank or research institution that focuses on European Union public policy or European/Transatlantic security issues. In the long-term, he would be interested in pursuing a PhD in political science or government.

He urges students to not be afraid to branch out and learn about other disciplines and subfields beyond their primary interests.

“Expertise is great; I’ve concentrated on the EU and Transatlantic security,” he says. “But by taking a multidisciplinary approach, I’ve developed new perspectives and skills that allow me to better understand my own specific interests and how they relate to the work of others.”